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What type of skills/accomplishments from military service appeal most to civilian employers?


Philip Curran Carlsbad, CA

Looking for perspectives from those having already transitioned or mentors in the private sector on what types of experience are weighed most heavily in the hiring process.

6 September 2019 18 replies Mentoring



Caleb Gowan Odenton, MD

Hi Philip,

As a Marine Officer who just transitioned and is now in a new job as a hiring manager actively reviewing candidates, I would offer this advice:

1. Get help, but don't pay for it. The resources are endless. I went with The COMMIT Foundation and can't speak more highly of them. Others are great, too, just get into LinkedIn and follow people in the transition space.

2. Nobody actually really cares about your military service (let me explain)... UNLESS it is relevant to the job. The sooner you can let go of trying to highlight how valuable your military experience is to the employer, and instead focus on translating how your experience as a person (which includes the military) is the right fit for the position, the sooner you will get your resume looked at.

3. No matter what you do, tailor every resume to the job you want. If something on your resume does not apply, get rid of it. Focus me as the reader on the 3-5 key aspects of your career that make you the best match for THIS job.

4. Show accomplishments, not job descriptions. Tell me what you did with the roll and you will stand out from about 80% or higher of the competition.

30 September 2019 Helpful answer


Peter Pastre Washington, DC

Hi Phillip:

Thanks for your service. I would suggest the following:

— collaborating as part of a team that depends on each other’s performance and active feedback
— logistics and project management training and skill set
— individual contribution along with organizational goals; being part of a large organization and understanding the interdependence and communication is the key to individual/organizational success
— technology enabled work success
— respect for hierarchy (command) is helpful but a transition to being able to respectfully add perspective is key
— loyalty
— orientation to clearly articulated goals and objectives.


Mitch Phillips Birmingham, AL

Hi Philip - thank you for your service! I always look forward to interviewing and hiring candidates who have served in the military because most have had opportunities to clearly demonstrate three traits/skills critical for many civilian jobs: leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving. I've never held a job or led an organization that didn't require and benefit from those skills. Beyond that, I would say it depends on the specific position you are interviewing for. It can be difficult to gain certain skills without working in associated industries or even specific companies, but I have found that teaching a new hire specific job skills (e.g., systems/applications, processes and procedures, etc.) is much easier than developing the leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills that military experience can provide.

Good luck in the hunt!


Laurence Schnabel Templeton, CA

Maturity and discipline were two traits I looked for in recruiting in my law firm. A "can do" attitude as well. Yet another trait was the willingness and ability to work with others to get a given task done well and on time.


Teresa Greenwood Hartford, CT

Hi Philip,
The experiences that matter most will be those that you can translate to being important to be successful in the job. I work at an insurance company that has an interview process that asks for examples of leadership, teamwork, knowledge of the company, knowledge of the industry, decision making process, as examples. We want to know: 1. what did you do? 2. how did you do it? 3. what were the results? You might want to look up behavioral interviewing:
and the STAR method.
I wish you all the best for a successful career. I appreciate your service to our country.


Brock Renshaw Tampa, FL

Results are key. Some good advice from others echoing that same point. Not what you did but what did you accomplish.

The easiest way to start that is to grab your award citations and FITREPs as they will have quantifiable data that you should plug into your resume.

If you’d like more help, please send me an email at

Semper Fi


Claudio A Norwalk, CT

Hi - First and foremost, the experience should be relevant/have areas that link up to success criteria. I would say project management, process management, potentially adaptability.

Hope this helps and very best wishes!



Seth Lynch Plano, TX


I transitioned out of the military about the same time you are planning to leave. I found a couple things around military to civilian experience translation were really important:

1) If you plan on moving into a civilian sector that is related to your MOS / Branch (I.e. signal, logistics, etc.) concentrate on the technical skills and accomplishments you gained in that discipline. Show you have the technical aptitude to move into that career field in a leadership or knowledge role. I moved from signal into a telecommunications company. I had enough technical competence to show I understood the sector.

