Self-Assessing Your Veteran Experiences

SC&C Self-Asses Veteran experienceHundreds of job applications from veterans have crossed hiring mangers’ desks. Scores and scores of resumes have marched right alongside in lockstep. Many of them are incomplete or inappropriate. There are plenty of services that provide methods for translating your experience in the military into something that civilians can understand. Some people don’t take advantage of it. And civilians really, truly do not understand that a letter-number combination tells them everything they need to know about you.

“Soldiers can sometimes make decisions that are smarter than the orders they’ve been given.”
― Orson Scott Card

Veteran vs. Civilian Expectations

Your time in the service has changed you; your expectations are different from ordinary civilians. As an extreme (and fictitious) example, if you were to go into the mess hall and ask for a hamburger that’s what you would get. So you might be happy going into a McDonald’s and getting a hamburger much the same way–ready made with no options (fictitious, remember?). But faced with even a modestly nice restaurant and asked whether you would like raw onions or sautéed onions on that, could throw you for a loop if your mind was too rigidly set.

Choices Not Orders

That’s the big difference. The civilian world is full of choices, not orders. You don’t take what you’re given; you decide what you want and then work toward it. You don’t automatically get what you deserve because sometimes what you deserve isn’t needed in that particular situation. It’s like any Op – you have an objective; now you have to wait until there is an opportunity to achieve it.

Tune Yourself to Civilian Life

Making the transition back to a less-regimented lifestyle takes some work. You don’t stare straight ahead; you meet people’s eyes. You rid yourself of the expressionless face and learn how to smile again. You have to consciously avoid standing at attention, or parade rest. It’s tough.

In the same way you have to tune yourself and your paperwork to civilian expectations. As ex-military you are automatically entitled to state that you are a fine leader. You are fantastic at organization. Paperwork is second nature to you. You know all about on-time delivery of projects and working on tight deadlines. You are terrific at improvising and finding solutions to problems when none apparently exists.

Changing the Chain of Command Mindset

The other half of the equation is that you understand the chain of command. It has been so thoroughly ingrained in you that it’s very hard to resist. But you have to start breaking that down.

The civilian world is only partially a top-down command structure. It doesn’t rely on one all-wise person or committee at the top making decisions for everybody. In truth, it functions best when information flows in both directions.

SC&C Teamwork in the business worldAs you well know, there are some situations in life where one person has to make a decision. Only that person can make that decision at that point in time. But that’s rare in the business world. You know equally well that some things are best handled by a team—and that is what the civilian business world is all about.

The interplay and exchange of information is what drives the business world. Once you are in it, you have to play by their rules.

Assert Expertise and Experience

To get in it, you can’t be gun-shy about how great you are. You have to assert your worth to the company and the immense amount of experience and skill that you would bring to their organization.

Translating Your Military Skills

Unlike a lot of applicants, you are seriously cross-trained. You can take orders and give orders. You can manage people and have lots of hard skills. Virtually everybody knows about data entry and other forms of interacting with computers when they come out of the military.

Just imagine, for example, that you’re 79S. Your civilian skill list includes:

  • Contract Administration
  • Customer Support/Service
  • Human Resources Processes
  • Job Placement Services
  • Office Equipment Operation/Maintenance
  • Process Analysis and Improvement
  • Proofreading/Editing
  • Purchasing/Procurement Methods
  • Schedule/Itinerary Planning.

You are a one soldier office army! You would fit in just about anywhere they put you. And this is just one ranking.

If you’re in the Navy with a PS ranking, your skills look like this:

  • Classified Information and Materials Security
  • Customer Support/Service
  • Data Entry
  • Documenting/Record Keeping
  • File System Development/Maintenance
  • Human Resources Processes
  • Message Processing Procedures
  • Message Traffic Analysis
  • Office Equipment Operation/Maintenance
  • Payroll Services – Personnel Scheduling Software
  • Proofreading/Editing
  • Word Processing Formatting

Check out the skills translator on or on Both can quickly provide lists just like this, based on your ranking.

Peter Newfield, President, Career Resumes,, notes that “military personnel make excellent leaders, once given a specific task: they are decisive, resourceful, and tremendous team players; and they perform well under pressure.”

Get on LinkedIn and Facebook

SC&C LinkedIn profileJust remember your resume is a DMZ. No jargon or nomenclature that isn’t used outside of the military. But more importantly, get a social profile. It’s expected. If you don’t have a LinkedIn or Facebook account, it might be considered suspicious. Make a profile on both services, and others if you feel like it, and then keep them businesslike and professional. No photos from harsh experiences overseas, and none with you surrounded by firearms, munitions, and liberated dummy hand grenades.

With LinkedIn you need a proper head shot and you should be wearing business attire. Everything should be professional and aboveboard. Facebook can be a little more casual, but nothing even remotely shocking. And if you have friends that write on your page, their comments reflect on you. If they are inappropriate, make them non-public.

Translate your skills and experiences for the civilian workforce. Check with base services and take some interview training, so you can learn to behave in ways that employers expect you to. It just takes a little practice and you can be a DMZ, too.

Watch for the POWERFUL new book, Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015. This book contains all the secrets you need to be found by companies and recruiters on LinkedIn and have them quickly “get” your value to their company or client. Release date:  July 15, 2015. Available on Amazon, Kindle, and many other outlets.


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