Mastering This Skill Can Help Win You Any Job

Capt. George J. Flynn III, commanding officer for Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, speaks into his field radio operator’s handset alongside Lance Cpl. Nicholas A. Tucker in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Capt. George J. Flynn III, commanding officer for Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, speaks into his field radio operator’s handset alongside Lance Cpl. Nicholas A. Tucker in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Earnest J. Barnes)

Transitioning out of the military involves lots of planning. The Pentagon has come a long way in providing services to help troops prepare for their transition to the civilian world, but despite all that planning, some former service members still have trouble landing a gig.

What's the missing piece? Many veterans entering the civilian workforce find that they are missing a key so-called soft skill: communications.

'Communication Skills' Doesn't Mean Radio Operator

There's a reason why communication is at the top of the soft-skills wishlist for all hiring managers. In fact, it's reputed to be the No. 1 skill employers want in an employee.

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Communication skills span the entire spectrum, from writing to speaking, to your ability to translate complex ideas in ways your team or customers can easily understand.

Out of all the communication skills, your ability to speak and write well are the most important, especially when it comes to a job interview.

"When I transitioned out of the Army, I did all the right things. I followed my transition plan perfectly," said Matthew Kirkland, a military veteran and life skills coach. "But interview after interview, I failed to get the job. It took one very honest HR rep to finally open my eyes. She said that I lacked the solid communication skills that they were looking for in a candidate."

Kirkland said he took that to heart and, like any former soldier, created a battle plan to address areas where he needed to improve. Never one for traditional schooling, Kirkland taught himself through online courses, TED talks and lots of practicing in front of a mirror and with his wife and children.

It wasn't long before he reached out to that same HR rep and asked for a second chance by putting his skills into action. Not only did he win the interview, he landed the job.

"I basically just wrote my story, the how and why I joined the Army," Kirkland said. "And what skills I learned through my experiences in war and how those skills translate to the civilian world."

How You Can Improve Your Communication Skills

If you go back to school after you transition out of the military, be sure to take as many writing and public speaking classes as you can. If you're going straight into the workforce, find online videos and instructional tools on how to become a better public speaker and writer.

Those two skills will not only help you build confidence when it comes to interviewing, but they will also help you articulate why a company should hire you, versus the hundreds of other applicants you're competing against.

Here are three tangible benefits to good communication skills:

1. Communication skills help you articulate your ideas into stories.

When you can translate complex ideas into anecdotal stories, it's easier for people to understand and retain the information. And in the case of a job interview, it helps the hiring manager remember you.

2. Storytelling can help you engage.

It's no wonder why some of the best presidents, CEOs and influencers are also fantastic storytellers. When you can engage with a person through storytelling, you captivate the social animal in us all and make a deeper connection with people. This is especially important in an interview, when you want to sell yourself or when you want to inspire those you lead.

3. It builds connection.

The most successful storytellers connect with their audience by knowing them, just as many successful brands became successful because they took the time to know their audience and understand their dilemmas.

For example, when interviewing, take the time to understand how you can help solve any dilemma or problem that the company is currently facing. Write down problems you've faced and how you've solved them. This will help you turn that into a story that shows you're a results-oriented employee, versus a bulleted list of accomplishments on a resume.

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