As today is Veteran’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on the many benefits I gained in the form of skills I learned while serving in the military.
Beyond the degree, the people I met, situations I found myself in, problems I was forced to face and solve, and crises my colleagues and I responded to, helped me build many critical skills that have served me well in my business and personal life.
I’ll bet there are military veterans applying for positions in your organization who bring to the table many of these critical skills and will dedicate themselves to serving you with them. Be sure to give them extra consideration in your hiring process and avoid falling victim to the stereotypes that prevail, but haven’t been proven across the board.
Leadership- although I don’t currently lead a work team, I like to think I use my leadership skills to encourage others to do their best through my speaking and training programs. I also try to apply my leadership skills to my volunteer work and interactions with my professional groups. I was led by great leaders, like Leslie Fraze, who is pictured with me above, and many others who I still look to today as trusted friends and advisors.
Teamwork- if you don’t learn anything else in the military, you’ll learn to work as a team member or you won’t last long (literally and figuratively).
Problem solving- the military taught me to quickly assess a problem and formulate viable solutions, and the ability to communicate not only my plan, but to discuss problems openly and honestly with others to work with them toward solutions.
Conflict resolution- whether it was conflict with another team, or between individuals, I learned the value of addressing conflict directly, respectfully, and in a timely fashion, before it becomes a big issue. I also learned to let things go and move forward, not to get stuck in the conflict or problem.
Planning- the Air Force had a plan, policy, and procedure for just about every situation you could imagine. If you faced something for which there wasn’t a plan, you were expected to create and execute one that would achieve your goal.
Flexibility- in the military, I dealt with everything from media inquires about troop deployments to rabid bats found on base. I worked deployments during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The day before my master’s degree comprehensive exam, I was called away from my study group to respond to the plane crash of United Flight 585. I was at the crash scene for several hours and got up the next morning and took (and thankfully passed) my test. Nothing puts an “important” test into perspective than a plane crash where there are no survivors.
Productivity- this is one of my favorite words, in fact, one of my favorite questions to ask is, “Couldn’t you be doing something more productive with your time?” I ask that so much, that my daughter actually wrote one of her college application essays on the subject. In my public affairs office, there was always something to be done. If you didn’t have something to do or were done for the day, you didn’t leave the office before asking every other person if there was something you could do to help them.
Customer service- working daily to understand and meet the needs of my colleagues, the public, and the news media helped me learn to listen well, problem solve, and work hard to come up with solutions that met everyone’s needs.
Written communication- one of my jobs while in the Air Force was to write news releases and articles for our base newspaper. It taught me the power of words, the importance of being succinct, and to tailor my writing to my audience. To this day, I can’t write an email or a text without looking at each word and wondering what the impact of that word will be on the receiver and on the receiver’s perception of me.
Public speaking– I save this skill for last because prior to entering the Air Force, I avoided all opportunities to speak in public. In fact, beyond my Air Force training and experience, I have never taken a public speaking course. However, last year, I celebrated my 20th year in business as a professional speaker and trainer.
These are not the only skills I learned in the military, but they’re some of the ones that have most helped me achieve my goals and dreams in life. What about you? If you’re a vet, what would you add to this list?
Finally, a sincere and heartfelt thank you to all veterans, and a special thanks to those with whom I had the privilege to serve.