Military skills you can apply to corporate life

Every year around 20,000 armed forces personnel swap their military boots for a new pair of office shoes. And while the footwear must change, there are plenty of skills that don’t need to.

At some point in your life, you’ll no doubt have heard that employment in the military acts as a stepping stone to a successful, civilian career. In fact, it’s one of the main selling points the Armed Forces use for recruitment. But despite its truth, swapping the barracks for the city and the tank for the tube can be difficult.

Luckily, any career in the military, regardless of duration or position, will have supplied you with a range of crossover skills for civilian employment. Employers are keen to find those with skill sets that can be applied to any situation. These are called soft skills and despite their name are highly-prized in the world of work. But what is a soft skill? And how do you find out which ones you have?

Soft Skills

Employers know that knowledge gaps can be filled with training and experience. But soft skills take longer to learn. They range from basic skills such as communication and teamwork, to more specific, highly-prized skills like leadership and problem-solving. We’ve identified some of the most common soft skills below to help you both gain and succeed in civilian employment.


Often overlooked, communication is an incredibly important part of any team. This doesn’t mean an inside-out knowledge of the Oxford Dictionary but rather, the ability to express yourself well and to know when to listen. During your time in the military, you’ll have had to supply task information to both your superiors and those at a similar or lower level. Employers recognise that the ability to provide concise, clear information saves the company valuable time. As recruitment experts Michael Page point out:

‘Employees who communicate effectively with colleagues, managers and customers are always valuable assets to an organisation and it is a skill which can often set people apart from their competition when applying for jobs.’

If time equals money, then good communication equals profit.

Conflict resolution:

Similar to communication, skills in conflict resolution can also be overlooked by those coming back to civilian life. Conflict in the world of work means a different thing to a military experience of the term, but the skills learned still translate. Getting staff or customers on-side is crucial to any business, and your ability to motivate and inspire can be the difference. No doubt throughout your military career, you will have had to persuade yourself or somebody in your unit to back down from a debate, recognise an issue, and solve the problem. Civilian employers don’t like time-wasting and value those who can quickly get past problems and get the team back to work.

Work ethic and dealing with pressure:

When undertaking basic training, there will have been moments where you wondered if you’d make it through. But you did, and regardless of your new job description, those weeks will still have a huge impact. Employers see ex-forces personnel as reliable and willing to persevere. What’s more, those from the Armed Forces understand just how important respect is for team morale. By employing those with a military background, employers know they are gaining staff they can trust in any situation.

Other Soft Skills and Ideas to Consider

Service members can often be unaware of the value of their military experience. The following list is a range of skills you may not have thought about but are highly valued in the civilian workplace.

  • Teamwork
  • Motivation
  • Adaptability
  • Problem Solving
  • Resilience
  • Learning from mistakes
  • Taking in information
  • Applying information to new situations

Clearly, there’s a range of army, navy and air-force skills that service members can bring to civilian life. These will have different levels of importance depending on the industry you choose. You’ll need to take some time working out which of your skills are most relevant and how you can best show this to employers. Your cover letter and CV are where you can show your employer why you are more suited to the role, whether that’s an entry level job or a management position. Take advantage of career guidance, both in person and online, and remember that all experience is good experience.

Interested in switching careers? We accept ELCAS funding for professional qualifications in several different subjects. Click here to see our full range of courses.

George Ferguson

Posted July 30, 2018