2) If you are trying to move into a sector where your technical skills from the military aren't as relevant to the civilian market, concentrate on your leadership skills. Highlight the number of people that worked for you, the operational efficiencies you drove in your platoon/ company.

JMO recruiters are actually very good at helping line up companies that are looking for military leaders to move into their organizations. They do a good job of pre-selling companies on the benefits of hiring recently separated military members. I recommend at least checking them out to see if they will help place you for interviews. More than anything else, that will help you hone your resume to jobs you want.

Good luck in the job search.


June Webb Washington, DC

Hello Phillip,
Here are some quick direct recommendations. 1. Put together you resume or hire someone to do it for you so that you can have all your skills on paper to see what skills you do currently have.
2. Put your resume online and start looking at different jobs to see what skills that are needed that will fit with your resume and this way you know what jobs are out there and what skills are needed for a particular job.
3. Algorithm these days with the online world will also tell you how many matches that you have from your resume and direct you towards that job that best fit with your resume. Take advantage of the algorithm it used a lot by recruiters.
Btw... congratulations on getting on this platform which is the first step towards you understanding how to seek out information. Try Linkedin as a way to develop your professional profile and grow your profession connections.

Best of luck.
June Webb


Denise Kalm Walnut Creek, CA

The trick is really reading the job rec carefully and considering how you can translate your skills into their language. You can't just expect them to know your MOS categories, nor see the connections - you have to make these for them. A sniper might focus on some of these skills: patience, quick adaptability to changing circumstances, accurate and detailed, etc. The more help you give the employer - the less you expect them to do - the better. Most managers have never had training in hiring and don't feel confident. Make it easy for them to say yes, and they will


John Parker, MBA, MSIS Vacaville, CA

Most employers assume that military experience transfers to good management of people and resources. So it will benefit you to have those skills or learn them as soon as you can. Volunteering for a variety of projects and opting to take the lead is one sure way of learning these skills. It's also a good way to network.


Bob Farmer Atlanta, GA

Most employers want to see how you have handled responsibility in the military.
I would emphasize any leadership skills or positions you have held. Also, any computer
related experience is a plus. I think the key is to try and determine what field you are most interested in and do some research.
Best of luck.


Jeffrey Carter San Antonio, TX

I retired last summer and my wife and I started a small donut shop that were closing this month (end of our lease) because i chose a poor location. What I wish I did months or years before I retired is this: I wish I looked for jobs online 2-3 years from when I desired to retire and actually go to job fairs to see what employers are looking for. I have over a decade of military plans and been told that working in the construction industry would be my fit. I quickly found out that I do not have the industry tools they use. I would have volunteered my time on my DONSA's at a construction firm and maybe a few days of leave here and there to begin getting understanding what their job entails. The next issue I ran into was my resume was really good for the Government but not the civilian sector. I signed up with The Wounded Warrior Project as an alumni and then joined their warrior to work section. That opened the door for a professional career counselor that rewrote my resume for free. I found that is a savings of $100-200 dollars on the outside. I highly recommend you do this to get your resume written by an industry professional. Then you can use their job board. T summarize it up, 1. begin looking into your industry and attend job fairs now a couple years out. 2. have your resume rewritten by a professional. 3. get those certificates you may need before you retire and try to volunteer here and there to learn how that industry works.

After 6 hard months of applying, i finally got a job within the GS system. I had 92 applications within USA JOBS and 48 referrals. I had one (1) interview from those referrals :-(. I received the job offer via email. So the caveat is to develop those contacts while on active status with those agencies you desire to work with in the future if your desire is to become a Government Employee.


Barron Evans Ann Arbor, MI

Foremost, thank you for your service.

As a tenured professional that believes in a blend of hard and soft skills, my experience suggests the following. This is intended to be 'the' only skills, but ones on which you can build your military experience and translate into civilian. Best wishes for success!

