“Transitioning to civilian life wasn’t easy, and I want to share some lessons learned to hopefully make it easier for others.” - John Buckley, Koch Military Relations Manager
Find Your Career
So, you’ve kicked off your boots and you’re ready to join the civilian ranks. Now what? Before you apply for jobs, let us help you examine your passions, skills and goals to determine the right career fields for you to pursue.
1. Get To Know Yourself
This important step seems so obvious that you’ll be tempted to skip it, but consider this: if you don’t know who you are and what you want, how are you going to convince anyone to hire you? Get in touch with your interests, passions and goals so that you can better sell yourself to potential employers in your resume and interviews. Here are just a couple of the resources out there to aid your self-evaluation:
Take the Strengths Finder test to determine your natural skills and abilities.
Use the tools on the U.S. Department of Labor’s careeronestop.org.
Do an online search for “career assessment” and utilize some of the tools you find, or visit your local library for more resources.
2. Translate Your Military Experience
It’s important to determine where your interests and passions intersect with the skills, knowledge, abilities and attributes you gained in the military. Here are just a few online tools to help guide you:
3. Research Potential Careers
Results from a study at Syracuse University revealed that half of transitioning military veterans left their first job within one year, and nearly 75 percent within 18 months. Rather than jumping into the first job that comes your way, make it your goal to succeed in a private sector career that you will enjoy long-term. Instead of asking yourself “what job could I do?” ask, “what career will I pursue?”
REMEMBER: Identify career fields that would satisfy your passions and interests, and that will allow you to showcase the skills, knowledge, abilities and attributes you previously identified.
4. Ask The Pros
Once you’ve found the career(s) you might be interested in, gain insight into specific career requirements, work environments, challenges, lifestyle changes, advancement opportunities, required certifications and more.
Connect with employers at job fairs and ask them honest questions about what their roles require.
Create a profile on LinkedIn and make connections with people who work in areas of interest to you.
Conduct informational interviews with professionals in the career field(s) you are considering to learn about specific requirements, work environments, challenges, lifestyle, advancement opportunities, required certifications, and possible pitfalls.
Read career advice articles in your area(s) of interest and research industry trends.
5. Set Your Goals
Think of this new potential career path not as a straight line, but as stepping-stones on the path to success. Set a career goal, envision how you’re going to achieve it, anticipate some of the challenges you may face and how these can help you grow.
See this plan in action in our military relations manager’s article, “Dance With the One Who Brung Ya.”
Write A Resume
Securing a job in the civilian world starts with a solid resume, so build yours the best it can be.
15 Tips to Ready Your Resume
A solid resume could score you an interview for the job of your dreams, so make sure yours is well prepared.
Write to the job. Every job description is unique, so each resume should also be unique.
Eliminate the "objective" paragraph to give the recruiter more time on the body of your resume. If required, craft one specific to the targeted job and indicate an interest in modest advancement.
Your resume should not look like an efficiency report. Rather than duties, highlight accomplishments – show how you added value to your organization using quantifiable and measurable terms.
Never allow the recruiter to assume what skills you acquired through your experiences. Instead, clearly state them.
Write straightforward, active statements that showcase your relevant skills, experiences, accomplishments and certifications for all of the requirements listed in the job description. Provide the specifics of your accomplishments and how they contributed to the success of your previous organization. Quantify them if you can.
Don’t oversell your abilities. Just because you worked on a high-level staff does not mean that you are an executive leader.
Do include specific and relevant leadership and management experiences, especially if you are applying for a leadership or management role.
Limit your professional skills – also referred to as core competencies, areas of expertise or strengths – to four to six. Specialize and focus these to the job description, so the recruiter sees that your strengths are suitable for the responsibilities spelled out in the job description.
Servicemen and servicewomen are comfortable with diversity in the workplace and are uniquely educated and qualified to work on or lead diverse teams. Highlight any education, teamwork or experiences pertaining to diversity that you successfully led.
Highlight your risk management experiences and concentration on safety, emphasizing compliance and your ability to hold yourself and others accountable.
Mention teamwork, cooperation and collaboration – soft skills the business will most assuredly be looking for.
