When you leave the military and head out into the big, wide, civilian world, it can be an intimidating process. Starting anything new can be scary, and it’s hard to know how to make the most out of all the new avenues that you’re faced with.
Often, finding a new job is particularly difficult. For many, it is the first time you’ll have a civilian job, which involves endless applications, interviews, rejections, and eventually: adapting to working in a civilian environment. Your military training can prepare you for a lot of things, but it cannot prepare you for this.
Or can it?
It is a well-known problem that many veterans have trouble finding work again once they leave the forces, but there are countless skills and qualities which you have gained through the military, which potential employers may never have considered! It’s up to you to tell them everything you have to offer – how else will they know just how employable you are?
Your résumé might seem a little bare, but you are not just a seaman, airman or soldier. You are not just a medic. You are not just an engineer.
You are incredibly hard-working. At first, this might seem like a generic quality that everybody says when they apply for jobs, but state why you’re so hard-working and you’ll stand out from the crowd! You work long ass days. You give up your weekends, and you can be called in at any time to do all manners of work. Sometimes, you have no idea when you might get a break, but you carry on regardless. Sure, sometimes you get the cool jobs, but sometimes you have to get down and dirty, and do the really shitty jobs that no-one wants to do. I can guarantee that by making a point of all of this, you’ll instantly appear more employable than some spotty teenager who barely scrapes by.
You’re committed to your job. If a civilian says this during the job application process, it will probably be brushed aside as saying whatever it takes to get the job. You, on the other hand, can say it, and be confident that you have the evidence to back it up. You have made sacrifices in almost every area of your life for the sake of your job, and you know what it means to commit to something, without the option of backing out halfway through. Commitment and dedication are qualities which most employers are looking for, although they’re hard pressed to find someone who can actually prove it. Now’s your chance, so sell yourself!
You respect authority. I suspect that many of the times you’ve had to work hard like we’ve already discussed also had a lot to do with respecting those in a position of authority. You wouldn’t have got very far in the military if you’d answered back and complained about the long hours and shitty jobs! This might not be something employers think about ordinarily, but explain how it can work for them. You can do your job without questioning every request, and without insubordination, more than any old Joe off the street can. This will only make your employer’s life easier, so make sure they know it! This doesn’t mean you don’t think for yourself… but you won’t be causing trouble.
You are adaptable. You can get thrown into any situation, and you’ll cope. In fact, you’ll do more than just cope, you’ll do a great job! You’re used to traveling, meeting new people, trying different things, and throughout your time in the military you’ve constantly faced new challenges. There’s nothing that your potential new boss can throw at you that you won’t be great at dealing with.
You’re a quick learner. You’ve already been highly trained, and you continued to learn, train and grow while you were in the military. Explain this when you’re applying for jobs, as any employer who doesn’t want someone who’s always keen to better themselves isn’t worth working for in the first place! All those occasions when you were thrown into something new and you had to adapt and think on your feet, as we just mentioned, were times when you had to process the new tasks and environments and learn how best to tackle the situation. Not only are the skills you gained through your training suitable for civilian work, but the very fact that you are able and willing to learn so many new things stands in your favor, too.
You’re a strong leader. Depending on which ranks you reached and what kind of jobs you’re applying for, this may be particularly relevant. If you can lead a group of five, ten, maybe even hundreds of men and women, of all ages and from a wide variety of backgrounds, then you can lead anyone. Sure, being in charge of a bunch of people who only put in a half-assed attempt is a little different to leading a group of compliant, obedient soldiers, but you’re adaptable, remember?
“There’s nothing that your potential new boss can throw at you, that you won’t be great at dealing with.”
You can keep calm under pressure. There have probably been countless times when you’ve been right in the middle of a fast-paced, pressure filled environment, and you’ve had to step up to the plate. You succeeded, right? Your training kicked in, and you kept your head and made it out the other side. Make sure any potential employers know this, as there are virtually no civilian jobs which come with as much pressure as you’ve already experienced. If you can keep your cool in situations that most people would break out in a sweat just thinking about, you can ace your new job.
You’re a team player. Whether you look at it small scale, like being one of only a few people to fix broken down vehicles, or if you look at the much bigger picture, like being one of thousands who are working together to defeat an enemy, everything you have done in the military has been part of a team. You know how to work with people from a huge range of backgrounds and still get the job done. During the interview process, often you may be asked whether you are comfortable working as part of a team, so you can be confident and forthcoming in your answer!
These have just been a small selection of qualities which you have but which may not ordinarily come across when you’re looking for work. It’s up to you to put these across to your potential employers, because aside from any of the necessary skills required for the job, it’s these qualities that will ultimately get you hired.
I know that it’s a scary process, and you may be unsure of what to expect. But just remember: you’re hard-working, you’re committed, you’re respectful of authority, you’re adaptable, you’re a quick learner, you’re a strong leader, you can keep calm under pressure, and you’re a team player. You’ve probably been to hell and back at certain points in time while you were in the military, so if you managed that, you can definitely do this!
At the end of the day, if you make clear all these qualities of yours and still don’t have much luck, don’t worry! It’s just a job, and it’s their loss anyway. It means it probably wasn’t the right job for you, and there’s one waiting just around the corner for which you’ll be perfect!
Good luck in your job search – and help out your fellow vets by sharing this post with them!