How To Get Ahead Using Your Military Experience

career
During a team-building challenge, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Alan Roy, right, and Sgt. Luis Garcia crawl through an obstacle course on Camp Taji, Iraq.
Photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski

Transitioning and advancing in the civilian workforce offers more opportunity than pitfalls for military veterans. The civilian career transition is the opportunity to build on your experience, find a new career, discover a passion in a new field, find a place to call home, and learn how to excel in a new corporate culture. Gallup found that one of the leading challenges for companies is hiring engaging employees and good managers. According to Gallup, “The best managers are gifted with the ability to inspire employees, drive outcomes, overcome adversity, hold people accountable, build strong relationships, and make tough decisions based on performance rather than politics.” Know anyone with these skill sets?


Yes, military service members.

However, one of the areas that can trip up military veterans in their career transition is worrying about stereotypes that civilians-en-masse may or may not have of military culture. Veterans can become consumed with worry trying to anticipate real or perceived stereotypes that hiring managers or their civilian bosses have about military service, post traumatic stress, combat service, political disagreements, etc. One realization that veterans must understand immediately is that we never will be able to cognitively dissuade everyone, in whatever position or capacity, out of stereotyping. The secret is to ignore the stereotypes and focus on your value and what you can do for your new organization.

Related: It’s time to think beyond your MOS.

When I first entered into the infantry and special forces, people loved to joke about my 5-foot-6-inch height --- from behind, I literally looked like a “rucksack with feet” since you could not see my head, arms, or legs. To overcome the size stereotype, I focused on becoming the best. I focused on running faster, being stronger, leading better, and so on. My performance spoke for me and my reputation when everyone on my team stood at least six inches (or more) taller than me. Once I showed my abilities, performance, and passion, my size was never an issue in the field or on deployments. This is exactly what veterans have to do in the workplace. Demonstrate a passion to perform, apply your military experience to your new profession, lead when no one is telling you to, and excel in every area. Sounds a lot like being in the military.

There are steps that you can take immediately to draw attention to the value that you bring to the workplace. First, business people love competitive intelligence gleaned from public sources, but no one knows how to create a business competitive intelligence program. Create a competitive intelligence report and distribute it to key leaders in marketing, sales, operations, supply, and finance. Second, conduct a risk assessment of your workplace to make a safer working environment. Use the standard military risk assessment of identifying hazards and create risk mitigations for implementation. In a day, you can make a safer environment for your company and colleagues.

Think of how military skills can be utilized to train people, engage employees, cut costs, make products better, and help your company react to the competition. These are all abilities that every veteran has no matter rank or branch of service and they will make an immediate impact in a business environment.

In the workplace, how you translate your military experience into competitive work traits matters. What people initially think of you or your background does not matter --- it should not be your focus, so don’t worry about it. Today, start with, “I can do …” and not, “What do people think …” Military experience is a positive differentiator of career success --- make today the first step.

In this June 16, 2018 photo, Taliban fighters greet residents in the Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Associated Press/Rahmat Gul)

While the U.S. military wants to keep roughly 8,600 troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban's deputy leader has just made clear that his group wants all U.S. service members to leave the country as part of any peace agreement.

"The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand," Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote in a story for the New York Times on Thursday.

Read More
U.S. soldiers inspect the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020. (REUTERS/John Davison)

In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.

Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.

Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"

The next day was different.

"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."

Read More
A U.S. military vehicle runs a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria near the Turkish border town of Qamishli (Video screencap)

A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.

Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.

Read More
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

Read More
A cup of coffee during "tea time" discussions between the U.S. Air Force and Japanese Self-Defense Forces at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 14, 2018 (Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

Survival expert and former Special Air Service commando Edward "Bear" Grylls made meme history for drinking his own urine to survive his TV show, Man vs. Wild. But the United States Air Force did Bear one better recently, when an Alaska-based airman peed in an office coffee maker.

While the circumstances of the bladder-based brew remain a mystery, the incident was written up in a newsletter written by the legal office of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on February 13, a base spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.

Read More