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Experts Explore Core Challenges of the Military to Civilian Transition: Part II – Translation

Welcome to part-two of our series, where we will be exploring three primary aspects that often present the most serious stumbling blocks to service members transferring into the civilian sector.

For this, we’ll be drawing upon the expertise of six professionals, some of whom are former officers and enlisted, who have forged success out of these challenges. We have found a great deal of commonality in the experience of former military members. This is one experience that, while still very unique to you in its expression, nevertheless has a considerable amount of overlap with others who have gone through the experience. It is in this way, by bringing these facets to light, that we hope to provide something of service to you and explore the key tools that can help you get ahead in the private sector.

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In our last piece, we explored Culture Shock, and how it can impact service members.

For this segment, we will expound upon:


Translation is our active verb of choice here, by which we mean the process of taking your military skills and training, and putting them into context for marketable civilian-sector skills. Your military skills, once properly translated, can become the centerpiece of your resume.

One of the best aspects of this endeavor is that, by and large, military skills are highly unique. Sure, anyone can list “leadership” as one of their abilities, but to be able to cite a proven track record of success under literal fire? As stressful as a corporate boardroom may be, actual life-threatening foxholes, they are not.

Now, for some experts thoughts, we would first like to introduce Gustavo Mayen, Esq., who holds an MBA at the Law Offices of Gustavo Mayen, and is a former Marine (2003-2008).

Gustavo says, “One thing I regret not doing prior to leaving the service is to seriously work on translating the skills I obtained while on active duty to the civilian sector. There are so many resources to help you do this, and doing it before entering the civilian sector will pay dividends in the long run. Plus doing it will teach you how to conform your service into whatever sector you decide to go into.”

Our second source of military wisdom on the subject is Bob Wiedower, Vice President of Sales Development and Military Programs at Combined Insurance, a Chubb company. Bob is a decorated veteran, having served in the United States Marine Corps for 22 years, retiring as a Squadron Commanding Officer.

Bob explains with professional eloquence that one of the most significant things a service member can learn how to do is to translate his or her military responsibilities, titles, and accomplishments into civilian (business) language. For instance, nearly everyone in military service is familiar with the title and position of First Sergeant, as well as what that individual does. Very few without military history, however, have the slightest notion of these details, beyond a general recognition.

What you need is Translation (or a translator!).

First Sergeant, in business language, can become something akin to: Senior HR Generalist.

According to Bob: “While sometimes difficult (to do), every position in the military can be converted into terms civilian counterparts can appreciate, and all results can be transformed as well.”

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With all this said, however, Gustavo reminds us that:

Understanding that your military service is only one consideration in the civilian sector, it is more important that you show whether you are a good fit for the company.

In the military, we practice over and over again, and do meticulously planning before executing a mission. Yet we fail to do the same when preparing to enter the civilian sector, like understanding what the company is looking for in a specific position, and more importantly, how you can show the company that you are a good fit for both that position and the company as a whole, which involves researching the company’s history, structure, mission and vision.”

Gustavo raises an excellent point; and you should remember to take into account that you’re seeking not only the positions you are qualified for, but that you’re doing so in a field and company (or industry) that you find suitable.


Fred Coon, CEO 

Stewart Cooper & Coon specializes in career transition services for senior-level military decisions makers and government agency employees by assisting candidates in locating companies who welcome both their leadership and organizational talents.  

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