Military Transition

Tips for Military Personnel Transitioning to the Civilian Workforce

There are plenty of good reasons for employers to hire veterans. Veterans are recognized for their leadership, teamwork, technical savvy, discipline, ability to perform under pressure and many more valuable attributes. As such, veterans represent an important opportunity that smart businesses can capitalize on.

Transition from the Military

Veterans who have defended their country and its interests are admirable; and the sentiment to hire veterans is high. Many of the skills developed in the military can readily carry over to duties and responsibilities in the civilian sector.

With all the good that veterans bring to the table, there can also be some challenges. This is due largely to concerns about the military being more rigid, structured and autocratic than the private sector. This culture-gap can make some employers a little hesitant when considering veterans for certain positions. Fortunately, smart employers know these challenges are minimal and easily managed; but there are still some who need a little convincing.

Another challenge faced by veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce is that many recruiters and hiring managers have little, if any, military background. This puts the veteran in the position of having to translate military terminology and experience into their civilian equivalents. Veterans may find that they need to talk less about the actual duties they performed, and more about the planning, organizing, teamwork, and execution skills that were required to get the job done.

If you have a military service in your background or are recently separated from military service, the following tips will enhance your job search potential. They will help you portray the skills and expertise you acquired in the military in a way that is more in-sync with what employers in the private sector are seeking.

Things to Consider

Always be proud of your military service but, during your job search, consider the following:

  • Minimize Military Jargon: Unless you know otherwise, assume the interviewer knows little about the military. To help assure the interviewer isn’t confused, try to put your military job titles, responsibilities, accomplishments, etc. into terms a non-military person would understand. You can explain to them that military titles, etc. can be confusing or even misleading. You are therefore using more understandable, but equivalent civilian terminology. The same general concept applies to resumes and cover letters.
  • Translate Education and Training to Civilian Equivalents: Interviewers are smart people, but unless they have a military background similar to yours, they may need some help. For example, they may not fully appreciate how your military education and training will translate to the private sector. To overcome this, try to portray your military education in terms of knowledge or skills that you can readily apply to non-military jobs.
  • Demilitarize Your Presentation: Recognize that most private sector organizations are less rigid than their military counterparts. If you’re being overly serious, sitting straight-backed in your chair and repeatedly saying "Sir or Mam," you may cause the interviewer to question how well you’ll fit in with the workplace culture. Demonstrate your flexibility, be social, avoid using acronyms and appear relaxed.
  • Capitalize on Your Relevant Military Accomplishments: While you may have to demilitarize some of your discussion with the interviewer, don’t be afraid to discuss noteworthy military accomplishments. Your military experience is an important asset. Be prepared to talk about relevant training, certifications, advancement, resource management, cross-functional skills, accomplishments, etc. As always, try to relate your experience to the requirements of the job opening.
  • Use Interview Trainer: Be sure to review the Military question category in the Interview Trainer. However; you’ll find that the vast majority of interview questions that will be asked of veterans will be the same general questions that apply to all job candidates, regardless of military service. Interviewers will want to know about your education, skills, accomplishments, attitudes, job knowledge, etc. and see how closely they match the requirements of the job. Answers to such questions are generally independent of whether those attributes were attained in the military or the private sector.