By Jenny Hale, Fort Knox SFL-TAPJune 23, 2017
The military lifestyle is engrained into a Soldier from the day they arrive at basic combat training. The Army teaches its Soldiers how to become leaders, take charge and make vital decisions. These are all attributes that make Army veterans valuable to private sector companies.
However, the transition to civilian life is not easy for all and there are many aspects of military culture that are not understood in a corporate or civilian workplace setting.
In military culture, it is not uncommon to identify someone as sir, ma'am, mister, miss or by rank. However, in the private sector, using formal titles like these can make some employees uncomfortable. It's not uncommon for civilians call co-workers, regardless of title, by their first name. In addition, depending on the company culture and location, these titles can be insulting. For example, in the north, it is more common to hear young to middle-aged women say "don't call me ma'am," due to the perception that the title is reserved for the older generation.
In the private sector, coarse language is often frowned upon and can insult fellow co-workers, resulting in negative personnel action. While this may be common in military life, swearing during a disagreement or off-handily should be avoided. Understand the environment being worked in, the personality of co-workers and the culture of the organization before using certain language. It is always wise to keep all conversations professional.
Veterans have a unique language, as well as job experiences, compared to civilians. Army Soldiers speak in heavy acronyms and other jargon that civilian employees aren't able to relate to. As a result, when speaking with co-workers and writing emails, avoid using acronyms not specific to the organization as well as words like "roger," "V/r," and "break."
Email etiquette is also different. The military writes in active voice, where email copy is very direct and to the point. While this can be appreciated in business, it can also come off as being demanding, rude or bossy. These attributes may not be well-received in the civilian world, depending on the position. This makes it important to ensure that words are chosen carefully. Using "please" and "thank you" in an email is always a good idea. For new employees, it does not hurt to follow up emails with a phone call to convey inflexion to unfamiliar co-workers.
In the public sector, a veteran's rank doesn't matter. Most civilians don't understand what it means or the difference between an officer or enlisted Soldier, let alone the various ranks within each. Take off the rank when joining the workforce and work on being humble, asking questions, and understanding the culture. It is OK to be new at this and after years of military experience, it may take time to fully adapt to a civilian job.
To learn more about preparing for future careers in the private sector, visit the Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program. The program assists transitioning Soldiers, Family members, Army retirees and Department of the Army civilians with their transition career goals.
SFL-TAP Centers are located around the world and teach resume building, information about VA benefits, career skills, offer higher education application services, entrepreneurship training, as well as provide access to hiring events, opportunities to network with civilian companies looking to hire transitioning Soldiers and more.
Visit www.sfl-tap.army.mil to learn more or find us online on Facebook at Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program, on LinkedIn at Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program Connection Group, and Twitter at @SFL-TAP.