To get far in any career field, you need to be an effective communicator. I’m not talking about livening up your presentations to keep your colleagues from boredom. Effective communicators are valuable employees who have a trustworthy image, work well with team members, and excel at given tasks.
As a veteran seeking employment, you’re already an effective communicator because of your military training. However, as you go in for interviews with potential employers, you’ll find the civilian style of communication differs from military communication. To help you make the adjustment to the workforce, this article demonstrates how to successfully translate your communication skills to a civilian work environment. With a few tweaks to your current skill set, you’ll be a highly competitive job candidate!
What to Expect from Civilian Employers:
First, you need to know how civilians communicate to accomplish a task. This list highlights some of the key changes in communication style you can expect at your new job.
1. Who You Communicate With
Military members are accustomed to a chain of command where orders are delivered in a top-down fashion, but a company’s structure is less rigid than the military. When working on a project, you may need to seek input from a team of co-workers and receive approval from multiple supervisors. Expect to collaborate with a lot of people who fulfill a variety of roles in the company.
In the military, you were expected to follow an order as soon as it was given. Failing to do so could be the difference between life and death. While every company believes their work is important, civilian organizations lack the military’s sense of urgency. It may take weeks, or months, to finish a project. When starting your new job, be patient!
Military personnel use a formal, directive style of communication. As this VA Handout explains, a directive form of communication minimizes confusion and allows for a quicker completion of the mission. You should expect a much more relaxed and informal work environment from a civilian employer.
Now, it’s time to think about how you’ll communicate at work. Here are some tips on how to use your communication skills to be a valuable addition to any company.
1. Stay on Point
Today, managers are often over-worked, understaffed, and don’t have a lot of extra time. They appreciate employees who can communicate their message quickly. When you served in the military, you learned to be concise, but you can always take steps to improve your game. For example, plan out what you’re going to say to your boss ahead of time. This will help you decide what details are necessary to include and which can go.
Countless career advisors agree that listening to others at work is just as important as developing effective speaking skills. According to this Monster.com article, employers want to hire candidates who are good listeners because they connect with customers, and follow directions, which reduces the risk of costly mistakes. If you served in the military, you developed excellent listening skills because following orders was crucial to completing your missions. In his Monster.com article, Michael Purdy explains that good listeners also ask relevant follow-up questions, refrain from interrupting the speaker, and demonstrate interest in the speaker.
3. Positive Attitude
Effective communicators are agreeable people who are always courteous to their co-workers. Even when they disagree with a peer or their boss, they understand others have different views and opinions. Most likely you followed orders in the military that you didn’t like, but implemented anyway. However, staying positive when you disagree with someone at work is another challenge. This Forbes article recommends that you refrain from being critical, and show you’re open to different ideas. Also, ask open-ended questions. This will prompt your boss or co-worker to re-evaluate their position and could even clarify a misinterpretation of information.
4. Master All Channels of Communication
Today, more people communicate via mobile phone, email, and social media, so it’s important to have good written communication skills. According to Joe Schembri in his Military.com article, many veterans have received high-level technical training and have excellent written and professional communication skills. However, even the most high-level executive can make a grammatical mistake in an email. When you send emails or correspond with clients, be sure to take the extra time and read over your message before you send it.
Adjusting to civilian employment is a process. Remember to be patient with yourself and follow these tips! Your boss will take notice of your excellent skills and feel confident in your ability to communicate with others.