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7 Advantages a Veteran Has in the Workplace

Service in uniform is a huge plus in the civilian workplace


spinner image a man in a suit holds a briefcase in front of a green background. his shadow is of a military member saluting
Paul Spella (Source: Getty Images)

If you think your military experience doesn’t translate into your civilian career, think again. On the contrary as a veteran, you have several advantages in the workplace, such as tremendous loyalty, the ability to succeed in goal-oriented tasks and a strong sense of teamwork.

In fact, military experience often gives you a leg up in the world outside uniformed service. Here are things to highlight:

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Calmness under pressure

“Veterans are used to high-stakes situations,” Bryan Hancock, McKinsey senior partner and coauthor of Power to the Middle: Why Managers Hold the Keys to the Future of Work, told AARP Veteran Report. “They understand when something is truly an emergency and understand how to lead when everyone is feeling stressed.”

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This means that managers who are veterans are often best equipped to lead teams through the pressures of daily work.

A larger purpose

When you’re in uniform, there’s a clear purpose and mission. This can get lost in a civilian workplace, to the detriment of the product and the bottom line.

“In companies, managers play a critical role in providing purpose and meaning to work,” said Hancock. “Veteran managers may be particularly well-suited to help team members link their work to a broader purpose because it is a deep personal search for them as well.”

Staying the course

Maintaining focus and not being knocked off task is a valuable trait many veterans possess.

“Training and battlefield experience train leaders who are at once all about sticking with the mission,” Yuri Kruman, CEO of HR, Talent & Systems Consulting, told AARP Veteran Report. “This is a tremendous asset in the workplace where too many people abandon projects too easily and, conversely, they follow instructions blindly without speaking up.

“This naturally gives vets an advantage when it comes to leading effectively because both parts are equally important to mission/project success.”

Punctuality and organization

Structure is critical to succeeding at work and vets have already mastered this ability.

“Vets tend to bring a strong sense of order and timeliness to the work they do which always helps with strong project and people management,” said Kruman. “When managers are reliable and dependable, their team members feel more at ease knowing there's someone well-organized in charge.”

Accountability

When civilians start a new job, over time they learn the company culture whereas in the military, accountability is ingrained in troops from the first day.

“If soldiers do not hold each other accountable, someone is going to die,” Robbie Green, executive coach at Talking Talent, told AARP Veteran Report. “The business of the military is life and death.”

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This gravitas of accountability carries over to the workplace when veterans transition from military to civilian life.

 “The veteran’s expectation is everyone should be doing what they are responsible for,” said Green. “And when they are not, veteran leaders bring it to their team’s attention immediately. Unlike many civilian leaders, veterans do not find accountability confrontational—they find it necessary.”

Gratitude

“Veterans tend to be very grateful,” Rocky Belmonte, senior operations director at Grainger, told AARP Veteran Report.

Belmonte, a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, pointed out that veterans know what it’s like “to go without” and therefore do not take things for granted. Veterans appreciate work, teammates and hard tasks because “there is great satisfaction in achieving what some see as unachievable.”

She added: “We love opportunities to work hard and have that work shine, and are grateful for every chance we get to demonstrate our hard-earned military skillsets in our civilian lives.”

Belief in authority

Respecting the chain of command is key in the military and veterans also have the ability to lead and teach by example. “When you transition to civilian work you have to learn how to influence without authority, which is a skill that needs to be developed over time,” said Belmonte.

In the Army, Belmonte's goals centered around helping troops improve their physical fitness achievements and firing range success. In the civilian workplace, the goals can be more about helping team members advance their education and career.

Belmonte has found that civilian employees want to understand the “why” behind the directive or request. “And I love the opportunity to coach and teach those I lead,” she said.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published twice a month. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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