Recognizing and Building the Transferability of Your Military Experience

Student Veterans of America | May 26, 2017

Written By: VMock Thinks

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Change is the only constant. This is a fact that takes some getting used to. For veterans transitioning into the corporate world from fast-paced military environments, this is a relatively bigger fact. The decision to separate brings with it certain challenges that need to be navigated before you make the move to a civilian job. Some challenges stem from underlying perceptions like the impression that military personnel without any prior civilian work experience are a risky resource choice. Then there is the cultural roadblock that veterans would not be able to discern the exact requirements of a civilian job. The task of translating military experience, skills and accomplishments in a language that has wide acceptance can also be quite daunting. You need to draw on the numerous experiences you have lived while serving in the forces to trace your core skills, values, interests and passions. In addition, you need to reflect on the skills that you had built during a previous civilian work stint and any additional academic qualifications that you had earned along the way.


Indeed, some military experiences, roles and achievements are easy to translate in terms of a preferred job role, however, some veterans face the difficulty of articulating skills and qualifications that are not directly transferable. In such a case, you need to find the underlying quality that enabled you to deliver tangible and measurable results in order to highlight your strengths. Career progression in a military set-up is quite straight-forward- to achieve a certain rank, you have a clear idea about the military service schools that you should attend or the ratings you should achieve, however, once you take the leap to enter the civilian workforce, such a well drawn-out handbook eludes you. There are many considerations to mull over. Financial stability and the comfort of a vastly different lifestyle being a few. You have lived on ships and bases, travelled to remote locations across the world and enjoyed the companionship of your fellow servicemen-it is a unique setting to say the least. From employers' perspective as well, it takes a different orientation plan to on-board individuals who have spent some time in the private sector previously as opposed to someone who has served extensively in the military and has no prior corporate exposure.

With these considerations, how can a veteran looking to step into the corporate world with revived career aspirations, prepare?

Plan ahead: Once you arrive at the decision to change gears and explore career opportunities in the corporate world, you should initiate preparation for the same at least a year before separation. Introspect and investigate how your skills stack up against those essential for your desired job role, company and even industry. You should form a clear picture of the industry and functional area that would match your interests, skills, qualifications, experiences as well as values. Try to obtain your security clearance as early as possible since this is one of the most vital and alluring details you can provide to a prospective employer. Gather all the necessary certifications you have received owing to various technical and skill-building programs. Check with concerned authorities for availing all applicable benefits before separation. Don't hesitate to seek help in this regard from veterans who have transitioned before you. As part of this self-assessment, if you feel you should garner additional academic qualifications, then take advantage of the GI bill that allows benefits for tuition fees, accommodation etc. to hasten your enrollment into a course of your choice. You may want to examine the idea of taking up some project-management related programs that confer widely accepted certifications such as PMP (Project Management Professional), PgMP (Program Management Professional), PfMP (Portfolio Management Professional), CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management), Six Sigma etc. Project management as a field offers relatively easier transition channels due to inherent requirement of proven technical and soft skills that are at play in a military role.

De-militarize your resume: There is no discounting the immense value entrenched in the military work you performed, however, since your resume is the first memorable point of connection with a recruiter, you would have to convey the depth of your achievements and experiences in a language that is not foreign to the civilian world. Communicate the unique activities and additional project assignments you undertook that denote your work ethic, integrity and commitment. Explore the VMock platform, exclusively customized for veterans, at to gain an understanding of your competencies and how you should best reflect them through your resume. The artificial intelligence-powered VMock engine has been garnering appreciation from student veterans across programs with veterans stating that they have benefited from the overall feedback and expressing a high possibility of recommending the same to their friends and colleagues.

Recognize the transferability of your military experience: Most recruiters acknowledge the fact that there is no dearth of talent or competence, however, they lament about a starkly evident gap in how the military experience is translated into a language that they can truly comprehend and appreciate. Every work experience grants a bucket of soft and functional skills, which can be then transferred to the next job. This bucket of skills gets amplified, surely by virtue of being in the military. Your aim should be to realize the strength of your uniform and channel that in terms of the expectations of the job description before you. Skills such as leadership, adaptability, time-management, quality-control analysis, systems evaluation, operations analysis, conflict-resolution, risk-taking and management, alternative planning can be built upon as you fulfill your military tasks. The key is to recall their significance in terms of real incidents and actions. Did you as a Commander, build an altogether new unit? If so, then perhaps you possess the entrepreneurial streak to start a new venture in the field where you are otherwise technically strong. Did you record logs during military activity? Translate that in terms of data entry and presentation skills. Were you responsible for controlling inventory and budgets for equipment and other supplies? Then you can aim to foray into supply chain management or financial control. If you were entrusted with dealing with complex technology while on base, then you can look to make a mark in IT-Project management.

Explore the resource-pool and network: If you are already pursuing an academic program, then it is absolutely vital that you reach out to your school's career service center for help on job search and interview preparation. On the other hand, if you are in the transition phase while in service, then cover all bases in terms of assistance available to you by virtue of your association with the forces. Reach out to your Transition Assistance Centers run by the Department of Defense-Transition Assistance Program for information on relevant job boards, training programs, security clearance, military friendly companies and military job-fairs and much more. Reach out to your network of veterans to get the lowdown on upcoming career fairs and industry association events targeted for veterans. Initiatives such as the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans provides exciting opportunities for professional development. VMock's career blog VMock Thinks also provides you with useful and unique career preparation as well as professional development insights and tips.

As you forge ahead on your career path, endeavor to bring forth the specific impact of your past experience-in a civilian friendly way and leverage all tools and resources at your disposal to convey the honor, commitment and courage of your military experience.


About VMock and VMock Thinks

VMock is an innovative platform that provides SMART Career Preparation guidance to students and professionals. The platform combines the power of cutting-edge data analytics and technology to provide personalized resume feedback to students and alumni. SVA members can avail access to VMock premium at

VMock Thinks brings forth voices and stories of career management with its varied hues to help students and professionals advance on their career path.


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