How Your Military Experience Makes You a Great Employee

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(U.S. Air Force/Airman Eugene Oliver)

Before you think this is another article about how your integrity, military service and hard work are the reasons you are being recruited by employers, let me set the record straight. Yes, employers value your service, they recognize that it takes high levels of integrity to commit to a career in the military and that you undoubtedly worked very hard during your time in uniform, regardless of the jobs you had.

But there’s more to you than what you did during your time in uniform that’s valuable to today’s employers. A lot more!

While many of you pursue post-military careers in the private sector, others of you will work for nonprofit organizations or even become entrepreneurs. As you position yourself for your next career, remember that your military experience sets you apart from your civilian counterparts and can make you a great addition to any team or organization.

Character vs. Skills. Smart employers today recognize that you can teach an employee the skills needed to do the job, but you can’t teach character.

For example, to be promoted into a management role, an employer can train you on communication skills, accountability programs, and management techniques. What they can’t teach you is to care about the people you manage, to push through adversity or how to personally commit to the mission of the organization.

Resist the urge to position yourself solely on the skills, training or technical expertise you bring to the job. Your abilities and qualifications will get you to the conversation, the interview and maybe into the job, but it’s your character, personality and values that help you build relationships with others and add meaningful impact to your work. Consider highlighting these traits:

Resilience. Being able to bounce back after a challenge is a character trait that sets you apart from others. In today’s business climate, workers at all levels of the company are stretched and stressed. You’ll shine when you can point to examples in your past where your resiliency helped you push through adversity and stay focused on the task.

Loyalty. Employers are frustrated with high employee turnover and attrition. Each time an employee leaves their job, they take skills, knowledge and relationships with them. Employers value team members who stay with the company and grow their skills and contribution. Showcase your commitment and loyalty to team, mission and work gained in the military to highlight how you are as an employee.

Adaptability. Remember how it felt when you entered basic training? You realized quickly there was a lot you didn’t know. That feeling doesn’t go away. Adults are always faced with situations or circumstances they’re not familiar with. The question is whether those situations cause them to stop where they are ... or push through. In the military you learned to adapt and overcome to complete the task and mission. Let employers know that obstacles don’t scare you, risk is to be tolerated (or embraced) and you won’t flinch when things get stressful or dicey.

Problem Finding (Not Just Solving). With businesses being more global in nature and function and technology such as artificial intelligence replacing the human ability to solve basic problems, the emphasis is on finding the risk, problem or challenge before it actually becomes a problem.

You know how to do this! In the military, you were taught to see around corners, to identify threat and risk before it presented itself and to create strategic and tactical responses. Let the employer know that you have the skills, tolerance for and aptitude to find problems and solve them to increase your value to the organization.

These are just a few of the ways your military training and experience makes you a valuable addition to any organization. Your job, going forward, is to clearly and confidently articulate this value to the employer who might not be aware of all you offer.

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