Can You Make It in the Private Sector?

Can You Make It in the Private Sector?
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It’s definitely daunting to face career transition from the military to a job in the private sector. You may ask yourself, will the responsibilities you held in military service allow you to successfully compete for roles in the private sector?


It’s a legitimate question. After all, most jobs in the military are not part of a “business” and don’t reflect the priorities or machinations of the private sector – profit and loss, meeting with boards of directors, generating revenue streams, or facing the potential of going out of business.


How, then, can military personnel and veterans present themselves to potential civilian employers in a way that conveys their value to the bottom line? After all, the “bottom line” for service is simple: successful completion of the mission. Outside of on-base clubs and retail locations, few military entities have to deal with raising their own operating funds.


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This doesn’t mean military members and veterans lack the skills to make a difference in the private sector. In considering your value to employers, don’t strive to explain what an artillery officer is, or what an ordnance specialist does. Instead, think at a more basic level and focus on your skills. The demands of your military service have allowed you to cultivate a broad range of valuable attributes that represent the exact skills needed for tackling challenges in the business world.


Employers are focused on three things: Making money, saving money, and solving hard problems. They are keen to find job candidates who can help with any or all of those. If you are in career transition, here are seven top skills you can give special emphasis in your résumé.


Process Improvement the ability to look at an operation or a series of required actions and assess whether it is working as efficiently and effectively as possible. Your target employers will relish your skill in identifying, analyzing, and improving their existing processes.


Problem Solving the capacity to find solutions to difficult and complex issues, often with minimal or no resources. This extremely valuable asset is such a common aspect of military service you may not even recognize yourself as having this talent.


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Making Decisions the process of weighing choices, examining alternatives, and then choosing between one or more courses of action. Military-trained personnel have a bias for action and don’t need to be told what to do.


Self-Sufficiency the ability to be autonomous and not require constant (or any) supervision. Military service often requires you to ramp up quickly and operate independently once you get there. This skill is very attractive to employers.


Teamwork efficient and effective collaboration within a group of people. Military members are particularly adept at teamwork because of their experience successfully working with a wide variety of people from very diverse cultures and backgrounds.


Performance Under Pressure the ability to achieve desired outcomes under arduous circumstances, and very often within tight timelines. This is the very definition of military service.


Adaptability the ability to adjust to new circumstances and cope with the unexpected. Military culture requires flexibility of thought and a poised response to unforeseen situations.


While you may take these skills and abilities for granted, they are the exact attributes employers seek in quality candidates. Focus your resume on what is most important to your target audience by showing them what you have to offer.


Want to know more? Check out MOAA’s archive of career transition topics. Want some visual aids? Premium and Life members can access all the materials in MOAA’s webinar archive, including tips on marketing yourself for a second career. Learn more about joining MOAA or upgrading your membership at this link.


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About the Author

Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)
Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)

Cole is MOAA's former Program Director, Career Transition Services