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How can I overcome thinking my military experience will not suffice in the civilian workplace? Has anyone else experienced this?


Marisa Aceves Reno, NV

After spending my life in the military since the age of 17 and after 11 years getting out, I feel like I have to start at the bottom in the civilian workplace. I am struggling with this, because I know I can lead a team and manage individuals it's just hard not having been in a civilian management role.
What are some things you recommend to overcome this?

19 November 2018 6 replies Military to Civilian Transition



Michael Mitchell Nashville, TN


First off, Jerry gave you some good advice, make sure you take it.

Okay, now a little tough love, being a VET myself I can say that I’ve been there too, but when is it ever easy for people like us. In the Civilian world you need to prove what you can and cannot do, they/we really don’t care that you lead people in the military. Civilians aren’t Solders, Sailors or Airmen or Airwomen.

With that said you need to not let what you did previously impede you from getting a job now! The world is littered with people who say they “can’t” because of some excuse. You’re a United States Solder, act like it.

Okay, a quick story. In 1985 I was honorably discharged from the US Navy. I was in the same boat when I got out, I was an ET in the Navy working on Cyrpto gear and Radars. There were no jobs at all for me but I did know electronics. The only job I could get was installing 2-way radios in commercial pick-up trucks. I was the lowest rankling person in the company, so low in fact that part of my job was also to take out the trash. I had a wife and 2 kids with another on the way.

Within 30 days I was promoted, another 90 days I was promoted again and after two years was running the company’s Service Department, 6 years after that I was running the Company. I then moved to a large publicly traded company and started as a low-level Manager. 1 year later I was running the Midwest Region. Then I moved to a larger company, same thing, started low but quickly moved up and became a high level Manager in charge of Operations for the entire company.

Now I own my own company and proud to say I employ a lot of Vets. My point is this, it really is a marathon not a sprint. And one of my sayings is this, “it’s always better to do something rather than doing nothing” remember that and live by it.

The state of our economy is this, unemployment is hovering around 4%. That means if a person wants a job they can get one. Remember that people get in trouble when they try for a job they aren’t really qualified to hold. My suggestion to you would be to take a job you KNOW you can do and do it better than anyone else, even if you feel it’s beneath you. A good Manager at a good company will quickly see you have great potential and you’ll get promoted again and again.

Let me ask you a question, if you’re family was starving, would you take a job at McDonalds if you could find no other job? I would! Your family can’t eat your pride. I’m a CEO and it’s not uncommon for my employees to see me clean-up a mess or pick-up some trash in the parking lot. Who cares about anything, if a job needs to get done, DO IT and people will see you as a leader!

Get out there and get it done!!!!


20 November 2018 Helpful answer


Roger Bhalla Houston, TX

Hi Marisa,
Great answers from both Jerry and Michael that I want to build on.

I'm not a vet, but I have changed industries multiple times - Defense Contractor, Automotive, High Tech, and Oil & Gas. What is key in ANY change is understanding your core skills and how they translate from one role/company/industry to another. And you have to make those core skills apparent through your resume an interviews. The military background is a challenge more because the jargon/acronyms differ more, and you have to explain some situations more to help the recruiters understand you and why you're right for them.

Probably one of the hardest to explain is "people management", as there is a general understanding that the military differs from the civilian world in two major areas. First, civilians can disobey and order and quit whenever they want, while military personnel cannot. So military leadership is different and doesn't always carry the same weight. Second, there is a belief from many civilians that hierarchy is very formal, and going outside the chain of command is not done - even between branches. Civilian companies are generally considered more fluid, and collaboration between different functions within a company must often be done through selling/coercion, more than direct order.

All the best,

19 December 2018 Helpful answer


Jennifer Galvan Downers Grove, IL


I have not experienced this, however I would like to share some thoughts from a private sector point of view. Many corporations are giving preference to veterans. Companies like Google allow you to enter your MOS and provide recommendations on related roles in the company. I also know the there are organizations that will help you translate your resume for the private sector.

Use your military experience to show your confidence, know that you have a lot to offer any organization and they would be lucky to have you.

20 November 2018 Helpful answer


Jerry Welsh Middleville, MI

Your job will be to research what career you really wish to after, operations management, office management, program management, supervisor office operations-just examples. Then hit up careeronestop to obtain basics skills and qualifications. From there go to Indeed and search nationally for the position you want, print out the postings and start gather keywords that civilians use to describe the position and what skills they want-civilian keywords. Most of what you do in the military, other than 11B combat, is transferable-it will be your job to seek out the key words and take your accomplishments NCO'ers and translate them. Your LinkedIn profile is all military and I would assume the resume would be the same. Unless you only seek positions with military contractors translation will be an issue. I would also request a mentor via American Corporate Partners-they can help guide you through this process. Assistance with your resume can come from Hire Heroes USA, non of these organizations charge. I have enclosed an article on LinkedIn profiles-remember employers want value and match the keywords for the position. That is what they search for. Thanks for your service and God Bless.

19 November 2018 Helpful answer


Nancy Quartey Palo Alto, CA

Hi Marisa,

You have already received some great answers. I would like to add an alternative. As a military spouse, I was also concerned that the skills I brought to the table weren't understood or appreciated by employers. However, believing in myself and trusting that I could make things happen, I decided to go the route of business ownership.
Have you ever considered running your own business? Franchising is an interesting way to get into business ownership. Veterans are also eligible to receive special discounts and lending benefits to get started through the VetFran program and SBA.
Let me know if you'd like to discuss it further.


Tatiana Cooke Pinehurst, NC

Marisa Aceves,

You should look into Vetforce and Salesforce. Salesforce is the largest software company in the world and they have a program that is 100% free to teach you how to be an administrator of the system. No degree needed (if you don't have one) just brains and a will to succeed. Its a great community of military men, women, and spouses that support each other in their goal. They are actually having a webinar on how to translate your skills.

I also heard a speech by Tony Robbins today. He has made it his life's goal to help ppl overcome themselves and pursue their life goals. He said, what are you three limiting thoughts, think about how this is going to affect you over the next 3 years, 5 years etc. Multiply that by 4X 6X. Don't let your limiting thoughts limit your life. Overcome that! All you need is a will and a way.

Here is a link to the webinar below and you should visit to sign up for the community.

*** Vetforce Webinar - "Pathfinder to Trailblazer: Helping Others Bridge the Gap between Your Military Skills to Your Civilian Potential" - Dec 4 @ 8 p.m. ET ***

Vetforce is hosting our next member webinar on Tuesday, December 4 @ 8 p.m. Eastern time. @Hayley Tuller (Navy)​ will be presenting "Pathfinder to Trailblazer: Helping Others Bridge the Gap between Your Military Skills to Your Civilian Potential". We hope to see you there! Sign up here:

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