13 Advantages Vets Have In The Marketplace

13 AdvantagesA lot of talk about veterans revolves around the challenges they face and the assistance they need.

But what about the strengths veterans already possess?

Here we’re going to look at thirteen different strengths that every serviceman and servicewoman should be well equipped to bring to any business or industry they join:

1. Leadership

 high speed low drag soldier walkingOnly a small percentage of veterans went through officer training, but every grunt operates with the day-to-day awareness that he or she could become the person making the decisions in the space of a heartbeat.

And just as important as training is examples and experience — anyone who’s been in the military has seen leadership in action every day of their service. The grunts are usually on the receiving end, true, but they still know who’s a good commander and who’s a bad one.

The skills for giving directions in the civilian world aren’t quite the same as those for giving orders in the military — there’s much less automatic obedience, for one thing — but the basic principles of leadership are the same.

Everyone who’s been in the armed forces ought to be able to think of at least one or two officers that they admired. Those examples, and the combat-ready training to step up and lead at a moment’s notice, are skills that civilian employers can find plenty of uses for.

Don’t be shy to let people know your leadership capabilities in job interviews and cover letters. Be up front about your experiences. If you led groups of servicemen and servicewomen, you can run a meeting or a work crew no problem.

Click here to view 13 Veteran Advantages | What Veterans Can Use To Get Ahead In The Civilian World video on Youtube

2. Responsibility

 high speed low drag soldier in aircraftThere are few better places to learn that your actions have consequences than the military. In combat, “consequences” can be life or death.

That gives veterans an advantage over civilian employees (especially younger ones) who haven’t ever been in a position where their screw-ups can cause real and lasting harm.

It’s not that everyone who hasn’t been in the military doesn’t get that mistakes can be a problem — but they don’t have the same ingrained unwillingness to fail, even in minor tasks, because failing in a minor task has never meant life or death for them.

And to be fair, it often doesn’t in the military either. If you don’t get your boots properly polished in time for inspection, no one’s going to die. But you’re still going to get the ass-chewing of your life — because the commanding officer knows that attention to detail is going to matter at some point, and wants to make an ingrained habit of it — and that teaches a strength of habit that most civilians don’t have.

As a result, veterans tend to be people who can be trusted to do a task as carefully as it needs to be done, and to get it right the first time. And if they can’t get it done right, they’re much more likely to ask for assistance or take extra time than to half-ass it and risk something important failing down the line.

3. Working as a Team Member

 high speed low drag soldier groupNothing happens solo in the military. Even when you have someone off on his own — which doesn’t happen often — he got there through team effort.

The whole system is set up around groups of people working together, and larger groups made up of those smaller groups working together.

You can pick pretty much any experience in the service, and it’s going to involve a small team, within which everyone has their job or specialization. A tank crew is four people, each with different roles. A fighter pilot might fly solo once in a while –but if he does, it’s because of the teams that worked to get him off the ground, and the support that’s feeding him intelligence and bringing him home safe.

In the workforce, that translates into someone who’s used to relying on and providing support. Veterans aren’t likely to be “my way or the highway” guys who’ll try to do everything themselves. (Not that you can’t find vets with that mindset, but their training and experience doesn’t lend itself to it.)

This is a big bonus in job applications and interviews, because they almost always involve some sort of question about “how well you work as part of a team” or something like that.

Your answer is a modest smile and something that starts with “well, I was in the military, so…”

4. Work Ethic and Commitment

 high speed low drag soldier workingOne of the things that civilians don’t always appreciate about the military is how serious of a commitment it is.

Once you sign on the dotted line (and make it through training, of course) you’re in for the long haul. There aren’t really a lot of ways out before the end of your enlistment.

Ditto deployments — once you ship out, you’re probably stuck wherever you got sent for a while. Short of going AWOL, there’s nothing anyone can do to change that, which results in a pretty dedicated mindset. Servicemen and servicewomen, in general, are going to take whatever situation they’re given and start working on the goals and objectives as hard as possible. It’s not like they’re going anywhere until the job gets done!

That’s very different from a world where you can leave a job at any time. Some contracts are harder to break than others, but very few people face criminal charges if they decide they’re done with a job and walk away from it. In most cases it’s just a fine.

Once a veteran starts a task, you can generally count on him or her to stick with it until it’s done, even if it turns unpleasant. Don’t be afraid to take pride in that, and to let people know that you’re not someone who leaves things unfinished.

5. Integrity

 high speed low drag soldier holding a flagMuch of soldiering is practical. You learn how to perform hundreds of skills, how the military works, and how to take care of equipment.

One of the few “intangibles” that all branches of the service make time to teach is the idea of honor.

