It is common for people to ponder if many of the things they learned while in the military relate to getting a job after they are out.  And in many cases, the specialized “hard” skills directly related to a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) may not apply to their civilian career. But many of the so-called “soft” skills do apply and in fact give them an advantage.

After all, each military branch is just a very big corporation in itself. So if the military spends the time and money to develop these skills in their people, you can rest assured employers across the gamut of industries and businesses are looking for these same skills when hiring. A sampling of five top soft skills we are talking about are:

  • Leadership
  • Organization
  • Management
  • Communication
  • Team Building


While in basic training, most of us are initially taught how to follow or be led. However after a few weeks, we are rotated through leadership roles within the basic training unit – our first test at leadership. Once back in our duty station, the leadership, experience and training (along with responsibility) continues to increase as we work up through the ranks. This same thing happens in business; as employees progress up in position, so do their leadership demands and responsibilities increase also.


Servicemembers learn how to organize everything within their span of control. In the beginning that might only be the gear issued to you, but as you progress up through the ranks, your span of control increases as does the amount of material and people under your control. This same thing happens in business; they also look for leaders that excel at keeping track of equipment and people.


Both in the military and business, resources (people, equipment, raw material and inventory) must be managed properly to obtain maximum efficiency and accountability from the dollars spent. As a military leader, not only must you account for your people all the time, but you may be responsible for millions of dollars of equipment or information of which some could be sensitive or classified. Falling into the wrong hands, that information could jeopardize our national security.

In the military we learn how to properly manage and account for these sensitive and often classified resources. Business also has sensitive issues that must be managed to prevent them from falling into the hands of the competition. These proprietary items are specific to that company and could be fair game for other companies to copy or reverse engineer if they somehow got access to them.


As military leaders, we needed to express ourselves well, both when speaking and writing. From directing a team on a mission, to teaching them a new task, to writing a report … being able to communicate effectively was vital to mission success. However, a big part of being a good communicator is also being a good listener. We must understand what our leadership wants us to accomplish and then be able to convey that information accurately to our people. In combat, the lives of our team members may depend on that clarity and exactness of instructions. These same communication skills play a big part in the civilian world of business when addressing both up and down the chain of command.

Team Building

Part of your training as a military leader was learning how to bring a select group of people from many diverse cultures, religions, beliefs and backgrounds … and get them up to speed as quickly as possible so they could work effectively and efficiently together as a team with a minimum amount of conflict. The military gave us the team building/leading tools so that we could accomplish this with our team and make them into something greater than the individual team members themselves. Business uses the same synergistic techniques in the building of their teams with the same eye on efficiently and effectiveness.

So back to the original pondering of what do many of the things we learned while in the military relate to getting a job after we are out?  For one, it means you have a “leg up” over the new college graduate with no leadership experience applying for the same job.

While s/he may have just graduated with the latest skills and education in that line of business, you have the experience at leading people – a skill businesses know will take a new graduate years to learn with an additional cost of money and time before that person has the same leadership skills as you have coming into the job. If applying for a leadership job and with a tick mark in that box, suddenly you are the one in consideration to become the instant manager of a section or a work group with little to no train-up time or expense to the company. Given these conditions, who do you think has a better edge for the job?

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.