Work After the Military: How to Strive and Become a Leader – Brooke Faulkner

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The transition from military to civilian life can be a traumatic one. From being “on” 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and being connected to a unit and others around you like family to a less-structured workplace with fewer set rules and more freedom is a unique shock that few who have not served understand.

Yet at the same time, as a veteran, you bring some unique skills and lessons to the workplace that help you stand out as a leader. The adaptation means you need to openly communicate with your new employer and help them understand the challenges you face. Still, with the right strategy, you can strive and become a civilian leader in a way that rivals your military career. In fact, stories about leadership bring a lot to an organization, and the right employer will see that. Here are some tips for incorporating your military experience into your search for leadership opportunities.

Know What a Great Leader Is

All great leaders have four common traits, and many of these are already strengths you, as a veteran, have:

  • Organization: All great leaders are organized, and many of the skills you learned in the military will translate to staying organized as a civilian.
  • Professional: All great leaders maintain professionalism, and the professional standards of uniforms and chain of command protocol transfer well in this area, although there will be some adjustment to the civilian differences.
  • Eager to Learn: If your military career went like most, you probably did not do the same thing the entire time you were in, but things were always changing and you always had to learn something new. The same is true in the civilian world.
  • Charismatic: Often in the military you are followed and you follow others because of orders, whether you like them or not. In the civilian world, employees have choices, and you want them to want to follow you.

Once you know what a leader is, you can work on being a better one, and there are a few ways to do just that.

Transfer Skills You’ve Learned

Your military career taught you many valuable skills that translate well to the business world. From communication skills to clear-headedness under pressure, from your global outlook to your ability to conform to rules and structure, your training and time in service taught you many things.

All of those traits are things employers are looking for, especially from those who are looking to become leaders. Transfer them from military applications to a civilian workplace, and you will be sure to stand out from your peers. For instance, the ability to be clear headed under pressure leads to better decision making even in crisis, and the ability to conform to rules and structure when necessary keeps your organization in compliance in both legal and moral situations. These both make you a valuable leader and member of your company’s team.

Keep Learning From Others

One trait of leaders is eagerness to learn. While you come out of the military with a great set of skills, the civilian workplace is much different than military service, but others have made the transition before you. You can strive and become a leader with the right coaching and learning from others who have done it before you

Know what a great leader is. Keep learning from others. Transfer the skills you have learned. Your employer will understand and identify your potential, and you will shine and excel just as you did in your military career.


Brooke Faulkner is a full-time writer and full-time mom of two.

She spends her days pondering what makes a good leader, and dreaming up ways to teach these virtues to her sons creativity enough that she’ll get more than groans and eye rolls in response. To read more of her work, follow her on Twitter @faulknercreek