Military life is an experience that forever shapes who you are, because it’s unlike any other job you’ll ever do. You’ve attended job training that most people could never understand, let alone accomplish. You’ve lived on installations and ships, and in tents and submarines. And you’ve even deployed to locations that most people have only seen on that dusty globe in high school geography class.
It’s through these experiences that you’ve become immersed in tight-knit communities and personal relationships that are often unattainable in “civilian” settings. That’s why it can be difficult to separate yourself from the culture. You are not just leaving a job, you are leaving a completely different lifestyle. Gone is your communication through military jargon. Gone is your rank structure and responsibility. Gone is your scrutinized work and life schedule.
So how can we, as veterans, help ensure a smooth transition from the military to civilian employment? We take what we learned day one in the service — how to adapt and overcome — and apply it to our new surroundings.
Your Resume Sets the Tone
The skills that you learned in the military are transferable to the civilian workplace. You just need to know how to relay that to your employer.
A well-written resume is the first, and most important, impression that you’ll make when applying for a job. It also needs to match what the hiring agent expects of potential hires, so you should tailor each resume to each job you apply for. Using sites like LinkedIn or Glassdoor can help you learn more about the company’s hiring practices and positions so you can include key phrases in your resume.
To get started, you should check out a resume builder to set you on the right path.
Experiences Unique to You
First, you have to capitalize on the skills that set you apart from other applicants. Many of our skills involve leadership, ingenuity, being a self-starter, attention to detail and the ability to succeed under pressure. Those are all abilities that fit into any job description.
For example, your service in the military taught you how to manage a wide variety of personalities such as officers, non-commissioned officers, leaders, subordinates and peers. It was here that you learned and developed your interpersonal skills. These are the very same skills that are valued in the civilian workplace and should be detailed in your resume.
Equally important is the ability to lead others. If you attained the grade of E-3 or higher, you have most likely obtained at least some leadership experience. The aptitude to oversee fellow workers is an invaluable skill in the civilian world.
Don’t Be Afraid to Test Available Resources
There are numerous programs out there to help you succeed. American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) are both organizations willing to help you prepare a resume and get you started. Internet programs like Hire Our Heroes or Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) can not only help you turn your military skills into civilian equivalents, they can even help you land that coveted job.
These avenues are largely based on your willingness to do the ground work. Only you can make yourself take advantage of the counseling services offered to help you identify your strengths and assist you in choosing your next career path.
Avoiding Social Landmines
Now, how do you succeed in that dream job you just landed?
As you know, leadership structure in the military is based on rank and seniority; thus you can follow a fairly regimented course to gain a promotion. The same cannot be said for the civilian workplace. In civilian jobs you need to learn how to fit in with various personalities, while also excelling and knowing only your job. Many of these factors are determined by how you can make a positive impact on the organization you join.
Let’s look at three tactics to help you ease into relationships with those around you.
Communication: As a military member, you are trained to be direct and to the point, and in doing so you may not always use appropriate language. Civilian communication, on the other hand, favors a more conversational tone. Adapt to the communication styles of your coworkers and stay patient.
Efficiency and Effectiveness: You are used to being given an order, following that order and completing the mission as quickly and efficiently as possible. Again, not always the same in the civilian sector. Many companies have processes that take time and more people remain involved in every step. Remember that these steps are put into place by the company and you must adhere to those rules until you are the one making them.
Just Like in the Service, Stay Flexible: In the military you could be called to complete a mission at any hour of the day. Most jobs today hold the rigid structure of a 9-to-5, but staying flexible can help you succeed.
Do you have any tips to succeed in the civilian sector?
Photo courtesy Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Office