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5 Skills Every Veteran Needs
to Succeed in the Labor Market
There are industry-specific skills and there are more general labor market skills that any person, ex-military or otherwise, needs in order to secure work in today’s highly competitive and ruthless job market. Some of these skills you already have when you leave the military, others you will need to start working on before you leave and acquiring along the way. With that in mind, below are 5 skills every veteran needs to succeed in the post-service labor market.
1. Selling Your Military Service
Many veterans come out of the military pumped up by administrators and perhaps even COs extolling the various labor market-relevant skills and virtues of their military service and how transferable these will be once a person begins trying to enter the civilian workforce. This is, unfortunately, only half true. A veteran does leave military service with a number of highly transferable skills that look great on a resume and can be incredibly impressive to recruiters and hiring managers. What is left out of this truism, however, is that you need to be able to sell those skills and competencies in a way that makes sense for the jobs you are applying for in order to avoid unemployment.
Selling yourself in your resume and cover letter and during an interview comes down to self-promotional skills and to be a good self-promoter you have to know what will resonate with the person or people you are speaking to. There are a ton of books out there on self-promotion that all veterans would do well to read before entering the civilian labor market so that they know how to speak about themselves in ways that impress labor market gatekeepers and that touch on and highlight skills and experiences that are relevant to the roles they are applying for.
It has been a fact of life for some time that the vast majority of all jobs are found and secured via networking. You may have heard it said that “your network is your net worth” and while this is somewhat of an exaggeration, it is adjacent to the old cliche which contends that it’s all about who you know, and that, unfortunately, holds true perhaps now more than ever.
Veterans, therefore, need to be able to create networking opportunities when they start looking for work after leaving the military. There are organizations dedicated to giving vets these networking opportunities, but extending your network largely falls on you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family and if you have good working relationships or friendships with senior officers from your military service, you should absolutely leverage these contacts to help you as much as possible.
Finding a job is stressful at the best of times but it can be doubly so for veterans, especially if they saw active duty and combat. Trying to navigate what can feel like the completely unfamiliar territory of the labor market upon discharge often adds even more stress to an already stressful transition back to civilian life. The emotional rollercoaster ride of the job search is taxing on most people, but if you are already under emotional strain, it can feel like your world is falling apart. Remember that being able to handle stress - and finding a job as a veteran can definitely be stressful - is an important part of finding success and stress management involves attention to self-care.
Self-care might include taking time to speak to friends, family members and counsellors about any trauma or depression you are struggling with or joining groups for veterans that allow you to talk about these things openly with people who have had and may currently be having similar experiences as you.
4. Computer/Digital Skills
When a person enlists in the military they are usually assigned their tasks and points of focus, where they will stay for the duration of their service. When these same people get out into the civilian labor market, however, more than half want to transition into something completely different.
The rate of digital change and transformation over the last decade has been overwhelming, with most office jobs expecting a level of digital proficiency using a wide range of communication and collaboration tools that many veterans may not have. Being out of the workforce for an extended period of time puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to these digital communication and collaboration skills, so spending some time familiarizing yourself with the commonly used programs and digital tools, preferably before leaving the service, will put you in good stead.
5. Written Communication Skills
If you are just entering the labor following years of military service, you are experiencing a period of tremendous flux. Remote work, which was slowly on the rise prior to 2020, has now become the norm and will likely remain so well into the foreseeable future. To compensate for this, a wide range of virtual communication and collaboration tools and software have taken the place of the face-to-face communication that used to happen in offices, and one of the major changes is that most communication now takes place in writing.
With that in mind, written communication skills are more important than ever before, including your ability to succinctly and concisely convey and understand written messages to and from your coworkers. If you want to be a good writer you have to read, so you should try to make reading part of your daily routine before and after leaving the military.
The modern labor market is an intimidating place, especially when you consider the global competition. Automation, artificial intelligence, outsourcing and a number of other highly disruptive factors have put pressure on workers like never before. In order to thrive, you need to have a set of core skills and competencies on your resume that reflect the new digital and remote nature of work, in addition to job search skills that make this considerably stressful task easier and less mentally taxing. Keep the above necessities in mind and make the transition from military to civilian life, including reaching one of its biggest milestones - securing gainful employment, a successful one.
About the Author
Adam Di Giovanni is a freelance writer focusing on labor market and employment issues. He also covers tech and automation. When he is not researching and writing, he is probably somewhere kayaking or fishing.