So you’re out of the military. Now what? You logically know that you aren’t the first to embark on this great military-to-civilian transition, as thousands of U.S. Veterans separate from the service each year. And you’ve been told countless times by staffers at VA and elsewhere that you have many “valuable skills” that the civilian world craves.
But do these vague ideas still leave you scratching your head when the time comes to put them into practice? Have you been staring at the blank page of your resume for hours a day? Are you refreshing USAJobs.com in vain for a magic solution?
You’re not alone. Our team at SAVI has heard the same thing about the post-military job hunt from Veterans across all service areas and eras. Fortunately for you, we’ve also heard from hiring managers and business leaders about what sets Veterans apart in their minds as among their best employees. Interpersonal (or “soft”) skills always rise to the top.
If your goal is to begin a career post-service, make sure that potential employers know you have these highly desirable “soft” skills.
• Communication: If you leave the military with only one skill (although let’s hope not!), it’s no doubt the ability to communicate well. This is the “Bottom Line Up Front” approach drilled into your brain, and it’s one of many areas where the military gets it right. Whether during constant briefings or in memos to superiors, you’ve learned the tricks to being an effective, polished, and professional communicator. You’ll probably even find your skills in this area far exceed those of your non-Veteran peers!
• Teamwork and Collaboration: Play nice with others, be a leader when you need to be (but know when to follow), monitor progress, and meet deadlines. These are all attributes of an effective team player – a soft skill that not everyone has naturally. By working with people across the nation and globe, you’ve most likely experienced every type of personality imaginable, all coming with various skill sets and work ethics. The skills you’ve honed in dealing with others will be just as valuable in the civilian world, especially as you learn to collaborate with new teams and new agendas.
• Adaptability: Between frequent PCS moves, being in and out of a family setting, and responding to shifting orders as the circumstances change, adaptability should be any Veteran’s middle name. There is arguably no other profession that requires so much of this skill from its employees as does the military. Be prepared to tell future employers how you’ve grown, stretched, and adapted in various situations that have led you to become a stronger leader and more versatile team member.
• Problem-Solving: Whether it’s a tactical problem dealing with terrain issues, social differences with peers, or a life-or-death combat scenario, problem-solving is a friend you know well. Be prepared for the “how did you solve a problem?” interview question with several examples, which should be plentiful from your experience. Experts recommend that you know how to explain what you did, how you approached the issue, ways you brought in others, and what the measurable outcome was.
• Conflict Resolution: When thinking about the high-stress situations most senior-level military personnel have experienced, there’s little room for poor conflict resolution skills. Just like in the military, building mutually beneficial relationships is one of the first items of business when entering the civilian workplace. Whether you knew it or not, your time in the service taught you negotiation skills that will serve you well in every other aspect of life – if used correctly and with good intentions. Think about the conflicts you faced in your career and how you were able to resolve them.