AIU Blog

The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

How to Transition Military Skills to the Civilian Job Market

How to Translate Military Skills to the Civilian Job Market

By Richard Kennedy, AIU Director of Military Relations

Over the next few years, hundreds of thousands of people will be transitioning out of the U.S. military. These new veterans will be looking for careers in the civilian job market. Veterans bring a huge number of skills to the working world, but it’s not always easy for them to find new professional opportunities.

Since only 1% of Americans ever serve in the military, most civilian employers have virtually no knowledge of the valuable experience that former military people offer. Often these employers don’t know how to best utilize veterans within their companies.

Unfortunately, some employers believe false and negative stereotypes about military veterans. This includes inflated concerns about the prevalence of PTSD and the misconceptions that veterans are inflexible and don’t take initiative without orders.

The upside of civilians knowing little about the reality of military service is that veterans can easily paint a picture of the skills and attributes they want employers to see.

When you are looking for a civilian job and trying to market yourself to potential employers, don’t focus on your own needs – focus on what you can do for the employer’s company. Tell civilian hiring authorities about the skills you developed in the military and how you can use them to contribute to their business.

One thing that sometimes holds veterans back is being too reluctant to tell others about their accomplishments. Remember that resumes, cover letters, and job interviews are not places where you should be shy.

Be proud of the skills you develop during military service, and make sure that potential employers are aware of them. As a veteran, some of the skills you probably developed in the military include the ability to:

  • Work in diverse groups as an integral and effective member of the team
  • Convey a plan as a set of simple instructions, clearly and in a logical sequence (the Marines call it a "five paragraph order")
  • Focus on a common goal and work towards a critical deadline, sometimes under extremely difficult conditions with very limited resources
  • Modify a plan quickly and without losing your cool

Most veterans possess these skills, and having a strong sense of goal-oriented teamwork can give veterans an edge over civilians in the job market. Just remember these are critical job skills that civilian employers are looking for, so don’t be bashful about marketing your distinct abilities.