How To Translate Your Military Skills & Experience into Civvy Language

Posted on Tuesday, November 1, 2022 by Faye CoppNo comments

You will have acquired a diverse and well-developed set of hard and soft skills from your service in the Armed Forces. From discipline and leadership to adaptability, excellent communication skills and the ability to get things done, you’ll possess many qualities that will be highly transferable to Civvy Street.

However, although you might have lots to offer, it can be difficult for employers to grasp the value of your military experiences and skills, and understand how they will apply to their business. So, it’s crucial that you take the time to ‘translate’ your skills, qualifications, military job titles and any military-specific terms into “civvy speak” so that employers can understand a bit more about you, what you have achieved and how you will add value. 






Transferable skills are often talked about and for good reason – many of the skills you learn in the military are highly valued on civvy street and will serve you well when you hang up your uniform. Rather than just list all of the qualities ex-military personnel are known for, it’s best to start the process by taking stock of your individual skills and attributes.

Jot down a list of your key skills and any qualifications you might have. While doing this, make sure you think outside the box and examine your career history in detail as not all of your skills will be immediately obvious or directly related to your job. For example, if you managed a troop or platoon of service personnel your leadership skills might be obvious, but you may also have led strategic planning operations, worked with complicated IT systems or managed projects. Remember that soft skills such as your ability to communicate, empower and support others and other personal attributes are important and are well worth mentioning. 

To help you get started here is a list of some transferable skills that you may possess. These skills can apply to a variety of occupations and disciplines in both the public and private sectors. Think about how you can incorporate these skills into your CV and why they are important. And, to save time later on, make sure you note down scenarios that demonstrate each of your qualities so that you can provide evidence of your merits in an interview. 


  • A degree or other academic qualifications

  • IT skills 

  • Foreign language skills 

  • Military Security qualifications (e.g. USO)

  • Security clearance 

  • Budget or Fund Management qualifications

  • Project, Operations and Risk Management qualifications or experience

  • Technical qualifications or experience using specific equipment and machinery, software & hardware or chemicals. 


‘Soft’ skills is a term used routinely by civilian employers but will be unfamiliar to military people. Below we have identified several soft skills that ex-military personnel commonly possess:

  • Leadership - the ability to motivate, influence and inspire others

  • Communication skills - particularly the ability to convey information and orders clearly and effectively

  • Organisational skills - including time management and the ability to prioritise and multitask

  • Analytical skills - logic, interpreting information and evaluating data 

  • Negotiation 

  • Adaptability

  • Decision making

  • Determination and a admirable work ethic

  • Resourcefulness - the ability to think outside the box

  • Problem solving and troubleshooting skills 

  • Self-discipline 

  • Punctuality 

  • Mission and goal oriented 

  • The ability to listen, take orders and supervise others 

  • Teamwork - the ability to work in a team, guide and help others. 

If you’re struggling to identify which skills you naturally possess, why not use our personality assessment tool to help you work out what your skills are, and where they can take you?


The key to translating your skills is to let go of the military terminology. Strip your military jobs back-to-basics and concentrate on your role, its function and the skills that you used to carry it out –  this is what civvy employers want to know about. Some terms are easy to translate into “corporate speak”, while others will be more difficult and will require a bit of research to get right. For example, an employer might not know what a Senior NCO such as a Warrant Officer is, but they will understand the skills and qualities of someone who has worked as a Team Leader or Department Manager, so list the skills you possess  to demonstrate your value. Or, if you worked as a Submarine Intrusion Analyst highlight that you can operate complex computer programmes, complex communication systems and that you are also familiar with cryptology. 

If your achievements are military specific and can’t be translated, then explain what you did and achieved in a civilian-friendly manner and show how the training and experience you gained in the military is relevant to the position that you are applying for.




Your military experience is as valuable as your skills. In order to give evidence and contextualise your skills we’d recommend that you think about how you would convey your experience in a civvy-friendly way. People with no experience of the Armed Forces will have no idea what ‘8 years in the Royal Marines’ offers them, or what 3 tours in Afghanistan means. Be conscious that your experience might also scare them, so try to use a scenario to illustrate one of your skills rather than simply retelling a war story!

