Management Material: Marketing Your Skills to Civilian Employers
Article Sponsored by: The Florida State University College of Business
It's no secret that veterans have a lot to offer civilian employers. Or is it? After all, not every civilian boss is familiar with what, exactly, goes on in the military - and how much responsibility service members actually have, no matter their rank. When seeking a job, then, it's up to ex-military personnel to market those skills they acquired, and demonstrate just how valuable they can be.
Marcea Weiss, author of "Leaving the Military: Your Deployment Guide to Corporate America" (Calypso), emphasizes that the leadership skills that people develop while in the service cannot be underlined enough. Weiss - who held various positions in the Army over the course of nine years, including Black Hawk helicopter test pilot, maintenance manager and training officer - points out that right away, even privates are put in charge of something, and then as advanced privates, they are put in charge of someone. "You're used to leading right from Day One," she says. "It's a good environment in which to adopt leadership skills, whereas in Corporate America, it can take years to be put into a position like that."
Another area where many military personnel excel is planning for the unexpected. "They are trained to come up with a contingency plan: They have a detailed operations order, but if things don't go as planned, they are taught to come up with another way of carrying it out," Weiss illustrates. It's not just about planning for something and then following it to the letter. "A lot of their training revolves around contingency planning and knowing that it only lasts until you get to the beginning of the operation and see how it's really going to go." This, she adds, is linked with another skill: initiative. Once service members devise Plan A and then Plan B, they're expected to keep their feelers out to measure how things are progressing, and they must take the initiative to adjust course as they go along.
So how does all of this translate into language a civilian employer can understand? You've heard it before: Cut the military-speak.
"You need to know how to translate your military skills into words and phrases that a civilian hiring manager will be able to understand," Weiss counsels. As a former hiring manager in Corporate America, Weiss would occasionally interview ex-military officers. While she understood the military terms they were using, she knew that many of them wouldn't survive the recruitment process because her colleagues couldn't understand what they were talking about when they were discussing their prior achievements. Her advice: "Take the acronyms that come up in military and translate them."
Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/editor.
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