So, after years of service to our country you are considering making a professional transition into the private sector. First, thank you for your service! Secondly, thank you for your service! Ok, I am sure you’d like some useful advice along with our humble admiration, so let’s get into it. But seriously, thank you for your service!
One of the common mistakes in making this type of transition is quite simply overlooking many of the valuable (and sellable!) characteristics that the military has instilled in you. Please do not do that. You have absolutely obtained transferable skills that will serve you and your future employer well. You must get comfortable with promoting those skills. In speaking with veterans who have made the transition themselves, below are the popular valuables that came up, along with some direct quotes from our veterans.
Understanding Chain of Command – An acceptance of, and respect for, the fact that you might have to report to someone that is higher up in the company than you are at the moment will most certainly improve your likelihood of being deemed a “culture fit” within the company.
Receptiveness to Training – If there is one thing about our service men and women, it’s that they are well trained. It is no coincidence that our military is the strongest and most powerful in the world. This ability to welcome training and to be teachable is a quality that will follow you wherever you go. Those that can learn fast on the job tend to excel.
“In the military you are being trained all the time to do your job. That’s why we are the #1 military force in the world”. – Laurie, Management Consultant
Adaptability – Some people crumble in the face of pressure; others rise to the occasion. The private sector can be just as fast-paced and ever changing as the Military, so this is a trait that you’ll want to bring along with you.
“In the military you didn’t know from one day to the next what kind of situation you were going to face”. Bruce, Cybersecurity Professor
Attention to Detail – The details matter, and if you are going to do something you might as well do it right. Employers will require your best and most focused effort. Cutting corners in order to complete a task or achieve a goal may hurt your career.
“There is attention to detail in everything we do because just one little thing could lead to catastrophic consequences”. – Peter, Army Officer
The other common traits that came up in conversation time and time again were Discipline, Determination, Communication and Leadership. These four might be obvious but may also be the ones that are downplayed the most…until you actually deal with a person that exhibits them. The impact that these qualities can have on your new career is immeasurable.
Have an Exit Strategy – Before ever executing a transition out of the military, you should have an exit strategy that you developed years prior. Doing so will not only make the transition process smoother, it will also help keep you on track during your military service. For instance, if there are classes to be taken or networks to be built along the way, your exit strategy will serve as continued motivation for your career goals.
Get Your Job Based on Technical Skills – We have already outlined the valuable qualities that can be obtained in the military. Those are important, but equally important is having the technical skills to perform at your new job. Having both at your disposal will enable you to move up quickly within the company.
Consider the BIG 3 - Where do you want to live? What do you want to do? And how much compensation do you need to lead your best life. These are three questions that you have to consider during the transition process. Once you have come up with the answers that are true for you, prioritize them. Decide where each rank on your list and pursue your goals with passion.
Practice Interviewing – Interviewing for a job in the private sector could be quite different from interviews you may have been exposed to in the military. For that reason, it is very important that you prepare yourself for this step in the process. You can’t practice enough. Find a friend or mentor and do some test runs.
Prioritize Your Education – Do not let the need to complete your education be the piece of the puzzle that delays your transition. Be diligent about your studies and recognize the importance of prioritizing them. If you do so, you will find that more doors will be opened for you and that your road to career success could be expedited.
Find a Mentor – You are not the first person to make this transition, and you won’t be the last. Find someone who has been through it and let them be a guiding light for you. Just remember to pay it forward when someone comes to you asking for help with the very same thing.
The transition from military to the private sector has been completed successfully by many former service men and women. Your military background can serve as a unique strength. While humility is a major component of your military mentality, you will need to get comfortable marketing yourself as a true asset. Good luck, and thank you for your service!