If it got emphasized in your training (and it almost certainly did), that was for a good reason. Military personnel absolutely have to be trustworthy. Lapses of conscience don’t just reflect badly on the service; they can be dangerous to the security of the nation itself. That’s why all branches of the service spend so much time emphasizing that their members are honorable soldiers.

To a great extent the military is also pretty good about rewarding moral behavior. No institution is perfect, but military discipline does about as well at encouraging “doing the right thing” (and penalizing people who don’t) as any system out there.

The result is veterans who are typically more trustworthy than their competitors in any given field. Employers can generally assume that someone who was trusted with live ammunition is someone that can be trusted with their investments.

Your skill set is another matter, obviously. But don’t underestimate how badly many companies want people who can be trusted, whether it’s with internal trade secrets or with the public image of the brand or both.

By reminding people that you’ve been bound by your branch of the service’s code of honor for the duration of your enlistment, you effectively pass an unofficial “security check,” and that’s a big advantage.

6. Accelerated Learning

 high speed low drag soldier trainingOne thing servicemen and servicewomen have to be is fast learners.

There’s not really an alternative. Every training course you take, from basic onward, is an experience in having new skills thrown at you at a furious pace.

In the military that gets taken for granted. It’s just how things are done. But in the civilian world, the pace that every grunt gets trained at would be considered intensive.

It’s not just the training, either — when you think about overseas deployments, or even a move to a new base within the country, you’re looking at a massive overnight shift in how things are done. You’re expected to learn as you go, and fast.

New countries, new units, new positions — it’s all something that just about every service member has gone through. By the time you’re out, you’re used to absorbing change and internalizing new ways of doing things like it was second nature.

That makes veterans one of the most trainable pools of employees out there. And there are a lot of places that want to hire fast learners. It’s cheaper for them, and the results at the end of the training are better, with less time wasted on mistakes made after the training period.

7. Respect for People and Procedures

 high speed low drag soldier aircraftDid your branch of the service have something that was “the book,” as in “by the book?”

They pretty much all do, whether it’s the basic service manual or a specialization-specific text. You’ve got your SOP and you stick to it.

There’s a good reason for that. When you’ve got a text like the NATOPS (Naval Air Training and Operations Procedures Standardization) manual for pilots, people say it was “written in blood” — meaning that the procedures in there were put in place because someone didn’t do them, and that person died.

“By the book” is the military’s way of accumulating centuries of bloody trial and error. As a result, veterans are coming from a system where they were trained a “right way” to do things, and trained to stick to that way no matter what the situation.

To some extent that limits innovation, but it also prevents indecision and paralysis at key moments. The result when veterans get out into the civilian world is employees who are willing to do things “the company way,” and who respect the idea that policies aren’t just made up out of the blue — they’re usually there because someone before you figured out the best way of doing something.

Similarly, the service teaches an automatic respect for everyone who’s in there doing his or her job with you. There’s absolutely no advantage in the military for someone to look good at someone else’s expense. When you play a zero-sum game like that, the unit suffers, and when the unit’s performance goes down the chance that you might get killed goes up.

As a result, veterans tend to make reliable and hassle-free employees — they’re willing to learn procedures and follow them, and they don’t waste time on infighting or office politics.

8. Reliability and Performance under Pressure

 high speed low drag soldier shootingSimilar to some of the things we’ve said earlier: if people have been relying on a guy to watch their backs in a firefight, employers can probably rely on that guy to handle a bad day at work, too.

It all goes back to the basic idea that the worst day imaginable in a civilian job is still probably not going to be as bad as life in a combat zone.

Guys who freak out about little things or panic when everything stops going according to plan tend to get that drilled out of them pretty fast in the military. In civilian fields there’s a lot less pressure to weed those behaviors out, since they’re annoying but not generally a matter of life and death.

That’s a very attractive quality to employers, especially in fields where things do get high stress and situations can change very rapidly. Obvious examples include things like police or search-and-rescue jobs, which are fairly similar to the military, but the “calm under fire” trait is just as useful on a stock trading floor or in an engineering lab.

9. Loyalty

 high speed low drag soldier riding a horseMost people don’t go into the military if they don’t already feel some sense of loyalty to their country. Yeah, there are some enticing benefits, but realistically there are very, very few people who are in it purely for the monetary rewards.

Military training works deliberately to emphasize that sense of loyalty, and to channel it into a loyalty not just to the nation as a whole but to your immediate squad, platoon, team, etc., and to your unit and your branch of the service.

Obviously, it’s not particularly relevant to an employer or a co-worker that you’re a diehard member of this unit or that unit — it’s just numbers and an insignia to them, whether you’ve got it tattooed on your forearm or not. And unless you’re dealing with someone very unrealistic, no one’s going to ask you to feel the same kind of bond with the guys at the office that you did with men and women you served alongside.