> Computer tech (e.g., MS Office Suite, social, HTML, pivot tables
> Data Analysis (e.g., data mining, modeling, database management, engineering)
> Certifications (eg., learning management like Blackboard, Canvas, Eagle; data management, like Colleague; industry-specific licenses + credentials)
> Marketing (e.g., search engine optimization, campaign management, Google Analytics, content management systems, e.g., WordPress)
> Project management (e.g., agile methodologies like Scrum; software like Trello, Zoho)
> Design (e.g., user experience, user interface, Adobe like Photoshop, InDesign, digital, like InVision, Zeppelin)
> Cloud computing (e.g., cloud architecture, storage management, middleware tech, apps like JSON, Rest, RPC)

> Emotional Intelligence
> Leadership
> Persuasiveness/Influence
> Curiosity/Learning Desire
> Contextualizing (e.g., seeing the big picture)
> Effective verbal/spoken communication
> Positive attitude
> Strong work ethic


William Munroe Dunstable, MA

Hi Phillip,
The question is very open-ended, and the skills transfer is based on what you want to do in the civilian world. For example, if you're going to go into sales, then you look at all your skills and missions in terms of creating and closing deals as well as your relationship skills. If you want to go into marketing, product management, or program management, then you translate missions into project management skills.

Consider a mission in this way:
Planning for the mission including objectives = Civilian statement of work, business objectives, and key deliverables.

Defining and obtaining required resources = Civilian project scope, requirements, and budgeting

Briefing the mission = Civilian project launch planning

Executing and measuring the mission = Civilian progress reporting and tasks/activities/deliverables. You can also add in here anything close to timeline or gantt charting.

Completing and debriefing the mission = Civilian writing lessons learned and creating key deliverable reports from the project.

There are great web resources to help do all this translation. Here is a good one for project management -

Think in terms of the job you want to do and search out those job descriptions on the internet. Then look at your skills and military work in terms of who you would be working for (called the hiring manager) and what they need you to do (in the job requirements). Then do your best to translate overall you have done to civilian terms. It is not easy, but with a little time and research (and you can ask for help on here), you will find that 70 to 80 percent of your military skills will translate over.


Steven Mathews Spring, TX

In addition to the other suggestions, you need to add the Three Pillars of Success: Technical, Budget, and Schedule.
Every successful business, no matter the industry, stands or falls on these three fundamental characteristics.
In the military environment, every mission or task has a desired outcome. Meeting or exceeding the desired outcome satisfies the Technical Pillar.
You are allocated a certain amount of money to pay for the mission or task. Meeting or spending less to meet the desired outcome satisfies the Budget Pillar.
You are allocated a certain amount of time to complete the mission or task, or a deadline to meet. Completing the mission or task that meets the desired outcome on or before the allocated period, or deadline, satisfies the Schedule Pillar.
I provide free coaching to help assure you have effectively transformed your military Pillars into Commercial features that will resonate with a company.


Drew Schildwächter Wilmington, NC

Philip: that's a really open-ended question, and I believe the answer depends very much upon where you want to be hired. For me pursuing both management and pre-sales consulting, my time as a foreign military force advisor was most interesting to my employers because of the comparisons I drew between that time and the prospective roles.

You have a broad range of experience to potentially parlay it seems. XOs design, schedule, and monitor training among other things for the company. The 4 must plan and provision battalion operations. All this added to the baseline of the allure the Marine Corps holds for many employers.

Based upon my own transition out of the Marine Corps, I would recommend starting with where you want go, then figure out how to align your knowledge, skills, and abilities.


Rex Conger Gilbert, SC

Specific examples of Leadership, Creativity, Teamwork, Cooperation, Compassion mixed in with specific examples of Quantitative and Qualitative accomplishments.

When you are looking at potential job opportunities you need to demonstrate how you have successful experience at the key roles and requirements of the position.

Best wishes

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