Our military can overcome any obstacle, except maybe when it comes to returning to the workforce. Here are a few tips that can help ease veterans' transition back into a civilian job search.

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Veterans in the U.S. military can take on any challenge, overcome any obstacle and vanquish any foe. But send members of this elite fighting force to a one-on-one job interview or a civilian networking event, and many of them can feel like they’re a raw recruit back in boot camp.

To help even the playing field for military personnel returning to the workforce on this Veterans Day, here are a few tips to make the transition to employed civilian life a little easier.

  1. Stand in the spotlight. This may be one of the most difficult behaviors to “unlearn.” From day one, the armed forces train their personnel to deny the individual and become a part of the team, which is always desirable. But hiring managers want to hear not just how your unit performed, but specifically what you did. Think back to the times when you helped out your buddies and demonstrated leadership, and list them as accomplishments. Mentioning medals you may have received can’t hurt, either.
  2. Avoid military jargon. Life in the military could be described entirely in a long string of acronyms and technical terms. For the rest of the job market, though, hiring managers won’t know an NCO from an XO, so be sure to translate your MOS codes into their common English descriptions.
  3. Translate your skills. This is another notoriously tough task for many ex-military job seekers. You may know how to drive a tank in combat or guide a fighter jet onto a heaving carrier deck, but how do you apply those skills to a desk job? Start with the general technical skills you learned, and emphasize how you used this knowledge to manage projects, plan a course of action, solve problems, mentor younger personnel and/or work together to reach goals.
  4. Hang up the uniform. It looks immaculate, commands respect and boosts your confidence. But a uniform implies that you haven’t ended your service and may not be fully committed to a new job. Interviewers are trying to picture you as part of their own team, and some will not be able to look past the shiny insignia.
  5. Chart your own course. In the military, daily schedules are planned down to the tiniest detail. In the civilian world, though, you’re pretty much on your own. Before you send out resumes, think about not just your next mission, but also where you want your career to go. Research your prospective employers, try to network with people who work there, and picture how you and your skills would fit into this new environment.

For more advice on your transition, see the employment resources pages at the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.

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