One of the scariest things for a person leaving the military and reentering civilian life is the prospect of immediate and even permanent unemployability. There is certainly no shortage of depressing and disheartening stories of struggling vets trying to get their footing economically post-service, only to be confronted with a confusing and unsympathetic labor market. There are ways to give yourself a big advantage, however, and it starts with knowing how and where to emphasize the skills you picked up and honed during your service.
In the military, servicemen and women communicate with each other all the time in order to accomplish tasks and carry out orders. The ability to communicate effectively and concisely is something that is applicable in any job, and any industry. Communication skills help employees solve conflicts, explain their ideas to coworkers and clients, and are necessary for effective collaboration and goal-setting.
Being in the military means being around and exposed to preparation and planning all the time. Being able to prepare a plan and execute something is another skill that is required in almost every industry, with management positions relying most heavily on these abilities. Planning is an essential part of setting goals and meeting objectives, whether those are weekly, monthly or quarterly targets. Directly on your resume and during any interviews, it is a good idea to draw attention to this skill by making specific references to times you practiced or demonstrated it.
Being in the military, especially if you were active duty, means that problem solving is something you likely had to become good at out of necessity. What you learn in training and what you see in official manuals are not always what you are going to be confronted with in the field, and knowing how to improvise, find workarounds and come up with solutions to problems (which may often be matters of life and death), are skills that translate incredibly well to the corporate setting and will make you a high-value team member and employee anywhere you go. Here you can also emphasize your ability to solve problems under pressure.
Teamwork is somewhat of a buzzword, as it is something that almost everyone stresses on their resumes and during interviews, but many people really don’t understand what it really means to rely on other people the way veterans do. The military is all about collective effort and collective outcomes. If you lived that life for many years, teamwork isn’t just a word that looks good on a resume for you, it is something that is ingrained in your being. Most people say they are “team players,” but few truly comprehend the importance of teamwork like a vet does.
It is usually not the stress itself that overwhelms people, but their reaction to it. Part of life in the military, and especially for specific roles and positions, is the ability to deal with stress, both unplanned for and purposely inflicted for training purposes. Most people have never been yelled at, intimidated or taunted while being asked to perform both serious mental and physical exercises, nor have they been asked to maintain their calm while in a highly dynamic and unpredictable war zone. The stressful situations you were able to effectively manage while enlisted will likely pale in comparison to what the office environment will ask of you, which employers are always impressed by.
It is false comfort to expect the labor market to just welcome you with open arms after your service. Like anybody, you need to know how to navigate it and, importantly, sell your strengths in a way that gets hiring managers interested in you. It is likely a certainty that you developed and use the above skills during your military career and they are ones that transfer very well to the modern labor market.