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Learn to Speak “Civilian”

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter speaks to those men and women separating from the military and encourages them to communicate in as way that the civilian workforce understands.



I want to speak with those of you who are separating from the military and have a direct conversation with you about looking for work in the civilian sector.

1st of all, thank you for serving.  I appreciate the sacrifices that you’ve made.

Getting a job in civilian life is different than serving in the military.  In the military, you are an environment where people learn very quickly the importance of commitment, the importance of determination and the importance of your word having meaning.  In civilian life, it is a little bit different.  Plus, in all candor, I must say, the language of the civilian is different than that of the military.

I did an interview. Recently for “Job Search Radio” who is in HR professional for a university in North Carolina.  I read her bio and she is someone who established the PX in Iraq and when all is said and done, she said, “I listened to my bio (I use the military want more than her civilian one). I appreciate how different the languages in the military versus civilian life.”

I’m going to make a suggestion to you that I think will help you a lot.  Learn to speak civilian.  It is a different language to you.  There is a behavior that is different than in military life.

You don’t need to say, “Yes, sir,” or “No, ma’am.”  The word, “ma’am,” can be offensive to some women in civilian life.

There are other behaviors that are different.  5 minutes late in civilian life isn’t considered a big deal.  5 minutes late in the military can be the difference between life and death.  I get it.

When you are interviewing, you need to talk civilian.  You get there on time or early.  As my guest said, get there 15 minutes early in case you need to complete an application.

When all is said and done, learn to speak civilian.  You don’t need to say, “Yes sir,” or “No ma’am,” very often. Yes, I do appreciate the courtesy that is been extended by saying these things.  In civilian life, it is confusing to them.  It is not readily accepted.  At least, in the US, what often happens is that you are saying as being “odd.”  You don’t want to be seen that way because odd is usually dismissed.

You want to emphasize your leadership qualities and experience, no matter what rate you held.  After all, no matter where you are in the military, there qualities of leadership that you learn to display that you may be taking for granted, but you can express in an interview.  You can do it in ways that the civilian population can understand.

That extends to your resume as well.  Clearly, in an interview that is the most obvious place.

Do you think employers are trying to help you?

You already know you can’t trust recruiters—they tell you as much as they think you need to know to take the job they after representing so they collect their payday.

The skills needed to find a job are different yet complement the skills needed to do a job.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter has been a career coach and recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. changes that with great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

You can order a copy of “Diagnosing Your Job Search Problems” for Kindle for $.99 and receive free Kindle versions of “No BS Resume Advice” and “Interview Preparation.”

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