Q: I find that a lot of recruiters think my military service resembles what they've seen in Hollywood movies. How do I overcome that perception in an interview?
A: As you transition to work with civilians, you may encounter people who can only imagine when they hear you served in combat, you are a trained sniper or you were injured due to enemy gunfire or an IED explosion, that you experienced something they've seen on television or in a movie. The civilian who doesn't understand your military service may believe they understand you because they saw Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis in a scene that sounds similar to what you went through.
This is not a right/wrong scenario. The recruiter has a limited understanding of what you have experienced, and this may be their only frame of reference to this point. When a hiring manager, coworker or networking contact inquires about your service or the nature of your injury or disability, please keep in mind their perspective is likely limited.
As you transition, your job is not to fuel the imagination of your civilian counterparts. When you are asked questions by someone you don't know well, or if you are unsure how much detail to offer in response to combat or service-related questions, some guidelines to remember are (particularly in an interview or networking situation):
These guidelines help you remain in control of your side of the conversation. Assume the questions are coming from a good place (assume good intent), but your job is not to sideline the interview into a rehash of your military experience. Remain focused on what is germane and relevant to the interview.
Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is donating her time, expertise and effort to help returning war veterans learn how to compete in a civilian, particularly corporate, career. Lida works closely with Philadelphia-based, Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, is a volunteer member of ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans with reputation management after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at email@example.com.