It’s a common practice for transitioning service members to complete some kind of career planning classes before leaving active duty. These courses aim to provide soon-to-be veterans with the skills and attitude they are going to need to find employment in the civilian sector. While the instructors likely mean well in these courses, they often do more damage than good by drilling into service members that their MOS should be the first stepping-off point for finding work in the civilian sector. Without intending to, much of the message that transitioning service members should receive becomes lost in the pathos of everything else these instructors think might be helpful.
Experts from across a variety of industries have routinely addressed the disconnect between the demand for effective and quality work and the supply of veteran talent as a matter of hiring managers simply not understanding the skill sets that veterans possess. This issue here is twofold.
If a veteran simply relies on a military service translation algorithm, then s/he is going to be at a significant disadvantage for trusting in software to adequately translate his/her job in the military for the civilian world. The results are either painfully obvious or incredibly limiting. Examples of this are all over the place – ie an Army truck driver is qualified to drive civilian trucks. Most often, transitioning service members will likely feel limited with these options, rather than invigorated and expanded.
Instead of spending inordinate amounts of time focused on the superficial terminology of a resume or becoming increasingly restricted in what a veteran thinks s/he is qualified to do, a better approach is to treat a MOS like a college major.
If a MOS sector is directly related to a civilian job that you want to continue doing after transitioning, then use it to demonstrate your skills, qualifications, and experiences. If you were a med tech in service, then explain that in your resume to find a job in the same field.
But for those who serve in combat arms, an MOS is not going to be directly relatable to civilian work. However, instead of becoming discouraged, consider this an opportunity to highlight the intangible characteristics that you’ve honed during your time in service instead of specific job skills. For example, there’s not a lot of demand for computing artillery firing data in the civilian world, but an Army Field Artilleryman should have no issues communicating to a hiring manager that s/he is able to work with numbers on a team with very tight deadlines and tremendous amounts of pressure.
Military experience is in high demand in the civilian world. Your mission is to find a way to make your skills, approachable and easily understood by the civilian sector. Who you are is far more important than what you were classified to do in the military. Knowing how your military experience will be valuable in the civilian market on a conceptual level is likely going to get your farther than consistently returning the literal aspects of your MOS. It’s the same as a person who has a liberal arts degree and thinks s/he is only qualified to teach. Viewed abstractly, countless job markets would be open to someone with that kind of education. As a transitioning service member, you’re in the same position. Concentrate on communicating those benefits rather than apologizing for the fact that you might not fit into some predefined job skill set framework. Most importantly, have confidence in who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing.