Former service men and women rarely disappoint their civilian employers once hired. However, they can find it hard to get that first role on entering civilian life. Unfortunately, a lot of people can struggle to see what immeasurable value these people bring with them to their next employer. I have tried to highlight a couple of areas that military experience can be invaluable to a future employer:
As military personnel progress through the ranks, they attend command courses at each level that can last weeks and months all geared towards teaching them how to manage the responsibility that that rank and the jobs that the rank will demand of them.
It always involves management of people, often in arduous, stressful environments. They are trained to motivate, inspire, and organise teams in a formally structured course, then take those skills and cement them on the job.
These courses have been continually developed over hundreds of years and can be easily implemented in other working environments.
Circumstances change. Orders change. Not enough of something arrives. Too much of something else arrives. They’ve had to “improvise, adapt and overcome” more times than most.
Unless you’ve worked in a government agency, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to deal with the occasional roadblocks, bureaucracies and drastic operational changes throw down on you. These people are more than qualified to handle logistical errors and communication breakdowns that the average employee generally can’t. Not everyone can deal with these situations without getting overwhelmed, a veteran has been trained to focus on what can be changed or manipulated for the better and deal with or accept what they can’t.
Veterans have the ability to adjust to a situation on the fly. They are accustomed to dealing with things they weren’t even told to expect or could have planned for. The ability to flourish in a totally ambiguous environment is rare, but common among veterans.
These communication skills are the kind developed from just being able to effectively talk to the variety of people you encounter in military service. They learned the right way to approach various kinds and levels of people, higher ranking officers, teammates, subordinates, and a wide variety of people outside of the military organisation in a huge spectrum of circumstances throughout their careers.
Employers that discovered this definitely value the level of which they can successfully navigate workplace politics to get things done.
Many people in the workforce, even those who have been it a long time, struggle with being told what to do. Especially by people they find it difficult to get on with, the respect for the chain of command is second nature to a former Serviceman/woman.
Depending on their responsibilities, there’s also a good chance they have excellent written communication skills as well. Military personnel write in a way the workplace can appreciate. Clear, goal-oriented, with a focus on critical information.
The truth is that no matter how specific to military life their training was, this also instilled in them a wide variety of highly tuned soft skills.
These are the abilities gained by working in a formally structured, disciplined environment with little room or tolerance for error.
This is an obvious area where military veterans excel. Teamwork skills? How about having to collaborate with someone else for nearly every assigned task for the time they served? How about being a part of a team that requires every member to work effectively together in order to stay alive?
Even if they were never in such a high-stress situation, the fact is there are few places outside of the military that develop teamwork skills to the same level.
A veteran knows when to take the lead and when to follow.
Integrity is a military skill many might overlook. All military personal have some level of security clearance, they are trusted by superiors and worthy of such trust again. By and large, employers can never really know for sure what they’re getting when they hire someone, but when they hire a veteran they can at least expect someone who will behave with an honourable moral code.
Integrity comes in to play in everyday tasks as simple as showing up to work on time. Having the discipline to come in every day when you’re supposed to, meet deadlines and do what you say you are going to do are things employers dream of being confident all their employees will do.
Military personnel spend a significant amount of time in an environment where “cuffing it” when you could have and should have planned for it is unacceptable. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” is a constant mantra in the services. Managers and Executives have to constantly create plans to stretch resources, make schedules and figure out where the best places to put the money are.
Being skilled at planning doesn’t just mean knowing how to make a plan and sticking with it. It also means knowing how to factor in redundancies for likely and less likely problems which can arise. The ability to plan well also means identifying when a plan isn’t working, not panicking when a plan has to be discarded and being able to think of a new, effective one quickly. Planning under pressure and making new plans to correspond with a change in circumstances are much sought after skills that former military people possess.
Problem solving skills can be used to do many different types of things. The ability to identify the central conflict in a situation and calmly assess and implement a variety of solutions. Veterans have been exposed to a broad range of problems in need of solving. It might have been to deal with the previously mentioned logistical headaches and gained a lot of experience solving bureaucratic issues.
They will likely have encountered tactical problems like terrain or weather issues and used their planning skills to help overcome those. Or they might have had to solve social problems among subordinates or peers, the type of problem that you can certainly expect to find in the civilian world.