- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

The Well-Traveled Soldier

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: USIC via Source 2

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It was a tall order.

Sitting in front of job coach Michelle Morettini was a combat veteran, and he had an unusual request. He possessed a wealth of foreign travel experiences, but he’d had enough of high-risk, dangerous duties in his life.

What did he really want?

It was simple: To apply his international expertise derived from military missions…to the insurance industry. However, would a potential employer take him seriously?

Absolutely. Many veterans don’t realize that employers are salivating for your globe-trotting knowledge, says Morettini, Manager of Outplacement Services for The IMPACT Group, a global HR service provider in St. Louis.

Not only that, most veterans can move with ease through a variety of cultures due to their foreign travel experiences, giving them a competitive advantage over civilian job seekers, says Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of College Recruiter, an interactive recruitment media company used by college students and recent graduates to find careers.

“If you’re looking at the average soldier transitioning out, who is 22 to 26 years of age, and if you compare that to a non-military veteran of similar age, the non-veteran is likely to have had no exposure to international relations or to people that reside outside the United States. We are a very parochial country and inwardly focused,” Rothberg says. “If you’re a soldier at a forward base in Afghanistan, you’ll understand significant cultural differences, and employers want to know about that.”

But how should you bring up your time abroad and/or foreign language mastery during the job hunt? Here are tips from Morettini and Rothberg on the best ways to highlight it to recruiters.

During a Job Interview
Connect the dots. Explain how your foreign experiences relate to the employer’s operations or the position for which you are applying. ÒBe very specific and say, “Here are things I experienced. The way I can tie it to your operation is…Draw a parallel,” Morettini says.

Maybe you were stationed at a Naval base in Japan. The skills you’ve picked up in understanding the culture Ð maybe even the Japanese language Ð are invaluable to an employer, Rothberg says. “So even if the position is in Korea versus Japan, you would be more qualified than the average 22- to 26-year-old with little to no international exposure,” he says.

Highlight unusual experiences. Suppose your team met with a war lord in Afghanistan and had a meal together to negotiate a situation.

“What 21-year-old has tea with the CEO of General Motors? Having tea with a war lord who oversees an organization of about 5,000 people – that’s an amazing experience where most civilians are like, “Wow! This person is skilled beyond their years!”” Rothberg says. “Veterans can be intimidated when they walk into an interview. They feel their skills are lacking, when actually they are exceptional.”

Emphasize your knowledge of second (or third or fourth) languages. In the past 20 years, the folks at College Recruiter have seen a “significant increase” in the value that Fortune 1000 firms place on job seekers who speak more than one language.

“If you speak a second language, you can be trained easily to speak a third. If they’re doing business in Russia, they’ll hire the person who speaks both. But what if they can’t find that person? If everything else about you is perfect, but you speak Spanish, there’s still an excellent chance they will hire you and train you to speak Russian. We didn’t see that 20 years ago,” Rothberg says.


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