What are soft skills? Why do I hear about them so much? Are they really that important when it comes to landing a job after you transition out of the military?

We all know that some jobs require hard skills and often certifications to prove you have those skills (try flying a plane without a pilot’s license). Veterans often have both types but do not understand soft skills and how important they are.

Some of the most commonly identified soft skills are: teamwork, communication, dependability, organization, open-mindedness, willingness to learn, and leading diverse teams. These are skills that most service members master. We rarely do anything that does not require working in teams, very diverse teams for that matter. You must be able to communicate up and down the chain of command in the service. Think, for example, about the 19 year old Airmen on the flight line who is doing a walk around with the CO as he is getting ready to fly. Looks a lot like the intern in the mailroom chatting with the CEO about the multi-million dollar machine he is getting ready to use. This happens hundreds of times a day around the services. As you move up in pay grade these skills are essential.

The reason you hear about soft skills so much is because they are things that are not easily taught on a college campus, but are an integral part of everyday life in and out of the uniform. The first place these skills will surface is during the interview process. Did the candidate show up on time? Check. Are they dressed appropriately? Check. Did they communicate well during interviews? Check. Was their resume organized? Check. Am I knocking off all the soft skill traits, Check-mate…

So let’s take a look at the hard and soft skills.

Hard skills and soft skills:

So, you’re ready to start the arduous process of looking for a career. In most job descriptions, employers will expect to see a combination of hard and soft skills. But what exactly are these skills, and what are the differences? 

When thinking about hard skills, you want to think about practical knowledge or specific training pieces that you’ve accomplished. Soft skills, on the other hand, are your unique traits and strengths used to complete the mission (job to all my civilian friends).

As soft skills are related to your traits, we’re thinking about your personality and specific characteristics that you develop through life. Hard skills are the skills you gathered through pieces of training or education. Both skills are equally essential but the key is as a military member many of us do not recognize our soft skill or their value.

Hard skills 

As mentioned before, hard skills are the skills you gained through an outside source. Every job opportunity will require a set of specific skills and knowledge related to their field. For instance, if you desire to work as an engineer, you will most likely need to understand and apply computer science. It’s important to mention that some workplaces may offer training on specific techniques they required of you. Some companies that SkillMil works with believe that you hire character and train skills.

Overall, these are specific hard skills that are high in demand: Know two or more languages, statistical analysis, database management, mechanics, programming languages, adobe software suite, machinist, SEO/SEM marketing, network security, data mining, mobile development, marketing campaign management, storage systems and management, and user interface design.

Soft skills

When thinking about soft skills, think about how you communicate with others. How are your habits in the workplace? Do you prefer to work as part of a team or alone? How are you as a leader? 

These are all personality traits that define who you are and represent what employers are looking for. Soft skills are essential as they are the tools that will help you interview, land the job, and succeed in your new position. While hard skills are necessary to perform a specific job, soft skills will dictate how the work environment develops and how well you relate to your coworkers. Many employers may look for these skills over hard skills, or maybe your leadership skills will make you the chosen candidate between you and the other two people with the same knowledge (i.e., hard skills).  

Some examples of soft skills are effective communication, teamwork, problem-solving, organization skills, a disposition to learn, empathy, creativity, motivation to improve, open-mindedness, critical thinking, adaptability, work under stress, and integrity.  

Put it to practice: Resume and interview process

Both hard skills and soft skills need to be part of your “presentation card” when looking for jobs. Now, remember, the first thing employers see of you is your resume, so make sure to include your skills. You could have a specific skills section where you could bullet point the abilities relevant to your applying position. That said, it’s essential to do a little research on the place you’re sending your resume to understand what exactly they’re looking for. Some of the companies we use at www.skillmil.com will use your profile only and won’t require a resume so include all of your skills when building your profile.

Hard skills may be easier to demonstrate on the resume and in your SkillMil profile as they could be under education, special training, certificates, etc. But you could also give short descriptions under job positions or training experience where you talk about your soft skills—for instance, talking about your ability to work on a team and under stress when you did a specific training or mission.

Well you made it to the interview process (congratulations!). Here is when you have the opportunity to demonstrate your soft skills and go in-depth about your hard skills. Regarding soft skills, show up on time, speak clearly and make sure to answer the questions, maintain eye contact, look confident, ask follow-up questions, and be honest (do not lie about your experiences or yourself).

For hard skills, make sure to elaborate on your experience and training, answer the technical questions, and provide a physical portfolio. A good practice to show both hard and soft skills is to talk about your past experiences that relate to the job requirements. Start the story by describing the experience, what was expected from you, what you do (specific actions), and explaining the outcomes and what you achieved from the task.   

Remember, be honest about your skills, do not make up abilities or experience, but do not be shy! Show and demonstrate what you have to offer. Be proud of your accomplishment and experiences (hard skills) and show how good you are at working with others or as a leader and how organized you are with your work. Any trait about yourself that you believe could benefit the work environment, use it, demonstrate it, and be confident! 

Is remote work the new normal and can you do it?  We are in unprecedented times right now with hundreds of thousands of employees now working from home.  The pandemic has accelerated what some in corporate/private sector have been predicting for years.  Many companies have used various excuses over the years stop this from happening.

