Job-Seeking Vets Should Highlight Problem-Solving Skills

Two Marines with Black Sea Rotational Force 14 from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, reach the peak of a cliff with two Romanian soldiers of the 17th Mountain Troop Bn. during Exercise Platinum Lynx in the Carpathian Mountains. (Photo by Scot Whiting)

When applying for a job or promotion, it’s easy to default to promoting what you do -- increase revenues, build teams, manage complex problems or supervise logistics.

But your value as an employee, team member or leader isn’t only what you do, but the benefits derived from that work and service. Consider, instead, the problems you solve and those who care about that solution.

What Problem Do You Solve?

To say you are a military veteran and know how to solve problems is a great understatement. Your entire time in uniform was spent navigating solutions to complex challenges.

As you transition, step back from the “what” of your service and focus on the “how” and “why”? For instance, were you tasked with leading troops through dangerous landscapes? What problem did that work solve?

In this example, you would have been responsible for managing their physical, emotional and psychological well-being by safely moving them from one geographic location to another. The problem you solved, then, was to ensure the safety of your troops in completing high-stakes, complex missions.

Who Cares About That Solution?

Using the example above, the troops you are responsible for obviously would care about your ability to lead them to safety. But who else? Would the leaders directing the mission be vested in the outcome? What about the families of those military service members you were responsible for? I’m sure they cared that you did your job well.

What Is the Benefit They Derive?

Driving the mission and solving the challenge you were tasked with creates many benefits. For instance, you are advancing a larger initiative and mission. You are ensuring that the men and women you lead can continue their military service in a meaningful way. In other words, the benefit of your ability to solve that problem is more than just the impact to the direct troops.


Now consider how you can “translate” this solution to a civilian narrative. In this example, you could share how your ability to work well under pressure -- and enlist the support and endorsement of those who need to follow you -- created the opportunity for the bigger mission to be completed. The benefit of the greater mission is that lives are saved and stability is introduced to an unstable community.

When you can confidently and clearly articulate the problem you were tasked to solve, who cared about that problem and the direct benefits to solving that problem, you can relate your military experience to a civilian narrative. Odds are fairly low that you will be asked to help your co-workers navigate treacherous landscape in the corporate world (literally), but you may be called upon to influence and inspire them to challenge the norms and be innovative.

Draw the parallels between the two problems to be solved, and your experience, to get the attention of employers.

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