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Military to Private: Transferable Skills

Coming from the military, and stepping for the first time in years into the world of private commerce can be disorienting to anyone – from the most basic enlisted ranks to the highest officer. The adjustment period of acclimation is often felt as a whirlwind. However, this is also a period where you can use this time reflectively, contemplating your best options and advantages while the dust settles.

Man and woman speaking at desk - exchange of information-skills
One exceptional use of this time for contemplation is developing a list of Transferable Skills (TS). TS are, in essence, skills taken from one career that are applicable towards another. It is commonly understood that the more simple, and more universal a skill is, the more easily it may be applied to cross-industry specifications. For example, a comprehensive understanding of geometry and trigonometry will serve you well in a variety of fields ranging from architectural planning to engineering pathways. It is not, however, always the case that more complex skill sets are inapplicable across industry lines.

More complex skill sets just take some creative thinking to work into a new form, one that fits the vision of professional growth and business acumen you want for yourself. Let’s have a look at two universal executive skills and how you, with your military training, actually suit the demand far more robustly than your civilian counterparts.



  • Organize people and manage projects

    • You will be no stranger to highly efficient structure and well-defined results.
    • Implementing a clear plan – clear to you, your employees, and vested parties – will be second nature.
    • First-hand oversight of projects under your command will be normalized to you. Just be aware your approach may be more involved than many employees will be used to from an executive. Leading into:


  • Delegate responsibility

    • Command structures are incredibly clear to you, whether or not they are so readily apparent to your colleagues. Use this understanding of the hierarchy to demonstrate your employee’s worth within the company. Render the proper acknowledgement to demonstrated merit.


  • Planning – Long and short term

    • If there is one area where officer experience will grant you a huge advantage, it’s in the arena of planning for objectives, both short and long term. It is shocking to think how many people within your age demographic have likely never encountered the experience of having to make a real plan, make real decisions, and have them carry real consequences. You know how to break down objectives, isolate priorities, establish clear benchmarks toward success, and execute. As like as not, you have had people’s lives in your hands. After that, it’ll take more than a boardroom to shake you.



  • Direct Line:

    • Your experience has granted you the benefit to know what clear lines of communication feel like. It’s likely you’ve also experienced the results of a breakdown in that communication, and also likely know it takes a leader to step forward and clear the storm to get people back on track. In the civilian world, vital communication and feedback can often take a more circular form, which will require you to both be aware of it, and the proper way of intercepting it and realigning your office culture to greater transparency.
  • Clear expectations:

    • In the military your objectives are rarely muddy; rarely exist in shades of nebulous grey.

military to private

It’s thanks to the complexity of your experience that gives you a more complete ability, rather than in spite of it – as is a common misconception. Utilize your best efforts. Step out of the box when examining your skills and experience – apply them to different sets of challenges. Using our tips, you can begin to work your skill set into a truly transferable range.

By Fred Coon, CEO

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