Think about the expensive office spaces companies own or rent.  What happens when they no longer need all that space?  I’m sure the commercial real estate market is going to suffer significantly.  What about the travel accounts, the fine dining, and all the other employee perks that come with in-person work and travel?  What about the social aspect of very little face to face or none at all?

There seems to be more questions than answers at this point but one thing is for certain, people are far more productive than anticipated.  Now that employees have been forced to work from home many employers are struggling with a real reason to bring them back.  You can find a ton of research that shows lower attrition rate, less time off work, lower stress levels, and an increase in productivity. There are even environmental benefits due to decreased travel and tax breaks for having a home office.

The ugly side of this research also shows knowledge based and executive employees seem to be moving ahead and making the same or more money in the new economy while skilled employees are lagging behind.  As manufacturing jobs continue to come back to the United States and the pandemic slows, this gap will close.  As technology continues to dominate all aspects of our lives, employees who can not navigate smart phones, computers, and electronics will be left behind no matter their job.

Will the Military adapt?

Think about all the money we waste in government on facilities and travel.  What if our service men and women could work from home?  I know what many will say:

What about good order and discipline? 

What about team work? 

How can they maintain their professionalism and military bearing? 

All great questions but if you look around at the current environment many service members are working from home and having less problems than when they were at their work space.  This only happens with strong work from the Senior Enlisted community.  

I’m not talking about the military taking teams who are training for missions or on ships and allowing them to work from home.  The military has a ton of jobs that do not require someone to put on a uniform and report to work. I’ve even seen a few articles about the Pentagon looking to make many of the employees work from home.  Before the pandemic they argued that the security risks could not be overcome.  Turns out, not only did they figure out the security issues but it may be more of a threat for all of our top leadership to be in the same place for obvious reasons.

There are some major areas we need to study.  I have talked to several people and they state some of the biggest worries are suicide rates, day drinking, and more domestic issues. 

These are not military issues alone.  Any person who works from home must have self-discipline, a stable environment, and good mental health.  We have many civilian employees who work with our military to support the mission and we need to consider all of our team members when making the decision to shift to more at home work.

In my opinion there is no turning back the clock. Working from home is here to stay so we need to embrace it and learn from our mistakes as we move forward. Myself and my wife work from home and it has been amazing. She is watching me type...........somebody help me.............Ha.

Veterans and Spouses: Please visit www.skillmil.com today and fill out your profile if your looking for employment.

Veteran Friendly Employers: If you are looking to hire Veterans and thier spouses visit us today and schedule a demo.

Serving our Veterans here at SkillMil I have noticed a few things about Veteran resumés.  They are usually too long, full of military jargoon civilians DO NOT understand, and poorly written. 

With the resumé being such an important part of the transition piece, I ask myself why have the military has not done a better job helping our Veterans understand them. I know I had a long checkout sheet at every command and especially at my last one. Most of these people had zero value.  Not as human beings but no value to my transition.  We all know check out sheets are just an administrative burden and not designed to help any of us. 

My question:  How are we letting service members transfer to the civilian life without a good working resumé?

There are tons of great resources out there that do help our Veterans. Hire our Heroes is one of the best I have seen so far and we work with them often.  Has the DoD really kicked the ball to the civilian sector to get this done?  Part of your graduation from TGPS/TAP/whatever they are calling it these days should a great general resumé and an understanding on how to customize this to each specific job.  They are making strides at the VA, the Transition Centers, and partnerships with the Department of Labor but we are just not there yet.  Either hire the resources to be part of the transition process or bring in the resources that exist in the civilian sector as part of transition. 

No resumé, No transfer package?  I know this is not feasible but I also know the military needs to do a better job.  I will say that some of the fault indeed belongs to the service member.  Even if the command fails to help, there are numerous free resources.

The bottom line is if you decide to transition out and have not gotten the help you need then ultimately it is your fault. 

Example of typical military evaluation

- Lead team of thirty Sailors in the execution of all maritime flight operations for an average of forty sorties a day in the Middle East supporting operations OND and OEF.  Flight deck watchbill coordinator during deployment.  Squadron received a coveted safety award post-deployment.

Example of typical military resumé

-Supervised thirty subordinates in the day to day operations of aircraft carrier operations while at sea.  No casualties experienced during deployment. (Bad resume)

Examples of what “could be”

- Front line supervisor for thirty personnel in a high stress and complex environment.  Planned, supervised, and executed aircraft recovery and launch with minimal rest hours and maximum efficiency for 3 shifts covering 24 hours a day over a 7 month period.


Words Matter-Some management examples are General Manager, Manager, Supervisor, Senior Manager, and Project Manager.  Additionally, each industry has its own language and job titles.  Know your role and write your resumé to fit the responsibilities of that role.

With the above you could include budget constraints, actual costs of parts, fly times, safety records, and a list of other things that you actually did.  Remember, most civilian employers do not understand our military jobs so be specific and relate it to the civilian world.  It is important to highlight your personal involvement and the outcome produced.

There is no secret to making your resumé perfect but you should make it easy to understand and relatable to the job you are applying for.

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