If you have ever served in the military, then you’ve worked and lived in environments that are unique to the military culture. You have likely lived on bases, in submarines, on installations and more. You’ve eaten MREs and shopped at commissaries. You have been deployed to exotic and unique locations around the world and become used to the sense of community – regardless of if you were visiting a medical clinic, restaurant, place of worship or school.
It’s understandable that leaving this type of environment and culture can be somewhat difficult- after all, you aren’t just leaving your job, but an entire lifestyle.
The skills that you have developed during your time as a service member are invaluable and – whether you know it yet – veterans are in very high demand. However, being able to describe the skills you have to a potential employer can be challenging. For example, you may have difficulties communicating without using common military jargon. Alternatively, you may not be sure how to bridge the culture gap that is present between civilian and military workplaces.
The good news is, you aren’t alone. Additionally, there are several steps you can use to help translate your former military experience into a fulfilling civilian job. There are also countless resources available to help you along the way and make the transition as stress-free as possible.
Start With Your Resume
One of the first things you should do when attempting to seek employment in a civilian career is to de-militarize your resume.
Take some time to take inventory of the skills you developed and used during your time in the military. There are certain, marketable skills that you have gained in your military time that can be invaluable in the civilian workplace.
Try to think beyond the function that you carried out. Identify the core value, the expertise or the skills that you were able to bring to the table. For example, if you were a sharpshooter, you would have been leading small teams to help carry out certain objects with very little room for failure. You would have also developed skills that help you cope with working in high-pressure situations.
Some of the core values and skills developed in the example above include leadership, attention to detail, ability to meet strict deadlines, and the ability to work on and complete projects/missions with very little supervision.
To further help with the de-militarization of your resume you can turn to the myriad of resources available to you. For example, the Transition Assistance Program and the U.S. Department of Labor offer guides and information that you may find beneficial when drafting your resume to acquire civilian work.
Provide Potential Employers with a Full Picture of the Experience You Have
Make sure that you include specific examples that highlight the following skills:
Your technical skills/abilities: If you worked as a healthcare specialist, mechanic, financial management technician or telecommunication technician in the military, there are civilian careers that are closely related. You need to include all the technical skills you acquired in the military on our resume.
Your interpersonal skills/abilities: When you work in the military, you have to deal with a number of personalities – from subordinates to high-ranking officers and more. In some cases, you have to figure out how to interact with these individuals to successfully complete a given task. The fact is, interpersonal skills are highly valued in the civilian workplace, and they should be outlined in your resume to help reflect your ability to work with all types of people to get the job done.
Your leadership skills/abilities: If you have acquired any type of leadership training or experience you should understand that this is also highly valued in the civilian workforce. Be sure to include this on your resume, as well.
Use the Resources that are Available for Your Transition Out of the Military
You don’t have to try and manage this transition process or period on your own. There are resources available to help you along the way. Some are listed here:
You can match your experience and skills in the military to current civilian occupations if you use the military to civilian occupation translator.
You can receive the Verification of Military Experience and Training. This allows you to list your military job experience and your training history and recommend the information for college credits that would be given for civilian positions.
Contact the transition center for your branch of the military for additional resources and support during this transitional time.
Use your manual that will provide you information about military tasks and jobs that have been cross-coded in the civilian job titles dictionary.
You will also likely find that by talking with other former service members who have successfully gained civilian employment, you can gain the insight and information you need to make informed career decisions.
Use the Information to Excel in Your New Civilian Position
Once you have made the transition from a military worker to a civilian worker, it’s up to you to make sure you are successful in your new career. Make sure that you keep in mind that the military system is one based on rank and seniority. However, if you want to advance in our career in a civilian setting, you will have to work hard and exceed expectations. To make sure you are successful, you need to pay attention to the differences that are present in military and civilian settings:
Style of communication: After years in the military, you may have a formal and direct communication style. In the civilian workplace, you may need to develop more informal conversational styles. Make sure that you attempt to be sensitive to the communication methods of your new coworkers and be patient. Adjustments are possible, but you have to be willing to make them.
Efficiency: When it comes to making decisions, the military uses a top-down method. There are quite a few civilian workplaces that usually involve more people and require more time and consideration. Being aware of this difference can help you understand why orders aren’t given and followed immediately like in the military.
Flexibility: There are quite a few modern companies that offer their workers flexible work locations, schedules and hours. While in the military, you likely had a rigid structure, things aren’t like this in most civilian workplaces. As a result, you will have to develop flexibility in your new position.
Even if you are trying to transition during a time when the job market is somewhat challenging, you need to remain positive and utilize the psychological resilience skills that you acquired during your military career. This will help you when trying to cope with all the stress related to job searching. There are also several other programs that can help support you while you make the transition from being in the military to working a civilian job. As a result, you should be sure to utilize all the information that is available to you to help ensure you have the highest chance of success in your new career and civilian lifestyle as possible.
Contact ICS for the latest open positions. We can help you get the job you want and work with you in the process. You don't have to go through this alone. We understand you did a lot for your country and we want to give back. If you see a role you're interested in, start applying today.