Translating Jargon to Job Skills

May 09, 2013 |


Servicemembers have an entire lexicon encoded in their day-to-day conversations. They’ve learned litanies of acronyms, jargon, and slang that are almost completely foreign to civilian ears. According to Stars and Stripes, this overlooked aspect of military culture is causing major problems in reintegrating veterans into civilian society. Any source for resume tips will tell you to use plenty of keywords, but the problem is that veterans’ are having difficulty translating what they know.

“Veterans resumes are often too wordy and don’t explain really what their skills are,” said Eric Schelling, director of talent acquisition for the company. “We see things like overseas ribbons and military certification classes and we know it’s probably impressive. But on the civilian side, we don’t really know what any of that is.”

The job application process has become a game of buzzwords, and when civilians can’t tell the difference between an NCO and a FOB, a serious gap in knowledge arises. Ray Watkins, a 24 year veteran, describes the difficulties he encountered while applying for jobs: “I’d spend hours a day on it. You learn to change ‘senior NCO’ to ‘senior manager’ or ‘senior adviser.’ You can’t even mention the TOC (tactical operations center) or an overseas base. It takes a while not just to write that, but to actually think that way.”

Another major block for veterans is the fact that applicants without college degrees are usually discounted. When HR managers see applications from veterans, they can’t figure out what anything means or why their experience is worth that of a college graduate. For any servicemember trying to break into the civilian job market, a tough fight lies ahead.

For translating your military skills into civilian equivalents, check out the Skills Translator.

About Stephen Bajza