Indentify Strengths and Challenges Arising from Military Experience

What to Know

Any job, in any organization, will give you knowledge and skills that will be valued by future employers. For example, the leadership training you received in the military can be very valuable. Similarly, working in any organization can make you so used to doing tasks in a certain way that you will have to relearn how to perform in another organization. Even the terms or words you frequently use will be different. For example, the use of military lingo is so widespread in the service; you must unlearn this language and speak plain English before an employer will understand you. As you read this section, think about your experience in the service and what you can do to capitalize upon your strengths and overcome any challenges.

Strengths

Your military service has given you training and work experience useful to many employers. Your task is to consider your own work and find a way to use this information to your best advantage. Following is a list of some strengths you probably have used in your military service. As you read the list, make notes about your own experiences. You will use these notes later in preparing your application to emphasize your knowledge and skills.

  1. Leadership training — The military trains people to accept responsibility and give direction. You may have had responsibility for other people and their activities. You are trained to lead by setting an example and by giving directions.
  2. Ability to conform to rules and structure — In any organization there must be rules and structure to avoid chaos. You have learned and followed rules in the service.
  3. Ability to learn with advanced training — You received intensive, and often specialized, advanced training in the service.
  4. Familiarity with records — You are familiar with the need for records and complete paperwork. You understand the need to be accountable for everything you do.
  5. Ability to work as a team member and a team leader — In the military you worked in a team environment. You understand that everything you do affects someone else. You may have served as a team leader where you analyzed situations and options, made decisions, gave directions, followed through and accepted responsibility.
  6. Ability to work in a diverse group — The military employs all Americans regardless of race, gender, economic status, religion. In the service, you have worked with people of all backgrounds, attitudes, and characteristics.
  7. Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines — In the military you must perform. You do your job right the first time. There is pressure and stress; if you fail, people could suffer.
  8. Systematic planning — Most military operations require thorough planning. You must consider objectives, the strengths and limitations of others, resources, time schedules, logistics, and various other factors. You also assess progress during the operations.
  9. Emphasis on safety — Military safety training is among the best in the world. You understand the cost of lives, property, and objectives when safety is ignored.
  10. Ability to give and follow directions — You know how to work under supervision. You are accountable for your actions. Being disciplined in your life and when dealing with others is important in the workplace.
  11.  Drug-free — You have been working in a zero-tolerance environment, with frequent and random drug testing.
  12. Maturity — You may have maturity beyond your years. You can bring this out in an interview by relating your experiences and responsibilities. Employers may see you as more mature than other applicants your age.
  13. Security clearance — Many military personnel have achieved some level of security clearance.
  14. Initiative — You have a proactive mentality. Employers will appreciate your ability to approach issues and opportunities without necessarily being asked to.
  15. Problem-solving — You are a strategic thinker. You have been trained to assess a situation and address problems and opportunities. Employers are looking for workers who help make work go more smoothly.
  16. Minimized need for supervision — You are accustomed to being given a task and taking responsibility for its completion. Employers appreciate your efficiency and ability to work independently.

Challenges

Your military experience may also present you with challenges. These issues are factors that you will learn to handle. Each of the factors is briefly described.

  1. Communication — The military talks in alphabet soup. You have learned to use acronyms and military jargon. Everybody in the military understands it, but almost nobody outside the service will! You must consciously think about using words, not acronyms or jargon, to communicate.
  2. Stereotypes — Some employers have false impressions of the military. Being aware of the stereotypes up front will help you break them down when you encounter them. Some of the stereotypes include:
    • Military personnel do not know how to dress or socialize in the civilian community;
    • All military personnel are rigid and lack creativity;
    • You only get things done because of your rank; and
    • Military life is easier than civilian life; etc.
  3. Unrealistic Expectations — Many military personnel feel they will enter the civilian labor market and get a high-paying position. Frequently they will take a cut in pay and status equivalent to someone changing careers.
  4. Credentials — Occupational credentials, such as a license or certification, have increasingly become a common requirement for many types of civilian jobs. Because civilian credentialing requirements are typically based on traditional means of obtaining education, training, and experience in the civilian sector and you have received your career preparation in the military, you may encounter difficulties in obtaining a license or certificate. You need to determine the requirements for the credential desired prior to transitioning to avoid significant delays in obtaining employment.