Put Your Military Skills toward a Business Career

This story is the second in a three-part series about how military veterans can transition into the civilian workforce.

When you were in basic training, you probably didn’t think peeling potatoes in the mess hall warranted a spot on your civilian résumé. But throughout your time in the military, whether it was a two-year or 20-year career, you gained valuable skills that will make you marketable to employers. Couple your leadership skills with an online business degree and you’ll have a recipe for a successful future.

Chances are you may not know that the skills you earned from your military experience are desirable to civilian businesses. Here are some tips to help you use your hard-charging military leadership skills to land a great civilian business opportunity.

Military-to-civilian translation. Let’s say you achieved the rank of sergeant or E-5. How do you explain your rank to someone who has no understanding of the military or the importance of an entry-level NCO? An employer is likely to be impressed with the term “Alpha Team Leader,” but they may not understand or be squeamish toward the title “Weapons Team Leader.” Unless your title was simple to understand a best bet is to remove the military jargon and make it more “civilianized.” For example, “Infantry Senior Sergeant” could be translated to “Manager of Tactical Operations.” You’re not fabricating; you are simply explaining your job to someone who may not be familiar with the military. O*NET Crosswalk Search built a nice engine to help you translate your military profession into civilian jobs. Military.com also maintains a skills translator.

Don’t embellish your military skills. While you may have to translate your job title, you should never embellish or lie about your past work. Col. Allen Weh, retired U.S. Marine Corps reserve officer and president and CEO of CSI Aviation Services Inc., told Military.com: “There’s nothing wrong with giving credit where credit’s due, but embellishing is wrong.” For example, if you are a supply sergeant, you might have managed 45 M-4s, grenades, body armor and a dozen vehicles, bringing your inventory value to the upwards of $5 million.

But Weh said that money management does not translate well into the private sector. “Money management in the military is totally different than money management in civilian life,” Weh said. “People in the military have a budget, but they didn’t earn it, and it’s often spent by consensus.” Just be truthful and don’t mislead the potential employer.

Market your teamwork abilities. Teamwork counts in every major aspect of business, and there is no better teamwork training than in the military. “Everything you do, you are doing as part of a group. The benefit of working in teams was made evident and is a big part of what I value in business,” said Clayton Jones, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who is now chairman, president and chief executive officer of Rockwell Collins. The best way to market your teamwork background is to give examples in your interview about how you led a team. Whether it was a skills course or an actual mission, talk about how your team set goals and accomplished them.

Ethics. Unethical business decisions have never been more scrutinized. From the banking sector’s meltdown to Enron, corporations do not want to be the next example of how not to run a company. They are looking for ethical leaders. In the military, you served under the Army Values, the Navy Ethic Compass, Marine Corps Values or Airmen’s Creed. Use these ethics to your advantage. “One of the things I appreciate about the military is that these value systems do guide your daily actions and decisions. It’s not just winning that matters in the business world; it is how you win,” said former CEO of ITT Steve Loranger.

List your accomplishments. The military loves rewarding its servicemen and -women. Make sure you list your awards on a resume. If you have more than 20 awards and medals to your credit, only list your top achievements.

Military education. Whether it was your MOS school or first-level NCO course, you received an education in the military. In fact, some of the courses taken in the military can earn college credit. Indicate what you learned in the military on your résumé and through examples in your interview questions. You might be surprised how valuable your training was to the potential employer.

Pursue an online business degree. The bottom line is your military background is a great way to catch the attention of employers. But, most high-paying business careers require at least a bachelor’s degree. American Sentinel University is a veteran- and military-friendly online, accredited university that works with your schedule. Whether you are looking to pursue a bachelor’s in business or an MBA, an online degree from American Sentinel University would complement your already outstanding military accomplishments.

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American Sentinel's military blog, "Of Service" covers military news and information geared towards active duty and non-active veterans serving our country while continuing their education.
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American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited Associate, Bachelor's and Master's online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including business administration and business intelligence degrees. It also offers health care programs, such as health care management, MBA-Healthcare and DNP-Executive Leadership, and online IT degree programs, including business informatics. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.