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Veterans: Turning Perceived “Disadvantages” into Strengths

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Unfortunately, some civilian employers avoid hiring veterans due to stigmas and oversight. Whether they make mental health assumptions or are unable to understand your skills, employers may not appreciate what you could bring to their company.

While this may be intimidating and even unfair at times, the good news is there is something you can do about it. Turn these perceived “disadvantages” into strengths in the interview process.

Disadvantage #1: Directness/Rigidity

Here’s what many employers think: in most cases, veterans do not mince words. They are direct when it comes to working. They can be intense and rigid in the way they interact with others.

How do you highlight this as a strength? Talk about your ingrained leadership qualities.

The military has trained you to get the job done and get behind others as a team to complete the mission. Maybe you are direct at times, but you are an effective communicator and you speak with others in a way that benefits the entire team.

Many companies struggle with leadership and having teams that actually operate as a team. You can solve this problem for them.

Disadvantage #2: Fear of future deployments

If a military member is a Reservist, some employers fear their new employee may need to deploy, leaving them to fill that position until the employee returns.

To show your strengths, frame this in terms of your independence, dedication, and flexibility. You’ve learned how to get the job done, no matter what. It’s as simple as that.

You may also be a great candidate for flexible work options, like remote work. The military has taught you to be self-motivated and ready for any change that may come your way.

Disadvantage #3: Skill Translations

Many private companies do not understand the skillset obtained by the veteran during their time of service. Sometimes this can result in people transitioning out of the military feeling as though their experience does not count for much in the civilian job sector. This could not be further from the truth.

The training and experiences you had in the military have shaped you to be one of the best potential job candidates out there. You’re dedicated and responsible. You can be trusted to not cut corners and to see a task through to its finish. You’re probably great with deadlines and chances are you’re willing to take the initiative to step up and help with you see a problem.

Most of these qualities probably seem like the bare minimum to you, nothing to write home about. That’s because during your service, the success of the mission and people’s very lives depended on every member of the team doing their part to the fullest. You’ve been surrounded by people who had to all have these same qualities, so it’s not surprising if they don’t stand out to you as remarkable.

But in the civilian sector, qualities such as yours are remarkable. 

Military experience will set you apart both as a candidate and as you perform as an employee. You just have to do a little work to help potential employers see it.

Want more guidance on a successful transition out of the military? Check out our free transition guide.

schuyler@americandreamu.org

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