Translating your transferable skills

Your time in the military has equipped you with numerous skills that are extremely valuable on civvy street. It can be hard to know how to market yourself to employers, but there’s support out there to help you find a career you’ll excel in.

Identifying the strengths that you’ve picked up in the Armed Forces is the first step in creating a civilian CV. Employers want to know why they should hire you, but know, you bring a wealth of experience: your time in the military has provided you with a plethora of skills that are highly sought after in the workplace.

RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity, offer employment support to veterans, regardless of rank, length of service and time since leaving. They aim to provide support that enables veterans to find long-term, sustainable employment.

“One thing that comes across really strongly in veterans is a strong work ethic,” explains Kevin Grist, an employment advisor at RFEA.

“A lot of ex-military personnel, no matter what type of work they do, they want to get it done to the best of their ability. When it comes to civvy street, that’s highly sought after.

“Every service leaver is different, but at the core you have these people who are very determined, very strong-willed, and willing to go that extra mile”


Many of the traits you’ve acquired in the military are in high demand in roles across a wide range of employment sectors.

Teamwork, for example, is valued and respected in all professions. If you can work cohesively as part of a team of people, listen to ideas and help your colleagues reach their goals, you’re already a step ahead of many jobseekers.

Mark Brown joined the Navy aged 18 as a Writer. Upon leaving, he found work in the prison service, and has since undertaken various different roles, from postman, to support worker for a local housing association.

“Being in the Forces makes you worldly-wise, because you see things that open your eyes to different countries, different cultures,” says Mark.

“It instils empathy, self-discipline, reliability and punctuality. You pick up determination, being organised, and the skills to deal with people from all walks of life. What I took away is that you’re representing something.

“I understand why some companies want to employ veterans, because they’re getting trustworthy, self-motivated people they can rely on.”


One thing you’re taught in the Armed Forces is to shoulder responsibility, and own your mistakes, instead of passing blame onto a colleague. This is a key strength in the military, on civvy street, and in the workplace, which is sure to earn the respect of your peers, superiors and staff.

To say you’re well equipped to work under pressure, in stressful situations, might be an understatement.

The discipline you learned in the Forces will translate well, and enable you to handle challenges in the workplace that others may not be able to cope with. Other valuable assets include leadership, communication and problem-solving skills.

Once you’ve identified the skills you’ve gained in the Forces, it’s important to investigate how they translate into civvy roles. Your drive, passion, discipline and teamwork skills will make you a highly attractive candidate: the trick is knowing how to market these skills to employers.


Peter Dobson served in the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for four and a half years, joining at 19.


“I was aware of transferable skills, but I didn’t realise how hard it would be to translate military skills into the ones asked for in job applications,” explains Peter. “I’ve become a lot more confident in relating my military skills into civilian ones.”

It’s also important to understand that many people working in recruitment have little, if any, military experience, therefore it’s vital to translate any military jargon, to help recruiters understand how your experience is relevant to them.

The Career Transition Partnership (CTP), run by the Ministry of Defence, advises that if you were a field artillery battalion operations officer, you could change this to operations manager; or intelligence officer could become research and analysis manager.

You can then demonstrate the skills you developed in this role, and expand on the military background at the interview stage.

Vice versa, it’s important that you feel you can approach an organisation to ask if they can translate their industry jargon into terms you can understand, too.

“It’s about being able to help veterans realise where they’d fit and how their skills transfer,” explains Annette Berry, also a RFEA employment advisor. “Sometimes it’s about translating their skills and recognising that they’ve done this type of thing before, and enabling them to talk about their skills and translate them into a way they understand.”

Sometimes, the best thing to do is just sit down and write out a list of things you know you’re good at and aspects of yourself that you’re proud of.

“I think one of the biggest skills I gained from the Forces is being resilient,” enthuses Peter. “Keeping calm under pressure is another big one.

“It’s a skill I use when dealing with customer complaints, and trying to meet strict deadlines. The Forces have given me the ability to learn new things. The skill of learning is sometimes overlooked, but I believe it’s something all leavers should sell when applying for jobs or sitting interviews.”

Knowing that your existing skills and experiences transfer well into civvy street is a comforting way to start the job hunt. But, it’s perfectly normal to take some time to weigh up your career options, just know there is plenty of support available.

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