The time I heard “I was just a grunt”

be different - business teamTranslating your experiences so that they are meaningful for an employer is a skill that all job applicants must master. When I meet with veterans or service members, it is not uncommon for me to hear that their military experiences have no value in the civilian world. What many applicants fail to realize is that any work experience that they have ever had has some relevance to any job they might ever apply to.

In order to market your experiences as desirable characteristics, you must first determine what it is that the employer wants. You can find clues in a job posting, in a company’s mission statement, or by networking with those in the field. Believe it or not, the ability to accomplish specific tasks often takes the back seat to what are referred to as “transferrable skills”. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers rank problem solving skills, communication skills, the ability to obtain and process information, the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work, and the ability to analyze quantitative data skills higher than technical knowledge related to the job while seeking job candidates. Computer proficiency, written communication skills, and the ability to influence others also rank in the top 10 skills employers seek.

But I was “just infantry”, you say.

Did you have any leadership responsibilities? Do you understand how to navigate a chain of command (this is corporate culture, by the way), have you ever had to work on a team or successfully accomplish some tasks independently? Can you think of a time when you had to accomplish time-sensitive tasks under stressful conditions? If you are early are you really on time?  If you are on time, are you late? From an employer’s perspective these are all highly desirable characteristics but here’s the bad news: you have to SPELL it all out. It is your responsibility to sell these characteristics and I know it isn’t easy. While touting your accomplishments may not be second nature to you, it is absolutely necessary as you compete for opportunities.

As you build your personal brand, fine-tune your résumé, create a LinkedIn profile, and prepare for interviews, you don’t have to do it alone.  Stop into the Center for Career Development and professional staff can help you translate your experiences so that you stand out from the crowd.

Image Source: Craft, Mary-Katherine. Hire-a-veteran. Digital image. Palmetto Workforce Connections. SC Department of Employment and Workforce, 29 July 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

By Eran Peterson
Eran Peterson Assistant Director, Career Coaching and Counseling Eran Peterson