Samantha Gassman, an Air Force veteran, shares how the soft skills you take for granted will help you excel in your first job after the military.
What The Military Transition Was Like
I served in the Air Force for eight years. I feel like I “grew up” in the military. Most of my adult life I spent training to be in it (ROTC) or on active duty. Five years ago, I turned my mess dress in for a wedding dress and chose to have a family.
When I left the military, I had no idea what skills I could offer a company. My job in the Air Force didn’t exist in the civilian workforce. And, my educational background didn’t give me a lot of confidence to find a job after the military.
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
At first, I figured everybody has these skills. I didn’t realize that many of the ingrained skills were actually pretty unique.
What are soft skills vs. hard skills? Hard skills are things relating to specific technical knowledge, like coding, for example. Soft skills are personality traits – things like leadership, time management, critical thinking, etc.
When you look for jobs for veterans and get to the resume writing step, you should highlight both types of skills. Employers will look for both. They want someone who has the technical skills and the personality for the job.
Here’s a quick resume tip: there are some easy mistakes you can make, so check out 6 Common Military Resume Mistakes before you submit your application.
5 Types of Soft Skills I Learned in The Military
Here are five ways the soft skills from the military experience helps me now as an employee at a Fortune 500 company:
1) Professionalism – Respecting the chain of command.
You already know how to do this.
As a service member, you know you need to have your supervisor’s back. You follow through when they ask you to do something. You respond immediately to their messages because you know they have more responsibilities in their role than you do in yours. Before providing your boss with information, you “trust but verify.” Also, you also know not to jump the chain before you talk to your boss.
These are soft skills from the military that are already built into how you work, and they will pay off as you move into a new career.
2) Creative Problem Solving – Presenting solutions with every problem.
Your ability to think outside the box and offer viable courses of action (COA) to your supervisor, instead of doorbell ditching a steaming pile of you know what on them, is something that will be greatly appreciated.
In the civilian world, just like in the service, you want to be the person solving problems and shielding your boss from problems, rather than piling on and making more work for them.
3) Strong Initiative- Taking action.
Similarly, you know how to step in and take care of business.
If there’s an issue, you don’t just wait around and wait for someone else to fix it. You step up and take the initiative yourself because you know that sometimes inaction is more problematic than taking early action. If something goes wrong, you can always clean up later. However, you can’t make up for lost time once the ball is rolling.
4) Emotional Intelligence – Caring about your colleagues.
As a service member, you knew that your teammates’ ability to perform at work was directly related to their home life. Particularly in a deployed setting, you really got to know your brothers and sisters in arms.
There’s a good chance you’re not going to go through the same tribulations with your civilian colleagues as you did in the military, but caring about them as a whole person makes a difference. Caring enough to ask about their family, to celebrate their work anniversary, and to help throw a retirement party, matters.
5) Adaptable – Knowing you’re not making life or death decisions gives you a different perspective.
At your job after the military, there will be emergencies, deadlines, and stress.
But unless you’re in the medical field (or related), you’re probably not going to be making life or death decisions.
Your ability to stay calm under pressure, think clearly, and make the best decision based on what you know at the time, makes you the person people want on their team. While everyone else is getting spun up about last-minute requirements or changing expectations, your steady demeanor and willingness to flex will be valued.
The Bottom Line:
You may have to learn new skills, a new industry and a new culture in your new role. But these are just a few examples of how what you already do and what you already know by virtue of your military service will benefit you in your next career.
If you’re trying to describe your military experience, skills, or positions in civilian terms, try using this “Jobs Thesaurus” to find job descriptions of your military positions.
You’ve got this!
Ready to start applying to jobs? Check out companies hiring veterans on the G.I. Jobs veteran job board. Register on G.I. Jobs Career Portal for free!