Be concise – Easy-to-read resumes get read. Reduce the amount of text on the page.
Other than job titles, remove EVERY military reference including ranks, organization names, titles, school names, equipment titles, etc.
Know your audience. Use words that are understood in the private sector or the specific business: enterprise, supervisor, director, manager, employees, etc.
Never use “I.”
*Though this list is not all encompassing, it was gathered from the experiences of one military veteran and verified by numerous other hiring managers and recruiters.
Writing a Resume: Beef it Up
Here are a few tips to pack a little more punch behind your resume descriptions.
Weak: Successfully planned current and future military training exercises for a battalion in excess of 1,000 personnel.
Stronger: Expert in analyzing operations and individual performance to identify organizational and individual training needs. Developed multiple training plans and inspections, which improved and sustained organizational performance.
Weak: “Best Platoon Leader” in a company of 150 personnel during a live fire training exercise resulting in the second-highest score in a battalion of more than 1,000 personnel.
Stronger: Critical thinking skills, risk and hazard awareness, and superb leadership led to being designated the top leader of 36 peers in the organization.
Weak: Recognized as the best squad leader in the battalion during Battalion Gunnery 2015.
Stronger: Recognized over 15 peers as the best leader in the organization due to critical and creative thinking, superior application of risk management and safety, and the ability to motivate a diverse team to excel.
Weak: Army Commendation Medal awarded by Major General ______, Commander of ______.
Stronger: Commended by the CEO for meritorious achievement resulting from enhanced dynamic operations while performing under pressure, and by meeting the needs of every customer through personal diligence.
Weak: Prepared and disseminated daily activity reports to higher command.
Stronger: Enabled senior management to make timely decisions by increasing their awareness on the organization’s overall performance by collecting relevant information, then drafting succinct reports.
Weak: Supervises or performs duties involving request, receipt, storage, issue, accountability, and preservation of expendable supplies and equipment.
Stronger: Improved the efficiency of several supply chains servicing multiple customers by identifying their particular needs and establishing priorities of effort. (You could also be more specific by quantifying how many units or customers you served.)
Weak: Maintains accounting system associated with supply management.
Stronger: Enhanced management of critical supply chains by ensuring the continuous flow of essential information through successful operation and maintenance of an enterprise-wide information technology system.
Leader vs. Manager: You “lead” people but you “manage” processes. Use “lead” or “led” when pertaining to people, but use “manage” or “managed” when referring to processes or programs.
Writing a Resume: Trim it Down
A lean resume helps you stand out. Check to be sure your information is relevant to the job description with this quick exercise.
Grab a pen and paper.
On the left, list the requirements detailed in the job description.
On the right, list the experiences, skills and certifications you detailed in your resume.
Connect the job requirements on the left to your list on the right.
If something on the right doesn’t connect to the left, you should probably remove it from your resume.
Exceptions: Retain quality comments that can quantify the value you created in leadership, management, risk management or diversity.
On a solid resume, job description requirements on the left will connect to a personal skill or experience you’ve listed on the right. Remember that these skills and experiences came directly from your resume. If they don’t match up, you might not be qualified for the job.
There should be little or nothing in your resume that doesn’t have a line going back to the job description. This ensures that you don’t conceal your relevant strengths with a lot of unnecessary verbiage.
Prepare for Interviews
Your military skills are a true asset. Give yourself a little business spit shine and prepare to knock their civilian socks off.
Perceptions Are a Reality
As a veteran interviewing for a civilian role, your skills could be misinterpreted based on your delivery and demeanor. The following are common perceptions and some tips to keep in mind.
Critical and creative thinking skills – Veterans often demonstrate these sought-after skills, which also offer a strong baseline for entrepreneurship.
Compliance – Top companies look for candidates who can balance requirements versus risk and have the ability to hold themselves and others accountable.
Sense of urgency – This is a strength, but do be careful. When overplayed, it can be perceived as too intense.
Compassion – Leaders and managers who exhibit compassionate leadership traits enable their team to reach self-fulfillment.
Keep in mind that though you have strong attributes, broad experiences and valuable skills, you may be lacking experience in one or more critical areas.
