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4 Tips for Military-to-Civilian Job Translations

Being in the military requires a myriad of skills: teamwork, leadership, communication, and discipline, to name a few. Service members work hard and gain valuable experience in the course of their duty. But military life often feels far removed from the civilian world, with its own unique language and niche specialties that are hard to understand from a civilian perspective. This division can make it difficult for those exiting the military to feel confident in their ability to secure a job in the civilian workforce.

Of course, former military members have plenty of relevant skills—the trick is knowing how to translate them into civilian terms to land the job. Here are some tips for doing just that.

1. Translate Your Job: Direct Military-to-Civilian Job Translations

Some military positions are very similar to civilian jobs. For example, if you were an 88M (Army Motor Transport Operator), you probably did things like maneuvering trucks for loading or unloading, weighing your truck, and inspecting your cargo. In this case, you can find civilian work driving trucks and performing similar duties to those you performed in the military. Other easily translatable career fields include aviation, engineering, finance, and information technology. Of course, it will still be necessary to reword some of the military-specific language in order to demonstrate your work experience to civilian employers.

2. Translate Your Job: Tough Military-to-Civilian Job Translations

Some military positions don’t have obvious civilian equivalents. For those who were in the infantry or special operations forces, for example, your day-to-day duties are probably not very applicable to most civilian jobs. In these cases, it’s better to focus on transferable skills when interviewing or writing your resume. These skills may include things like leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and the ability to work well under pressure.

3. Translate Your Rank

Explaining your military rank can be confusing to civilian employers, so it’s important to know what the corresponding civilian position would be. For example, if you were a second lieutenant, that would translate to ‘project officer’ or ‘manager’. If you were a colonel, that translates to ‘program director’ or ‘chief operating officer.’ These translations will give potential employers a better idea of your previous level of responsibility.

4. Translate Your Job Duties and Training

When describing your military duties and training, it’s unlikely that civilian employers will know what all the military acronyms and terms mean—and it’s even less likely that they’ll be able to put them into the context of their own workplace. It’s your job to do that translation for them. For example, instead of the acronym “ANOC” (Advanced Non-Commissioned Officers Course), say “Advanced Leadership Development Course.” Instead of saying “commanded,” opt for words like “supervised” or “directed.” It might take some practice to feel comfortable using different terms, but it will make it easier for potential employers to relate to you and see that you do have the experience and qualifications they’re looking for.

Veterans who take the time to think through these translations will be well-prepared for the civilian job search, from writing resumes and cover letters to interviewing. The translation exercise will also give those exiting the military confidence in their own skills and a better ability to market themselves as civilian job candidates.

For more advice on transitioning from the military into civilian careers, check out the Quick Military Transition Guide from JIST Career Solutions.

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