A military career is something you’ll always look back on with pride, no matter how long it lasts. One day it’s going to come to an end, though – you’ll take off the uniform for the last time and start looking for something else to do. Most veterans, even after a full career, will retire young enough that a second career is a viable option, but that means getting out in the job market and selling yourself to potential employers. The problem is that most employers haven’t served and don’t always understand the benefits of hiring a veteran; they think “This is a real estate office; why do we need an artilleryman?”
Naturally they’re making a mistake, but it’s up to you to show them that. When you apply for a job, you need to make sure your resume shows them exactly how your military experience will benefit their business.
Of course many military trades give you transferable skills that work just as well in a civilian job. For example, if you’re a logistics specialist, any shipping company is going to be in awe of your abilities. Even if your job only exists in the military, however, there’s a lot you’ve learned that makes you a great employee just about anywhere. Here are a few points to think about:
- Responsibility: Service members carry a lot more responsibility than most civilians ever dream of. Often, you’ll have been making decisions that were literally life or death. Junior ranks are trusted with advanced weapon systems. Leaders and commanders at all levels are responsible for the safety and actions of their troops.
- Resilience: The demands of military life mean that veterans are outstanding at handling pressure. We’re used to getting the job done, whatever challenges stand in the way, and we don’t end up like a deer in the headlights just because things don’t go smoothly at first.
- Flexibility: In the military you get used to being adaptable. If you try to do something the normal way and it doesn’t work, you don’t give up; you try something else, and keep on trying until you get it done. Service life teaches you to think on your feet and find solutions quickly.
Make Your Resume Shine
So, even with just these 3 points, it’s obvious that you can bring a lot to practically any job. Now you have to think about how to get that across to your prospective employer. Your best tool for that is your resume. What you need to do is word your experience so it makes sense to a civilian business. Here’s the wrong way to do it:
I was a mortar squad leader on OEF and we did loads of fire missions for 56 SBCT.
To a hiring manager that sounds irrelevant, if it even makes any sense. I would write it like this instead:
I led a 10 member team and was responsible for both general management duties and integrating our specialist contribution into the overall mission. This involved developing detailed tasks based on the senior leadership’s intent. I was also in charge of around $12 million worth of vehicles and equipment, which was maintained and regularly accounted for under my direction.
You’re talking about exactly the same job, but now you’ve highlighted several points that show what you can do: you managed people, you played a key role in the organization’s activities, you worked towards meeting the “big picture” goals, and you took care of a lot of expensive equipment. That’s going to boost your skillset in the eyes of a potential employer.
The fact is, your military experience gives you a real edge over the people you’ll be competing with in the job market. Each time you apply for a vacancy, look at what the job involves, and then work out what aspects of your service prepared you to do it. There’s bound to be something. Just identify the target and your strengths and you’re set to win.
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