- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

What’s In Your Record?

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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To the civilian world, Navy LT Tim Mossholder “took a ship out to sea and rode around with guns in boats,” he says.

But as Mossholder prepared to exit the Navy after serving from 2006 to 2012, he wanted potential employers to see something more. “I was looking for a job to mentor teams of folks and focus on the personnel element of getting things done,” he recalls.

Mossholder scored.

Today, he’s the Project Manager for Candidate Services at recruiting firm Bradley-Morris, Inc., the parent company of and Military Transition News. How did he figure out how to convey to employers his love for leading? Simply put, he analyzed his military records and gleaned the nuggets that civilian recruiters would appreciate and understand.

“Whatever the project happened to be, such as a radar system upgrade, it was very much secondary to my contributions to the agenda of the mission,” he explains.

Don’t shortchange any experience, school or training you received during your service, say Mossholder and others. Something that you may discount as “routine” or minor could be highly prized knowledge or an essential skill for a company. But to find the skills that employers value, you have to know how to decipher your records.

Here’s how to break it all down.

Find Soft Skills in Your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) Report

Reading through your records, such as evaluation reports and Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET), will provide complete and verifiable information about your skills and duties. But focus on the obvious Ð the soft skills that are right under your nose, Mossholder says.

When you look over your documentation, where do you see examples of how you stood out from the crowd? And what skill sets got you to that point? Look for rankings in specific evaluations of your performance or your contributions where you were highly successful.

“The goal is this: I don’t care that you turned wrenches, but I want to know you got there 10 minutes early every day,” Mossholder says, adding that companies want to see that you’ve put out an effort Òto do the best job possible.”

When evaluating his own VMET, Mossholder also picked out something else: “There were a lot of things on there I enjoyed doing that were not a part of the job.” Focus on those things, because they could lead you to a rewarding career that you haven’t previously considered, he says.

COL Thomas Hiebert, U.S. Army Retired, oversees the Veterans’ Talent Initiative at ADP of Roseland, NJ. Hiebert notes that you can never overemphasize to recruiters the leadership experience found in your VMET.

“What we are seeing at this company and across America is that veterans with leadership and management experience are most comfortable doing that Ð leading teams. At ADP, we have teams. We’ve found that veterans are not only good at that, but also in crunch time, they stand out,” Hiebert says. “They’re so comfortable leading that there are times in the company when things are perceived as being stressful, and the veterans lend cool and calm to teams.”

Realize Your Skills are Transportable

There are some military occupational specialties that will transport directly into a civilian job.

Take Quality Assurance Supervisors or Quality Assurance Inspectors in the Navy. “Most who work in the nuclear capacity don’t realize this is an entire career field,” Mossholder says. You can look for civilian roles such as “Quality Assurance Program Manager” in manufacturing or shipping.

“A middleman makes sure that the product is of a high quality before shipping to a customer,” Mossholder says. “If you said, ‘I’ve always worked with pumps, valves and compressors,’ whatever widget it is, you can transport that skill set of verifying that something is ready for the customer.” Look for “Quantifiable” Skills
Most employers are looking for results, says Ann Reiter. She’s Regional Veteran Connector for Where Opportunity Knox, an organization that links Fort Knox-area veterans with civilian jobs around Louisville, KY. Evaluation reports will show quantifiable results on the task, your role in the task and whether you were successful, Reiter says.

Say you’re an NCO who oversaw an infantry platoon. You may not realize this, but you were a Human Resources worker, too. Look for bullets in your evaluations that mirror HR skills. Be ready to offer anecdotes about how you guided your troops in combat or even counseled someone in a crisis.
”I say, ‘Find your inner rock star.’ Those are the moments that you did something outstanding that other people should know about. A lot of soldiers laugh initially, but they then come up with good situations with rock-star moments,” Reiter says.

Tailor Each Application with Findings from Your Evaluations

Deborah Carter is the program manager for Raytheon’s IT Leadership Development Program. She served 14 years in the United States Air Force in various intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles.

Carter notes that most evaluation forms contain a description of the key duties, tasks and responsibilities, and a place where the supervisor provides an assessment of how those duties were performed. Use this as a starting point and framework for tailoring your application to each description posted by the employer.

“In my experience, most veterans are providing complete lists of all their training. I think the key is to highlight those schools or experiences that are relevant to the role,” she says. “The hardest thing for me, when I was writing and rewriting my resume for civilian roles, was understanding that even though I had some pretty amazing experiences, if I couldn’t provide the translation, I ran the risk that the hiring manager would skim over it and miss the significance.”

When military training doesn’t seem to have a logical fit to skills needed in the civilian job market, there may be ways to augment or bridge the military training with civilian industry professional certifications, she adds.

“Training as an air battle manager is very military-specific, but there are portions of that training and work experience that may translate well to roles in the FAA and in airport control tower management,” Carter notes.

Heidi Lynn Russell writes about employment and business issues.

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