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You came out of the military with marketable skills. Or, you took the time to figure out how to use your military expertise in civilian life. You may have gotten a degree, even an advanced one. Then you earned additional certifications. Your resume describes every skill in detail. Yet application after application goes unanswered. And you received no or negative responses after the few interviews you’ve gotten. You’re committing job search sin #4: Believing it is or should be about having the right skills.
Meritocracy Isn’t What You Think
Coming out of the military environment, it seems like the person with the best skills should get the job. After all, if a company’s employees have the top aptitude it will be the best in its market.
But consider. How many times did you have a colleague who was a genius at what it took to get the job done but was a pain in the neck to deal with? Maybe he was lazy, uncooperative, or had a bad attitude. Did you want to work with him day after day?
Who would you rather have on your rifle team? An expert marksman who only thinks about himself or a sharpshooter 100% dedicated to the team?
The military and businesses talk about merit. But they don’t mean a system where the person with the best skills gets the job. Both want the people who will most effectively help them meet their missions. Without solid skills, you’ll get nowhere. But at best your expertise gets your foot in the door.
Beyond Skills You Need Less Tangible Qualities
Besides technical mastery, employers look for four key traits:
- Dedication to the organization’s mission and values. Given that you’ll have many civilian jobs and even careers, this may seem strange. Why should employers seek loyalty they don’t give? Notice I said to its mission and values, not to the organization itself. You’re right that you won’t stay there your whole career. The company knows that too. But while you work at an organization it wants your buy-in and commitment to its goals and how it pursues them.
- Cultural fit. The military has a distinct culture. Indeed each branch has its own traditions, jargon, and way of doing things. The same goes for civilian businesses. Until 30 or 40 years ago the two overlapped. But as the World War II Generation moved out of the workforce, business culture changed. Today, unless an industry employs a high percentage of veterans, the culture will seem foreign. You need to learn something about a company’s way of doing things and customs before you apply there. And if you have a meeting to discuss a job you’ll have to show you fit in.
- Commitment to teamwork. Though you may decide to be a solotreperneur, success will depend on your being a team player. Nothing lucrative happens without interaction with others. Coming from the military this shouldn’t surprise you. Even the sniper has a team backing him up and setting the stage for his success. Do prospective employers know how well you work with others? Or do you leave them guessing?
- Understanding wealth comes from value delivered. Civilian companies don’t carry dead weight. Every employee must deliver value. You have to know how the company serves its clients. Then you need to articulate how you can improve that service when you get the job. You can learn the details once you get hired. But to get hired you must show you understand the concept and how it applies at the organization’s strategic level. Wealth comes from value delivered ↔ For the company and you.
It takes time to research a company’s mission, values, and culture. You’ll have to make the investment if you want the job. We’ll confront this issue again in sin #6.
Keep in mind, companies can train their employees in new or better skills. Changing an employee's mindset is difficult at best. When a hiring manager sees you have these four traits, you put yourself far above the competition.
Which mindset issue hinders your job hunt? Please comment below.
© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved
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