Chad Storlie is one of our super mentors here at Veterati and is a highly regarded member of the veteran community. His commitment to serve veterans in any capacity has led him to write two books: Combat Leader to Corporate America and Battlefield to Business Success. Chad is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics.
He has been published in over 80 publications including Harvard Business Review, USAA Member Community, Military.com, Businessweek, Forbes, and USA Today. Chad’s 20+ years of service in the infantry, special forces, and joint headquarters units has provided him with a unique perspective for transitioning veterans.
During this interview, I spoke with Chad about arguably one of the more important topics: translating military experience, with the intention of gleaning his method for bridging the gap based upon his experience going from a Special Forces officer into the business world.
Q: Why is it important to translate military experience?
A: One of the challenges facing hiring veterans is the lack of understanding between military and civilian experiences. It’s on the veteran to start with stories and break it down to make it understandable to civilians. Telling stories is a method to bridging that gap. It’s a direct translation and attribute of everything you learned in the military.
Q: What are the critical components of a good experience story?
A: I think a good experience story is roughly 5-6 minutes long. I recommend people write out their accomplishments stories word for word to start. This will allow the candidate to put all ideas on paper and can then begin to refine the answer with practice.
First, you want the story to be as descriptive as possible. You want to make sure people remember you. The biggest challenge for a hiring manager is to remember all the candidates. If you can have a descriptive, impactful story and describe how your accomplishments translate into something meaningful for that organization it will set you apart. Veterans can really set themselves apart from the group through interesting and compelling stories that capture the attention of their audience. Use the STARS format: (S) Situation, (T) Task, (A) Action, (R) Result, and (S) Skills. When you use a format consistently it’s easy for the panel to track your accomplishment story
Veterans need to think of themselves as a brand. Think about the brands in your daily life. The reasons you like the brands: good quality, memorable, and unique. That’s really what a veteran should strive for when interviewing for a position.
Q: How many stories would you recommend preparing ahead of time?
A: About 8-10 stories are ideal. You want to cover your bases for the typical questions that will be asked during an interview. Have an accomplishment story prepared for each of these standard interview questions.
- Describe how you have lead teams.
- How do you learn a new skill?
- How you have you handled a difficult boss or peer?
- What is your weakness?
- What are your strengths?
- How have you lead a group through change?
- Tell me about an Operational Failure.
- What are you most significant accomplishments?
- Tell me how you resolved a work task that you initially failed to accomplish.
- How have you overcome a work conflict with a peer?
Q: Any thoughts on translating experience as it pertains to a resume?
A: A cover letter introduces you and your background. Your resume should be brass tax. I like to start with the impact on bullet accomplishments such as: I trained 100 people on a new task over a 3-day period and established a 90% pass rate for that task. I want the top three accomplishments to be the most impactful because of the likely quick review.
Q: Is there anything that helped you when drafting your resume to help translate military experience?
A: Having 3-5 people with no military experience read your resume would be extremely helpful. Military phrases are so ingrained in the way we think that we could write out a statement that has no meaning to a recruiter without realizing it. For people with no military experience reviewing your resume, those phrases will pop out. This is where mentoring and networking really help out.
Q: How do we translate military experience in an interview? How am I going to be able to articulate what a gunnery or squad live fire is without taking 5 minutes to explain?
A: Give a quick explanation of what was required in the certification. Describe what was expected of you, what were your goals, how did you train your team. Next, talk about the results and the effect of your methodologies on the resulting certification. Last, connect the accomplishment with qualities or competencies that tie directly into that corporate position and describe the similarities. I like to write down my answers because it gives me the opportunity to rehearse and practice knowing how to explain a military accomplishment. Over time your answer will improve and will have less and less military jargon. Using the STARS format here also helps organize and explain a military story clearly and consistently.
Q: How do you feel about military jargon? What’s the best way to cut it?
A: You really have to be careful using it. It has context for you, but more than likely it has none for the interviewers. I would be very mindful of using it because it may not help you.
Q: Any last tips or advice for transitioning veterans?
A: Literally everything that you have done in the military has relevance to the business world. You just have to take the time to understand why it’s valuable to the company. Next, translate that military accomplishment and apply it to a format that the company can understand.
What an interview! Chad is a fantastic person and is passionate about mentoring veterans. Use this article to your advantage. Schedule Chad for a mentor session, but instead of jumping from topic to topic, dig deeper into the art of translating military experience. You have a baseline of knowledge right here in this article to build upon! Big thank you to Chad Storlie!
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