Think Your Military Skills Don’t Translate to the Civilian Workplace? Think Again!

Think Your Military Skills Don’t Translate to the Civilian Workplace? Think Again!

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One of the biggest disconnects between transitioning service members and potential
employers is that few people have any idea how to translate military skills to the
corporate civilian world. Veterans and employers alike tend to focus on technical
accomplishments, which often are not directly applicable. Employers need to learn
how to interview military members to uncover their underlying—and extremely
valuable—skill sets, while veterans need to learn how to see their own capabilities
in a different light.

What skills do combat veterans have that are useful in the corporate world?
Let’s start with things like strategic planning, leadership of groups large and small,
risk mitigation, careful decision-making, clear communication, and effective
problem-solving. In fact, military service members have a great diversity of skills
that the business world values greatly.

Veterans have unique experiences and insights, a profound ability to work in a
team, and an incredibly strong work ethic. In the military, things can change
suddenly, and service members have had to develop great flexibility, quickly
reacting to changes and coming up with a new plan.

ecause most military veterans have learned to be safety-conscious and detail-
oriented, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has been
hiring hundreds of former military service members every year for a wide variety of
positions. MTA realized that vets are able to react quickly, rationally, and coolly
during weather emergencies and other major calamities.

Unfortunately, military personnel and human resources staff often speak
different languages. Veterans often talk about their team’s accomplishments, using
“we” and not “I,” while hiring managers want to learn about their individual
contributions. Service members aren’t usually very good at singing their own
praises, while civilians are expected to do a little boasting.

This means that hiring managers need to learn to ask questions about how the
veteran’s leadership or resourcefulness contributed to his or her team’s success.
More to the point, not asking such questions can make HR professionals less able to
effectively evaluate and integrate veterans’ military experiences, skills, and
capabilities in the civilian employment sector.

Veterans, on the other hand, need to understand that the less tangible skills
they learned in the military—detailed planning, strong leadership, information-
gathering, persistence, and the development of strategies to minimize risk—are
prized by employers. So don’t be afraid to toot your own horn in your next

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