Military Skills That Can Help Land a Civilian Job

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Basic Retraining

Basic Retraining

Given the ubiquitous "support our troops" rhetoric and numerous veterans benefits you might think that America's military professionals experience an easy time transitioning back to civilian life. But, as National Hire a Veteran Day reminds us, veterans face many unique challenges in coming home and finding work in the private sector. Some of the most common challenges are translating and communicating military skills to private employers, highlighting them on a resume, and knowing which careers demand those talents.

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Putting Things In Civilian Terms

Speaking in civilian terms is one skill they won't teach you in the service, but it's nonetheless essential to succeeding in the private sector. Branches of the military employ so much jargon that conveying your duties accurately to potential employers can become like interpreting another language. An important step is thinking broadly about how skills learned in combat can apply across disciplines and to translate military duties into marketable civilian attributes.

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Soft Skills

Soft Skills

"Honestly, all skills from your military experience translate great to the private sector," says Anthony Garcia Jr., a U.S. Army captain and co-founder of veterans' resume building service Purepost. Even more desirable than technical skills acquired on specific assignments, the military is great at imparting what employers call soft skills, which are hard to teach and harder to quantify. Basically, these describe the competency and self-management skills learned from working in a formally structured workplace with little to no room for error.

Functioning In High Stress Situations

Function in High Stress Situations

Here's a soft skill most anyone in combat has to acquire for the sake of survival. Veterans might stress that few private companies care about their years of experience firing a machine gun, but wording it in your cover letter as "operating equipment in high-stress situations" demonstrates critical thinking about the nature of your work and paints employers a better picture of your potential capabilities in other areas.

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Effective communication is crucial to any industry, but it's especially emphasized in the military, where chains of command extend across oceans and delayed communiques can make the difference between life and death. Veterans should therefore always stress the skills they learned in managing and approaching coworkers of all ranks appropriately when job hunting. Though not as structured and hierarchical as the military by any means, private companies will usually appreciate the deference and respect of chain of command most service members have ingrained in them.

Written Communication

Written Communication

Depending on rank and position, military members are also likely to learn written communication skills that shouldn't be neglected when writing a resume. In many industries, employees who can summarize complex topics and relevant developments with clear, goal-oriented, and/or technical writing are a much sought-after asset.

Teamwork / Cooperation


Part and parcel with the military's hierarchy and rigid communication standards comes a sense of teamwork and group cohesion that can be valuable in any workplace. Veterans looking for work would do well to highlight their experience working as part of a unit and navigating their roles within it, learning when to lead and when to follow.



If or when you did have to lead a battalion or other unit in the military, you probably learned how to create workable plans of action, accounting for every team member and variable within the specific situation before setting out. These are similar to the skills civilians hone in corporate management and oversight positions and stressing your military experience with it can set you apart as a potential office leader.

Coaching And Developing Others

Coaching and Developing Others

Similarly, leading and working with others in a high-stakes environment such as the military depends on correctly gauging team members' strengths and weaknesses before putting them to good use. Former military members seeking managerial positions should remember this attribute and explain the ways in which they've learned to help subordinates and teammates realize their potential.

Adaptability And Problem-Solving

Adaptability and Problem-Solving

Military members are trained to keep their cool even in life-threatening situations, and that includes being able to think on your feet and adapt when plans change. Veterans should stress their familiarity with reacting quickly and problem-solving in high-stress situations, which is another soft skill that's hard to teach or quantify. pinning your military experience in this way can reassure employers you have it.



Though many veterans doubt the relevance of their service experience in the private sector, a military record can tell employers a lot about you and therefore give you a leg up on the competition. People trust the military with the safety of our country, and most trust that the individual members will continue to hold themselves to a high moral code even once discharged. It won't make much sense including this in a resume, but the culture of good faith and integrity the military imparts is definitely worth mentioning in interviews.

Technical Skills
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Technical Skills

Whatever technical skills military veterans acquire tend to correspond with the position and rank they served within, whether you were a mechanic, medic, or cybersecurity expert. These talents will tend to be more specific and limited in applicability than certain soft skills, but they're also easier to explain and translate to a resume, giving you something more definitive and concrete to point to when job-hunting.

3. (Tie) Missouri

Potential Career: Law Enforcement and Security

Law enforcement is one of the most obvious and commonly recommended career paths for discharged military members, but this sort of typecasting won't work for all veterans. Though police work offers a direct private-sector translation for many military skills, it can be unsuitable for veterans working out emotional issues from their deployments.

Police, Fire Fighters, And First Responders

Potential Career: Firefighter

Another common job recommendation for veterans, firefighting also can recall elements of the military experience with its close-knit group dynamics and high-stakes response situations, but is less likely to trigger or present other problems for a veteran's PTSD. As with other public service jobs, former military members will often receive hiring preference.

IT Specialist

Potential Career: IT Specialist

Since national defense isn't limited to just boots on the ground, many military members gain experience with some of the most advanced technologies yet available. Information processing and other data-driven skills are in high demand in today's private sector, so veterans who spent their service time working with advanced computers will have an easier time getting their foot in the door of IT organizations and other companies within the fast-rising tech sector.


Potential Career: Teacher

Whether you were a boot camp instructor or team leader, many military members' experience in managing large groups will translate well to the schoolhouse. Instructing elementary school or even college-aged students might require a lighter touch than getting recruits combat-ready, but the underlying skills of promoting group cohesion and commanding respect in a structured environment will nonetheless come in handy.

Potential Career: Entrepreneur

Potential Career: Entrepreneur

After years of functioning as part of an enormous unit, many veterans are more than ready to go their own way in the private sector. That's why almost a quarter of U.S. veterans have either already bought or launched their own business or are considering it. The discipline and in-depth planning skills that the military imparts become valuable assets in juggling the many considerations of entrepreneurship, and your service record may also give potential investors more reason to trust in your judgment with their money.

Potential Career: Public Service

Potential Career: Public Service

Many veterans choose to continue their career in public service within other branches of the federal government — whether for FEMA, the VA, or the Department of Homeland Security — which gives hiring preference to former active duty service members for virtually all jobs. These career choices are often based in Washington and afford a lot of contact with like-minded former military personnel, for whom your own service record may make even more difference in their hiring choices.

Potential Career: Aviation

Potential Career: Aviation

Military pilots and air personnel can make easy use of their MOC to find similar private-sector jobs. Civilian aviation positions are a natural transition in such cases, though they may involve considerably less excitement.

Other Industries Seeking Vets

Other Industries Seeking Vets

TMC is one transportation company actively recruiting veterans to drive their trucks and transport other heavy equipment. Communication and utilities companies appreciate many veterans' expertise with cybersecurity, while intelligence organizations contracting with the Department of Defense and other government organizations may require clearance that military vets have already acquired. This still only scratches the surface of the various employers and industries for whom veterans are a natural and much sought-after fit.

Veteran Job Finding Resources

Employment Resources for Veterans

There's also no shortage of online and in-person resources designed to help veterans find their best career path, including regional veteran job fairs and's personality assessment and skills translator. Garcia's Purepost, meanwhile, claims to be the only job-finding solution that generates resume-ready skills based on veterans' Principal Duty Titles, rather than their more ineffectual and jargony MOCs. "We also provide interview prep questions directly attributed to each skill," Garcia says. In the future, their service also plans to immediately match veterans' civilian-translated skills with private-sector job openings.

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