Having a military background has trained you in many ways for a future on the outside. We’ve already told you about the many skills that transfer with you into the civilian workplace — effective communication is one of them. Yet, no matter how trained you are in this area, speaking civilian can come with its challenges for any military Veteran.
Here are our top three tips for becoming an effective communicator among your civilian peers.
Style matters. How you say it is just as important as what you say as a communicator. Working with civilians, you have to learn to be more diplomatic with your tone. The military taught you direct, mission-focused, and maybe even slightly aggressive speak. There’s often little time or patience for ambiguity. But in the civilian workplace, it’s as much about relationship building as it is getting the task done. An overtly direct and to-the-point email may come across as cold and detached. Likewise, an “order” to get something done will not be seen as “business-as-usual” as it was in the military. In essence: friendlier is best with civilian communication.
Follow their lead. Every business is going to come with its own set of rules you must adhere to as a communicator. In the military, decisions are made from the top down. Out of necessity, there is no negotiating this type of approach. In the civilian world, it may be top-down, bottom-up, side-to-side, or everything in between. It’s important to learn these guidelines and play along. Although decisions may come at a slower pace when more voices are involved, collaboration can often lead to better outcomes — especially in the business world. This is also a great opportunity for you to get your own ideas heard.
Learn the why behind the way. It’s crucial to your success as a civilian professional to learn the ins and outs of your new industry. As mentioned above, each business comes with its own style of doing things. In the military, you had little room for expression. The civilian world, on the other hand, is full of individuals with all types of backgrounds, allowing communicators to develop a unique style. And every single industry can look different. Find a mentor at your new place of work, learn your business handbook, invite trusted colleagues out to lunch, and ask thoughtful questions. The more you seek to learn the why, the faster you’ll learn your way.