The lessons you learn in the military don’t stop being relevant when you leave the service. To my fellow patriots contemplating a changeover from military life to the civilian world and to the many veterans struggling to compete in the competitive workplace, I offer the following from my personal experience. Your military service provided you with a set of transferable skills which are in high demand by hiring executives today. Members of the military are strong in character, competence, confidence, courage, emotional maturity, integrity, responsibility, and humility. Employers want individuals with these skills. These are all attributes that not only make you an attractive hire, but will benefit you in the workplace – so long as you use them.
Don’t forget the things you learned in the military. You must highlight these strengths on your resume.
Col. Kolditz [Why the military produces great leaders, 2009] is absolutely right when he says: “The best leadership—whether in peacetime or war—is borne as a conscientious obligation to serve. In many business environs it is difficult to inculcate a value set that makes leaders servants to their followers. In contrast, leaders who have operated in the crucibles common to military and other dangerous public service occupations tend to hold such values.“
During my hitch in the Marine Corps in the early 80’s, Uncle Sam assigned me to computer school where I was fortunate to learn a technical skill which would eventually catapult me into a great career following my end of active service.
In the 25 years since I last wore my Woodland cammies, I have climbed the corporate ladder quite successfully, and without [yet] having attained my undergraduate degree. Why is that? [Update, I completed by Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, December 2012]
Military service transforms young people into responsible, mature, and respectful contributors. The challenging environment of the military provides life and leadership situations which most civilians in your peer group simply are not exposed to. As a result, servicemen and servicewomen are, overall, more experienced followers and most importantly – leaders.
As a hiring executive, I place more weight on character and ‘soft’ skills, such as communication, teamwork, willingness to contribute, critical thinking, and the will to win, than I do on technical capabilities or experience. Of course, technical experience is important in my field, but so is your military experience! Veterans know a thing or two about sacrifice, initiative and teamwork and once they realize those things will help them excel in civilian business, they can become an organization’s most valuable employees.
According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, “…academic and cognitive skills, as essential as they are, are not all that is necessary for a successful life. In our global technological age, young people also need to work with and learn from diverse groups, be flexible in a variety of work and social settings, and be adaptable to changing times. They need to demonstrate leadership and take responsibility for results, show initiative and resourcefulness, and be productive and accountable for their actions.”
A great read is Maneuver Management from The Warriors Guide, a framework for business management based on military and war-fighting principles. It will help you see how the things you were taught in the military transfer to civilian business. If you’re not familiar with the OODA Loop Decision Cycle, you need to be.
This month, the Department of Defense launched an online career decision toolkit “…customized to a service member’s own transition needs and assists them in cataloging their military skills and experience in a way that helps them effectively communicate their skills to prospective employers,” said John R. Campbell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy.”
Education is important and one should always take classes (college or professional) in order to improve and maintain an edge.
There are people and tools out there to help – use them. Be proud of your military background, look back at the intangibles you gained from your service and highlight them in your resume or put them to use in your business or career. Promote the leader that you are!
Wally Beddoe, CPL USMC, 1981-1985