What is the business value of my military leadership experience?
Pathfinder Article, November 2018
Kinetic Founder and former Army Officer, Will Hogg contributes.
Your military leadership experience is of critical value in the commercial sector, because you are trained to lead people in the most extreme situations to achieve complex objectives. In addition, the quality of the training you received in the Armed Forces is exceptional, with many transferrable aspects that can be used in business.
Having this background is one thing, being able to communicate its value to employers is another. In this regard, veterans often make two mistakes in their job applications. The first is trying to turn their experience into nonsensical civilian language, such as describing their role as a ‘critical department manager’ instead of platoon commander. The second is the opposite issue, using almost exclusively military jargon, expecting employers to understand and be impressed. Instead you should be succinct about your military experience and be quick to translate it into civilian equivalent terms.
The second delicate balance to manage is being a sufficiently authoritative leader without being coercive. This touches on misconceptions on both sides. Many civilian executives are only too ready to perceive military leadership as dictatorial and macho, so avoid giving reason to support that assumption. On the other hand, the equally dangerous assumption of many veterans is that their civilian counterparts are either weak-minded or indecisive.
Instead, start with the belief that the best leaders in the military and business have much in common. This is well defined by the 3-E model of leadership, which focuses on the following questions: Envision: where do you want the team to go? What picture of success can you give them?; Engage: how do you create belief, motivation and commitment to their role in the plan?; Enable: how do you set people up for success? How do you identify and remove barriers to delivery? If you remember this framework and apply your military experience within it, you won’t go far wrong.