How to Show Off Your ‘Soft Skills’

How to Show Off Your ‘Soft Skills’
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Professional certifications. Industry experience. A proven track record with relevant systems and technology. If you’ve done your due diligence when compiling your résumé – and if you haven’t, head here right away – these qualifications should be front and center for prospective employers.


But those employers (and the hiring managers they utilize) are after more than just the standard qualifications. They also want so-called “soft skills” – the abilities an employee will bring to a team that span sectors and aren’t as easy to sum up in a technical certification.


Many servicemembers and veterans may not realize they’ve accrued these abilities during their time in uniform. And those who do may have trouble passing that information along via résumés and other application materials, where it may be buried by industry-specific items.


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So, how do you use soft skills as another way to set yourself apart from other applicants? Try these four tips:


1. Make Sense of Your Service

Before you can share your skills, you need to recognize them. This easy-to-digest chart from the RAND Corp. may be tailored to enlisted personnel, but it’s a reminder that your military training will translate into meaningful private-sector skills.


This 2020 article goes into further detail on the types of soft skills you’ve acquired through service, from the obvious (leadership, teamwork) to the not-so-obvious (problem-solving, organizational). Be ready to deploy your full skill set in your next application or at the big interview.


2. Consider Connections

While you may learn soft skills during training, you honed and displayed them during service – and those examples can make you a sought-after candidate.


Think about milestone moments in your career and how they likely involved soft skills of value to the civilian sector. Did you:

  • Serve in a leadership role in a hazardous situation? An example of this given in an interview setting will trump any competitors who’ve completed a stress-management course.
  • Brief a high-ranking officer, host a q-and-a at a training seminar, or preside over a ceremony? You’ve got public speaking and communications bona fides to brag about.
  • Build a team or project from the ground up, or right a struggling ship after a command change? Mine these experiences for examples of communication, problem-solving, team-building, and countless other soft skills.


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3. Remember to Reword

As with other qualifications, ensure the examples above will make sense to a civilian recruiter or employer. Even terms that may seem basic to servicemembers – rank structure, unit sizes, etc. – could turn a compelling story into a confusing one.


And don’t forget: Even with soft skills, it’s critical to shape the messaging toward the needs and preferences of your potential employer. Different businesses will value different skills and accomplishments, and you’ll need to do your research into a company’s culture to be sure you’re hitting on the right points.


4. Get More From MOAA

Still stumped on making your soft skills work for you? Along with the resources at MOAA’s Transition and Career center, Premium and Life members can take advantage of a one-hour, 1-on-1 career consulting session, as well as our Private-Sector Résumé Review.


And keep an eye out for upcoming events featuring MOAA experts and guests who can provide greater insight into your job search.


Download Marketing Yourself for a Second Career


Newly updated! Learn what you can do to prepare yourself for a successful transition from military career to civilian career. This handbook shows you how to create an attention-getting resume, cover letter, and more. Get tips on self-marketing, job search, interviews, and interviewing. (Available to Premium and Life members)

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About the Author

Kevin Lilley
Kevin Lilley

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and Follow him on X: @KRLilley