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Leveraging Military Skills in the Job Market

Even in a challenging economic environment, numerous employers say they have good jobs available.  Their difficulty comes in finding skilled workers to fill those vacancies. At the same time, active duty military personnel and veterans who are transitioning to the civilian job market have the types of skills valued by employers. It's important that they know how to leverage their military experience and understand how their skills apply to the civilian job market.

Assessing Skills for Civilian Jobs
When beginning a job search, an important step is to conduct a strengths and abilities assessment. Think about the attributes employers need and how they correlate with military experience. The list may include the following:

  • Demonstrated leadership skills
  • Ability to set and accomplish goals
  • A task-oriented work style
  • Maturity and responsibility
  • The initiative to solve problems and follow through until the job is done
  • Self-direction, determination and discipline

Military personnel typically possess such attributes. They may be natural leaders who are accustomed to working on teams, following orders, performing under pressure and making decisions. Those transitioning to civilian jobs should highlight their abilities so potential employers get a clear picture of the value they would bring to their business.

How Does Military Experience Apply in Today's Job Market?
Many civilian careers, including some of the most in-demand jobs, correlate with military experience. The following examples illustrate how:

  • Project Management – Individuals with military leadership training are often responsible for strategic planning and managing a team. These skills translate to the qualifications of a project manager.
  • Risk Management – Some military roles require knowledge of data security, risk management, mathematical analysis and modeling, as well as operational systems testing and evaluation. These skills could transfer to a risk management career.
  • Logistics – Opportunities in transportation and logistics coordination, as well as supply chain management, are suited to those with experience in logistics support, cargo handling, inventory management and transportation planning.
  • Entrepreneur – Starting a small business can be a good move for military veterans who have discipline, management skills and planning abilities. Franchising is one option; many companies offer veterans exclusive opportunities and special deals to help them get started. Alternatively, veterans could open a business that matches their interests, whether it's financial consulting or physical fitness.
  • Healthcare – Private sector and government healthcare providers may value military healthcare personnel for their experience in demanding environments. Employers are likely to recognize the high level of professionalism and skill military personnel possess, whether they managed healthcare computer networks or served as direct-care providers.
  • Information Technology – The U.S. Armed Forces utilizes some of the most advanced technology available. Veterans may be able to leverage hands-on experience into a position as an IT professional, including such jobs as information security specialist and database administrator.
  • Civil Engineer – Many military roles require skills like blueprint and technical diagram reading, and surveying and mapping. These relate to positions in civil engineering and construction management.

Resume Tips for Translating Military Skills
When preparing a resume, it's best to avoid jargon, unless the position is with a military-savvy company, such as a defense contractor. Otherwise, use lay terms. If the recruiter or employer is trying to sift through acronyms and technical language, they could miss what's most important: the professional capabilities the applicant would bring to the company.

Avoid long paragraphs. Consolidate skills and experience into short, easy-to-read lists – and be sure they relate to the open position. If applicable, include terms like "supervised," "trained," "mentored," "managed" and "led." Be sure the cover letter is brief and engaging, and answers the big question: "Why should I call this applicant?"

Take Advantage of Veterans' Preference
In federal civilian employment, veterans are honored for their service by receiving preference over other applicants. Although they are not guaranteed jobs, servicemembers who are discharged or released from duty under honorable conditions are eligible for veterans' preference. Many resources for veterans are available through USAJOBS, which is administered by the federal government. Job vacancies and applications, resume development and online transmission are included on the website.

Proper Planning Helps When Starting a Civilian Job Search
Individuals planning for a post-military civilian career should incorporate the same care and planning that goes into a military mission. It's also a good idea to take advantage of assistance programs, such as the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) offered by the U.S. Department of Labor. TAP workshops teach attendees how to conduct job searches, prepare resumes and cover letters, and choose the career path that meets their skills and interests.

By setting goals, developing a career plan and getting help when needed, servicemembers and veterans can leverage military skills for a successful transition to the civilian workforce.

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