Skills translation is a tough job in any industry. Military skills translation for transitioning vets can be even more cumbersome. Hiring managers, the ones staffing space operations teams, might approach the task of who they hire with what they know.  If a program or hiring manager representing the company is one of those space operators who never conducted operations then the company is blind to the other potential space operators out there.  How does one increase the chances of becoming the clear choice in the land of the blind?

This is one of those post-military areas where the United States Air Force (USAF) fails its veterans, unintentionally, but repeatedly.  I’ve experienced the great Transition Assistance Program (TAP) of my last base when I was transitioning to the civilian world.  They taught a lot of very good things.  The program helped with Veterans Administration paperwork, some resume writing advice, and some places to look for employment.


But what isn’t taught is how one translates all of those great skills acquired in the USAF.  There isn’t an Air Force job/skill equivalency chart.  There isn’t a pre-set network to the classified work worlds, aside from private ones, to help find that post-military career.  And there certainly isn’t anything out there yet which helps translate USAF jargon to something the civilian sector can relate to.

There are those in, and out of, the military who typically say military folks are great for civilian companies to hire.  After all, they say, these veterans are leaders, they are dependable, they have a great work ethic, and they work well in teams.  All very easy to say, but honestly, it doesn’t mean much in this very competitive job-hunting environment.  Go to any social, job-posting website and you begin to see a lot leaders.  There are definitely lots of team players out there.  Of course all have a great work ethic and are dependable.  There are no slugs in on-line profiles.

Believe it or not, some civilian job-hunters do list those “military-centric” skills, too.  Just like the “space operations” category, leadership and those other desirable military characteristics can mean very different things.  What can be done to help a space operator’s transition?  Since “leadership” and all those other descriptors of military personnel are essentially overused and useless, what will help the civilians notice a good veteran?


Identifying other skills, other relevant experiences, helps.  But there needs to be some thought put into the words used for describing them.  A non-partisan editor always helps, especially with clarity and simplification.  A spouse, partner or friend—just ask them to read the words on paper.  They can help make resumes more interesting, more readable, and maybe more relevant.

There is online help, too.  A great example of a website some may find helpful is:  This site is especially good if a person is looking to go in a different direction from their previous work. has a special veterans section.  Unfortunately there’s not much for space operators there yet, but there’s a nice key word search function to help translate what veterans did in the military to nice civilian speak.  Using this feature can help veterans to stand out, loud and clear, on resumes.

There are other sites out there, too.  They do try to make up for the military’s lack of skills translation services and provide their own take on what a particular military job skill might bring to the civilian table.  These tools can help make your military career comprehensible to the civilian employer.  Such comprehension will not guarantee an interview, but at least job-hunting military veterans and employers will be speaking the same language.

Resource Center: Military Resume Templates

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John Holst’s career path is as nonsensical and mad as the March Hare. In a series of what John thought were very trusting decisions, the United States Air Force let him babysit nuclear weapons, develop future officers, and then operate multi-billion dollar space systems. Then John re-enacted scenes from “Brazil” by joining the Missile Defense Agency, working as minutes-taker, configuration, project, mission, and test manager. When he’s not writing for, he is putting his journalism degree skills to use as The Mad Spaceball.