I was at SQL Saturday in Phoenix last week and had a number of sidebar discussions with a solider that is transferring out of the Army lifestyle and over to the civilian world. This is a transition that I have done before, and I recall it well. I have not thought about it much over the last 15 years or so, but I do recall the nervousness that I had when I made the jump from the Marine Corps to the workforce as I know it today. When I made the transition I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a class my last week in the corps to help me with the many changes I was about to experience. I debated not taking the class because I didn’t think it was going to be that different, but I sure am glad I did. So as I reflect on this experience I thought I would share a few tips that might make it a bit easier. If you have any that you think would fit well send them over to me and I will see what I can do to add them to the list.
- Stay away from acronyms on your resume – There is a good chance that when someone is reviewing your resume that they did not serve in the military. With this being a fact, consider how many terms you use on a day to day basis that you consider normal knowledge. If someone is vetting your resume and does not understand all the terms you are using they may disqualify you simply because they don’t understand what you are trying to relay. My tip here is find a friend or a relative who does not know the military life and have them review your resume, if you use terms such as MOS or OD duty chances are they will catch it and help you explain more.
- Chain of command – This was a difficult one for me. The chain of command is pretty simple to understand; even people in the civilian world use it. However, in the military I was taught that anything and everything in your life was important to your chain of command. In a time of high stress such as a situation where you are in battle and bullets are being fired at you this is completely understandable. Assume you are in a fighting position, and one of your troops had a pretty serious breakup via a “Dear John” letter. This is something you would want to know, but in the civilian world many supervisors get a little creped out when they know so much about you.
- Your opinion – Many think that the military is a group of young people that are trained to not have and opinion. When the commanding officer says take that hill, he does not need to hear a bunch of people arguing about the right way to do it, or if you should even try to do it. Granted, these discussions on the best way may arise. In the civilian world, most employers want to know if you think that something is not being done in the best way. The secret here is understanding the line between open discussions on the best way to do things and just doing them with no opinion at all. With that being said, it is still critical to know that as a solider you don’t always know all the information that is relevant, in the civilian world that is the often the case as well.
- Networking – In the military if you wanted to get the best equipment it never hurt to know someone in the supply area, well it’s true in the civilian world as well. Who you know can help you, use your contacts well, and as you make the transition understand you need to make as many contacts as you can.
- YES SIR – A few years ago I had interviewed someone who was coming out of the Navy, when I talked with him the answer to everything was “Yes Sir“. When the candidate spoke it was not a yell, nor a bark but very direct. It is not critical to speak in such a formal way, however respect should always be paid.
- Volunteer – I have heard the joke more times than I care to count, in the military you become a volunteer when everyone else steps back faster than you. I was told many times before boot camp that you should never volunteer for anything. In the civilian world, I cannot stress enough how important it is. Not only do you have the opportunity to stand out, but you have a chance to learn something new. Be the person your boss knows they can go to when the need to get something done. Be the person they can count on, the type of person you want on your team.