How Can I Translate My Military Position Into a Civilian Career?

Transitioning from the military is a difficult time in your life, regardless if it is voluntary or expected.  Serving in the military is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.  You can have an entire conversation using acronyms and you’ve been to locations that many people would never even dream of going.  It’s a unique experience to be sure so it’s no wonder trying to translate your experiences into a civilian career can prove to be a challenge.

Define your skills.

It can be easy to take a look at your military job description and copy and paste the bulleted responsibility into your resume but not many civilian employers will understand how mobilizing vehicles, weapons, or troops can be a useful skill for their company.  You’ll need to explain that you can allocate resources and personnel.  You should also consider your responsibilities in your recent units that aren’t specifically listed in your MOS/MOC.  Did you drive specialty vehicles like buses or trucks?  Did you help plan a change of command ceremony or a dining out event?  Is there a certain task that always falls to you?  All of these things are skills you can highlight on your resume.

Don’t forget about “soft skills” either.  These are skills that may be the deciding factor between two job candidates.  Many military service members have been trained to be problem solvers, resolve conflict, lead subordinates, communicate both written and orally, and of course work as a team.  Over and over again, employers say these are the skills that come with experience and are severely lacking in the employment pool.

Certify yourself.

Often times a position, especially technical related ones, will require applicants to hold certifications.  Don’t let this deter you from the field of your interest and experience.  If you worked in the S6 shop during you service, you’re most likely well versed in networking and the computer needs of an office but still most employers seek candidates with certified training.  Obtaining a certification will further enhance the skills you already possess and bring you up to speed on ones that you may not have had an opportunity to use as much.  Educating yourself and obtaining the certifications you need to build a civilian career before you leave the military also allows you to take advantage of tuition assistance programs which translates to low cost or no cost education.

Prepare for the future.

Many in the military don’t think about what their future will look like once the military is no longer a huge part of their lives.  The military is so unpredictable; whether funding cuts cause a need for decreasing troop numbers or injury makes service no longer a possibility, service members need to have a post-military.  Scrambling to put together a resume, determine what field you’d like to have a career in, and meeting the application requirements are all things that you should have in place before the need for a job search ever begins.  If you’re not prepared for these things, you’ll always be working from a deficit and it’s difficult to catch up.