But you can still take advantage of the general perception that military men and women are ones with strong senses of personal loyalty. No one’s going to expect you to give that loyalty away for free — but they will want to earn it, because they know you’ll repay it back with real dedication.

You don’t actually have to do too much to take advantage of this one. It’s (hopefully) innate in you already, and most people are aware of it. And if they’re not, they’ll notice it soon enough.

10. Perspective: The Reality Check of What’s Really Important

 high speed low drag soldier firingYou would be amazed at the little things people get worked up about sometimes.

Military men and women aren’t immune, of course. You’ll get the guy who starts a fight because someone tore a card from his lucky deck, or whatever.

But for the most part, service in the military — and especially in combat — is a pretty sharp reality check. It’s hard to get worked up after the little stuff once you’ve had your first near-death experience. Even just seeing combat wounds or damage second-hand can be enough to remind a soldier how fragile everyone is.

It’s not just limited to combat experiences or losses, either. Traveling to different countries and seeing ways of life that are so radically different (and often so much worse) than mainstream American life has a way of stripping away all the stuff that doesn’t matter and reminding you of the big human needs.

Your life, your health, your friends and your family — those are things worth caring about. And they’re things that veterans tend to have a healthy respect for, if only because they’ve seen it torn away from other people.

Hang onto that perspective, if you’ve acquired it. It makes you a better, stronger person, and it’s also a comfort to have when you’re dealing with a lousy job or a bunch of low-level frustrations in day-to-day life.

11. Altruism: Selflessness and a Sense of Mission

 high speed low drag soldier firingLike we’ve said before, most people aren’t joining the military for the paycheck. You’re talking about people who are used to giving their best performance both because they need to and because they believe in the higher purpose behind what they’re doing.

It can be hard to find somewhere to funnel that in the civilian world. If you were a strong believer in the military’s mission, you’re not necessarily going to find a replacement right away.

But it’s still a strength to have that drive and that willingness to believe that your efforts can serve a larger mission. Because the unpleasant reality is, a majority of people in the civilian business world aren’t working for any greater purpose. They’re just looking for a paycheck, or to make ends meet.

It’s kind of depressing to think about, but the majority of the employed aren’t working their jobs because they care about them. Even a lot of very wealthy, very influential people are just doing what they’re doing because they felt that they had to “get ahead” somehow.

That’s a trap that military veterans can steer clear of — if they’re willing to stick to their sense of altruism; that belief that it’s worth working and even sacrificing for something you really believe in.

12. Courage

 high speed low drag soldier saving another soldierIt may seem surprising that we’ve placed this close to the end of the list. That’s not because it doesn’t matter — rather, it’s because it’s something that people almost expect of a veteran.

Men and women who’ve served in combat are expected to be brave. And that can be a daunting expectation sometimes — it’s one of the reasons so many veterans have trouble seeking treatment for PTSD or other mental traumas, for example; they feel like they’re not fulfilling the image of the rock-solid soldier.

And that’s not something to encourage. But what is worth encouraging is the consciousness that yeah, you’ve been trained to face some of the hardest situations in the world. You don’t have to be reckless to prove anything. When the going gets tough, you’re going to deal with it, because that’s just what you gotta do in the military. There’s no room for panic.

Hang onto that strength. Don’t make it a caricature. A brave guy doesn’t have to be a “tough guy.” He just has to face difficulties without running away from them.

And that’s something that most people don’t know how to do, so if you can handle it, you’re putting yourself in a very special class of people — and you’re a guy that everyone’s going to want on their team.

13. The Connection with Other Veterans

 high speed low drag soldier guardingMost of the other items on this list have been innate, internal qualities. They’re the products of your training and experience. Here’s one that’s not: the connection you share with other veterans.

Vets will almost always make time for other vets. It’s an automatic bond that transcends nearly all other concerns. Sure, you’ll get some outliers here and there, but I’ve known veterans with six-figure salaries who’ll stop on the street (in their business suits) to talk to a homeless guy with the iconic “I SERVED” cardboard sign.

Most of the time it’s not that dramatic, obviously. But it is a bond and, in practical terms for you, a door-opener. Do you know a veteran who’s doing well in civilian employment? Send him or her a note and ask for tips! If you tell them you were in the armed forces as well, you’re vastly more likely to get a reply than you would be without that connection.

No one’s handing out freebies, but you can trade on you shared experience for a chance for some advice, some networking connections, and maybe even a job offer or interview.

It’s one of the most powerful tools a veteran has. Total strangers, whether you know them because you admire their work in a business or because you met at the VFW post, will be willing to give you the time and attention they wouldn’t spare for a civilian stranger.

Take advantage of that — and be ready to do the same for the next freshly-discharged vet looking for a foot in the door when it’s your turn.

Click here to view 13 Veteran Advantages | What Veterans Can Use To Get Ahead In The Civilian World video on Youtube