Candidates leaving the forces often think they need to start at the bottom because their experience doesn’t fit what employers require within commercial industry. The job descriptions are too different and the selection criteria is foreign and confusing. Sound familiar? If you have experienced this, you are not alone. But you are also wrong.
One of the biggest challenges faced by those applying for a role in industry after transitioning from the forces is translating previous experience. Commercial job applications often require you to define how you have demonstrated skills that weren’t emphasised in defence. Although this might make you think you don’t have what’s needed, coming from a life in the forces provides individuals with a unique set of attributes to bring to any role. The only hurdle is finding the words to communicate this to civilians.
To help get you started, here are five key reasons employers would want to hire ex-defence staff and questions to ask yourself when looking for supporting examples from your own experience. In general, ex-defence personnel are:
Adaptable and quick to learn
Things change rapidly within the defence space and in line with their roles an individual can be asked to move locations, change projects or learn a new software with little notice. Out of necessity, this fosters skills such as flexibility, adapting to new situations and learning on the go. Employers can rely on ex-defence personnel to pick up any new change and run with it.
Can you think of a time when you needed to quickly adapt to a new situation? How did you go about it?
Key words to use: flexible, adaptable, quick learner, versatile, all-rounder, outcome.
Inherent in defence is the need to follow processes and procedures while also abiding by set personal organisational standards. The training individuals receive during service ensures that every individual knows how to coordinate themselves within any process and how to take a task from one stage to another in an effective and time efficient way.
Have you ever coordinated the administration or logistics of a project, team or yourself? How did you go about it and what did you achieve?
Key words: planning, administration, logistics, analysis, budgeting, deadlines, multitasking, prioritization, outcomes, lessons.
Even individuals that haven’t chosen to move into management or leadership roles will have managed or taught someone something at some point in their defence career. The hierarchical nature of defence allows everyone the chance to hone their skills of instruction and supervision.
Can you think of a time when you taught someone something new or supervised their work? Did you ever guide someone towards a set outcome?
Key words to use: supervision, management, teacher, trainer, direction, superintendence, influencing.
Experts at working in a team
Defence is all about working with those around you and contributing your strengths to the larger picture. Regardless of position, ex-defence staff have learnt how to work with a wide variety of people from every level and know how best to contribute to the team and project at hand.
When have you worked in a team towards a desired outcome? What did you do to ensure you worked effectively within the team?
Key words to use: communication, active listening, respect, strengths, compromise, collaboration, contributing.
There is no doubt that defence personnel are often required to work in stressful and arduous conditions every now and then. The drive and motivation that it takes to perform well under these conditions shows strength of character and a resiliency that is unparalleled.
Can you think of time you achieved an outcome despite a difficult or stressful environment? What motivated you to do this?
Key words to use: resilience, emotional intelligence, positivity, motivation, challenges, bounce back, stress management.
On top of these key attributes, ex-defence staff also contribute a wealth of other attributes including:
- Problem solving abilities
- Reliability and loyalty
- Safety consciousness
Although transitioning from the forces can be a challenging experience, a lot of it comes down to differences in language so finding a way to communicate your experience is key. Many seemingly defence focused responsibilities can be easily applied to skills required in commercial industry, so take the time to think about how you can transfer them.