Flexibility – Relax. Stiff posture and short responses feed the stereotype that military veterans are not flexible.
Humility – Rather than stating that everything you do is a success, show your dedication to truth, a willingness to listen and learn, and the ability to sincerely seek criticism.
Change – Be open to change. Military veterans are viewed as checklist-oriented, afraid of having their ideas challenged or challenging the ideas of others.
Emotion – The civilian world wants you to show a passion for your work and in the pursuit of your goals.
Word Choice – Eliminate military words and titles, also known as jargon. This avoids confusion and delivers your message or point more clearly.
Control – Exhibiting controlling leadership qualities feeds the perception that military veteran leaders are “drill sergeants.”
Intensity – Military leaders and managers can be stereotyped as “blindly charging the hill.” Be open to challenge and listening to the ideas of others.
To prepare for the Q&A portion of the interview, consider these specific trouble spots for veterans.
For situational-based questions, the interviewer is assessing your performance in the situation. Avoid answering in the typical military “bottom-line-up-front” method. Instead, address your actions, the response to your actions, your counter-action and the end result.
Avoid rambling responses. Instead, provide specific answers to the questions asked of you.
Recruiters report that veterans often don’t ask questions, even when given the opportunity, feeding the perception that the veteran is unwilling to learn.
Get a good night’s rest, check for pepper in your teeth and follow these other interview tips.
Be candid, honest, humble, professional, relaxed and confident. Most importantly, be yourself.
Think of the interview as a conversation, creating give-and-take with the interviewer.
Know the company’s general business situation. What service or product do they provide and for whom?
Understand the company’s culture and values. Show how your qualifications and experience contribute and add value to their business needs, and how your character aligns with their culture.
Come prepared with several interesting and unique questions. Always ask a question or two if given the opportunity.
Turn off your phone. Better yet, leave it in the car.
Translate Your Military Skills
Swap military jargon with universally understood words using this easy tool.
|Commander||Director or Senior Manager|
|Executive Officer||Deputy Director|
|Field Grade Officer||Executive or Manager|
|Company Grade Officer||Operations Manager or Section Manager|
|Warrant Officer||Technical Specialist or Department Manager|
|Senior NCO||First-Line Supervisor|
|First Sergeant||Personnel Manager|
|Squad Leader||Team Leader or Team Chief|
|Supply Sergeant||Supply Manager or Logistics Manager|
|Operations NCO||Operations Supervisor|
|AI||Additionally skilled in|
|Company||Company, department or section|
|Military personnel office||Human resources|
|Military occupation classification||Career specialty|
|Squad or platoon||Team or section|
|Reconnaissance||Data collection and analysis|
|Regulations||Policy or guidelines|
|Security clearance||Security clearance|
|Subordinates||Employees or direct hires|
|TAD or TDY||Business trip|
Search for Jobs at Koch
Thank you for your interest in finding a role at Koch!
Once you have determined which career field(s) you would like to pursue by a thorough evaluation of your own interests, attributes, skills and qualifications, follow these simple tips to smooth your job search and application process with us.
Create a profile and opt-in for job alerts to be notified of open roles that match your interests:
Click Open Roles
Click Sign Up for Job Alerts*
Enter your: Personal information, areas of interest and frequency of alerts
Click Sign Up
*You will automatically receive an email announcing newly opened roles that match your profile and interests.
Click Careers in the navigation bar to select a career field that best suits you. There are nearly 30 options. If you need help determining which career path suits your skills and passions, visit our self-evaluation page.
Click Companies in the navigation bar to search roles within a specific Koch company.
You can also further refine a search using one or both of the following:
Keyword – Keywords are found in the title and body of the job description.
Location – Be aware that not every city or state has the same roles or requirements.
Before you apply for a role, verify your qualifications. Keep in mind that some military and civilian job titles are similar, but the requirements could be vastly different.
Adjust your resume to emphasize your skills and qualifications that relate to the job description.
Apply directly to that role.
You may apply for multiple roles, but it’s best to apply for roles within your specific area(s) of expertise.
We hope you join forces with a company that aligns with your beliefs.
Download Our Guide
Save this guide to your computer or print it so you can reference it anytime.