Here’s an example. In an interview you might be asked to give an example of when you had to put your negotiation skills into practice. You might have been in a situation where you were surrounded by half a dozen rival tribal leaders and had to solve a problem through an interpreter in 54 degree heat… Pull out the key facts and demonstrate that you were able to negotiate a solution in the ‘challenging environment’ of Afghanistan while overcoming language barriers. If you can negotiate in an environment like that then you’re more than well equipped to do so in a conference room with a bunch of civvies in Milton Keynes. 

That said, we recommend you should not completely civilianise your CV or try to speak in a foreign commercial language at an interview. Most employers value their ex-military talent highly, so it’s all about describing what you’ve done in a way they will understand it.


Differences in rank can be confusing and not everyone understands the internal structures of the military. Translating your  rank and job titles is as much about presenting yourself in terms that employers will recognise as it is about understanding the level of job that you should apply for when you do leave Service. It can be difficult to know what positions to target when you enter the civilian workplace and on top of this many former Forces personnel struggle to find the right words to describe the position they held within the military. These common military job and rank translations should help you know where you stand:


  • Operations Officer = Operations Manager or Supervisor 

  • Accounting Officer = Financial Manager 

  • Intelligence Officer = Research 

  • Squadron or Platoon Leader = Director, Team Leader 

  • Commander = Senior Manager, Supervisor, Director 

  • Senior NCO = Supervisor 

  • Sargent = Team Leader or Manager

  • Supply Sergeant = Logistics Manager, Supply Manager 


  • Lance Corporal = Assistant Supervisor, Team Leader 

  • Corporal = Manager

  • Warrant Officer / Sergeant Major = Team Supervisor, Department Manager 

  • Major = General Manager 

  • Brigadier = Managing Director 


Though it can be tempting to list every training and educational course that you completed during your years of military Service it is likely that some qualifications won’t be relevant outside of the military. Ask yourself which qualifications add value and demonstrate the acquisition of a transferable skill or a commendable achievement. If they do this then keep them in and explain why they are significant. Do be aware that many military programmes and training courses have complicated names, so you might well have to simplify and explain them too. 


The military has its own language of acronyms, abbreviations and turns of phrase that are incomprehensible to anyone not in the Forces. If you want your CV to be noticed for the right reasons you need to qualify and quantify all your military jargon in civilian terms. Your CV, cover letter, LinkedIn profile or any other professional medium should be understandable and clear, so make sure you translate anything military-specific and use numbers and percentages to highlight the strength of your achievements. Here are a few common military ‘translations’ that you can use: 

  • Combat = hazardous or challenging environments 

  • Tank = operational vehicle 

  • Reconnaissance = data collection 

  • Mission = project, task, goal, objective 

  • Subordinate = employee, team member 

  • Squadron / Platoon = team 

  • Company = department, area, section 

  • Weapons = mechanical / electronic equipment 

  • Ammunition = supplies

  • Radar / Sonar = sophisticated electronics systems 

Of course, if the military term is significant or irreplaceable, then you can leave it in but also include a civilian-friendly translation. 

Your military experience is an asset. If you clearly lay out your skills and achievements every employer will be able to see that and will know what you can offer their business. Though Translating your military background can be a lengthy process it is worth taking your time and doing it properly as through understanding what civilian employers are looking for you’ll gain an insight into what you are capable of and what value you can bring to their business. Moreover, the more work you put in now the more prepared you’ll be for an interview and it’ll save you time in the long run. 


Now that you’ve identified your skills and have translated them into civvy speak, compare  them to the job descriptions of your target roles to see how you measure up. If there are any gaps in your skills and experience, think about how you can fill them by learning new skills or building on talents you already possess. Once you’ve done this sign up to SaluteMyJob to be sent exciting new employment opportunities

When you apply for new positions it’s important to keep up the work and to start preparing for the interview stage. Check out our interview guide for ex-military job seekers to discover how to ace the next phase of your job search.

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