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Leveraging Secondary Duties and Unique Skills Gained from the Canadian Armed Forces

Canadian Military to Civilian Career Transition Tips

My last blog post covered how to pinpoint transferable generalized skills from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to the civilian work sector. Here, I’ll share some specific strategies that can build value as you embark on your career transition.

It’s true that the transition can be more challenging for some trades more than others. For example, Resource Management Clerks, Supply Technicians, Aerospace Control Officers and Pilots can generally shift over to the corporate workforce if they wish to remain in their same field.

If you happen to be in a trade that does not transition so easily to the civilian work world (i.e. Infantry or Weapons Tech), or you want to do something completely different than what you’re currently doing in the military, some tactical maneuvers must be taken.

There’s nothing wrong with mentioning you served in the Army by training for and responding to enemy activity or that you honed the ability to operate in any conditions with limited resources. You may even indicate that you operate, inspect and maintain a wide range of sophisticated devices and equipment for communications, navigation, night-vision surveillance, safety and when needed – combat. But there is no need to go into further details. Focus on some of the other things that you may have done.

I always encourage candidates to create value by making it easy for others to understand the unexpected skills they offer. Do this by leveraging your secondary duties. Sample secondary duties could include if you were on a social committee; participated in “Family Fun Day” activities; ran the section canteen; were a Fire Warden; served as the Unit Safety Rep; coordinated sports days; volunteered with the Junior Ranks / Senior NCO / Officers Mess; headed fundraisers for a local not-for-profit; or helped organize an air show with thousands of attendees. These prove your ability to perform duties that fall outside of your typical work day such as special event coordination, public relations, or financial management.

If you ever spoke at career fairs, public events, postsecondary recruiting drives, or Remembrance Day ceremonies, certainly share your public speaking and community engagement capabilities.

Keep all of your PERs as they can provide a reminder (and proof) of your secondary duties.

Veterans can boast that they gave VIP and VVIP tours to foreign dignitaries and diplomats, senior most government and political officials (i.e. Presidents, Prime Ministers and even royalty).

As you know, it is not all fun and games. Diplomacy and tact are critical when facing the media, answering tough questions from the public, or when in disagreement with a more senior ranking officer. Regardless if it’s internal or external communications, if you can finesse it gracefully or discreetly, then indicate this.

On a more subdued note, many of you have witnessed the human toll from natural disaster or the ravages of zones of conflict. For those of you who have attended or organized repatriation ceremonies – there is absolutely no greater need for sensitivity for others during difficult times. Living in Trenton, Ontario, I’ve stood along the “Highway of Heroes” too many times during these ceremonies. No civilian would (or probably could) trade places with you. Do not feel that you must reveal details but you can indicate that you have compassion and understanding for others during the toughest of times, while still managing to fulfill your own daily accountabilities.

Sharing all of these soft skills in an informative way helps others understand all that you have to offer, and informs them as well of the professionalism you demonstrate 24-7-365. You may think you were just doing your job and you were. You were also utilizing character traits that are needed and valued in the corporate world. Don’t underestimate what you offer. Make sure you know how to specifically market what human resource staff need to know to invite you in for an interview.

Thank you for your service.

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