Market Watch reports that “38 of the top 50 industries employ veterans at lower rates than they do non-veterans” and that for veterans to do a better job at finding their passion and focus in the career world, they must focus on bridging the “civilian-military divide.”

The civilian-military divide is alive and well and fully understanding it can be the difference between whether or not a veteran receives fair consideration in the workforce. To be brief, the civilian-military divide refers to the reality that the veteran experience is not always fully understood by non-veterans and to be specific, by interviewers. 

Not only does the civilian-military divide exist because the interviewer didn’t walk in the veteran’s shoes but also because the ranks and titles and jobs within the military aren’t as familiar as those found on non-veteran resumes. The interviewer may simply not be aware of the skills required and obtained for each of the different positions and experiences within the military. So the civilian-military divide is not malicious or intentional. It exists because of the lack of knowledge and awareness between what a veteran puts on a resume and what an interviewer reading that resume understands and assumes.

Translating Veteran Experiences on a Resume

In an article entitled Many veterans aren’t employed to their full potential- how to translate your military experience to the civilian workforce the following example is given for how a veteran could translate a military experience onto a resume for a civilian job in an applicable way: A former infantry officer applying to lead a manufacturing team might, for example, highlight his or her experience being responsible for direct reports and interacting with maintenance personnel: “While I can’t give you an example of where I did this in a manufacturing environment… I can give you an example of where I did this with 15 of my soldiers in Afghanistan.”

Veterans know best their own experience, but they don’t always know how to translate what they did and what they know onto a resume in a way that is applicable to the job. Not only do veterans need to learn how to translate their military experience in the civilian workforce, but employers need to work hard to better ensure they’re acknowledging the civilian-military divide by asking clarification questions and pushing themselves to better understand the experience and potential of their veteran applicants, especially when their resume may not look as similar and familiar as their fellow non-veteran job applicants.

As you may expect, certain career fields like defense and space, airlines and aviation, government administration, and utilities hire veterans more often than industries like apparel and fashion, marketing and advertising, entertainment, and restaurants. As veterans find themselves more and more likely to be hired in certain sectors of the workforce, those sectors become more and more accustomed to veteran resumes and aware of the skills developed within certain military positions and experiences whereas other sectors of the workforce continue to feel the negative effects of the military-civilian divide.

Don’t miss out on a perfect fit

At the end of the day, every company wants the best person for the job. Employers who don’t push themselves to understand the positions and experiences listed on a veteran’s resume risk overlooking an extremely qualified employee and on the flip side, veterans who don’t push themselves to articulate how their positions and experiences in the military translate into the civilian workforce risk missing out on jobs that best suit their skills and passion. 

The civilian-military divide can be conquered but not until all parties, veterans and non-veterans, recognize it exists.

Author: Evelyn Lindell