Does military experience "count" in the "real world"?

At my job we’ve recently started having interviews for a promotion. A friend of mine was asked if he had any prior supervisory experience. He said that he’d spend the past ten years in the military. The interviewer (my boss as well) said that it didn’t count as “real experience”. This seems odd to me - I wouldn’t say it would be an exact transference (given the differences between the military and civilian worlds) between the two, if you see what I mean, but surely it would be much better than “none at all”. I don’t have any military experience, so I’m happy to hear from anyone serving.

And if this becomes a Debate or something else, feel free to move it.

I think my military experience assisted me in both landing my first couple of civilian jobs and more indirectly, the skills I learned helped me in getting the promotions.

I absolutely hate working with civilians. They’re lazy. They whine. They don’t listen to direction. They can’t lead their way out of a paper bag. They can’t make decisions. They can’t stick to decisions they do make. They give up at the first sign of a roadblock. Thank Og 95% of my industry is ex-military.

Yes, military experience counts. A lot.

Lazy whiners that don’t listen to direction? Sounds a lot like some junior sailors I have had to deal with when I was in the Navy.

The military draws from a pretty broad swath of the country - you learn to deal with and lead an interesting cross section of the population. It certainly isn’t exactly like supervising civilians, but it is instructive.

When hiring I generally look favorably on an applicant with some time in the service. It’s not a hard and fast rule but I find that I can usually count on those I’ve hired with a military background take orders well and I can count on them to do their best.

It’s not universal. The last veteran I hired, a 20-something woman for a creative job, didn’t work out. She was unproductive and had a bad attitude toward things. She just wasn’t committed to getting things done and then would shift blame to coworkers or the situation. Too bad, really. Her skills were there.

Not my experience with the staffs I’ve supervised in the civilian world. Sounds like you have a problem with your hiring practices. This sort of attitude implies that you wouldn’t be very good at supervising civilians, so in your case military experience would probably not translate well to the civilian sphere.

I would say that military experience would in general be a benefit, as long the person was flexible enough that they would be able to lead without being too authoritarian.

Being in the military does not necessarily count as “supervisory” experience. And being in for 10 years does not even mean he would be in a supervisory position.
However, if a person actually had a supervisor position while in the military, I think that time spent in such a position should count as “real experience”. Why wouldn’t it??

So the answer to “Do you have any prior superisor experience?” should be “I was a noncommissioned officer in the military for 6 out of my 8 years. At the time I got out, I was a Platoon Sergeant in charge of the daily duties, training, tasking, health and welfare of a platoon of 43 men, and $900,000 in equipment. I also spent 18 months in combat as an infantry squad leader in charge of a 9 man squad. I have led over 100 joint combat patrols consisting of up to 20 men, overcoming language and cultural barriers while commanding foreign personnel.
I have experience being immediate and decisive under direct enemy contact, where my choices have saved the lives of allied personnel, prevented civilian casualties and resulted in enemy KIAs and total mission success. I also have experience working with personnel taskings, mission planning, and other long term projects requiring a more thorough decision making process. I have experience meeting deadlines and adapting to change and obstacles as I face them”
That is a proper answer. If someone simply said “I was in the military for 10 years”, and expected me to give a shit when I am asking about “supervisor experience”, I would probably give the same response as the interviewer.

My military experience was a huge boon to me in both college and the job market afterward. I was organized, focused, and had a huge amount of responsibility (but no authority :slight_smile: far above what I would have had as a civilian in the same role. The problem is that non-military people have absolutely no freakin’ idea what military life and responsibility is like. Military life teaches you about duty and responsibility and that transfers readily into the civilian world and definately makes you stand out. Of course, everyone is an individual and I have meet some pretty slacker active duty and veterans that I would not employ to scrub a toilet. In the end, though, I would much prefer to have a dedicated and responsible worker that can learn qucikly than a fully trained worker with a questionable work ethic.

The very old saying still stands: Your Best Bet: Hire a Vet!

Lighten up Francis. It’s just an office job. We aren’t storming Omaha Beach or anything.

I’m going to assume that the other 5% of the people in your industry are government employees? That might explain some of your negative experience.

My experience with ex-military people is usually pretty positive. Sometimes, as **Chessic Sense ** kind of alluded to, military experience can lead to a sort of rigid inflexibility that is sometimes not appropriate in the civilian world. The fact is, military experience may be a benefit in certain industries and companies, neutral in others and may actually be a hinderance in some.

There is definitely a belief that people who were in the military tend to be rigid and see things in a black and white manner in the workplace.

I’d say it counts, but you’d have to factor in how flexible the candidate is. I worked in a factory setting when I was younger and three of my group of friends had military background. One of them had a hard time adjusting to people who didn’t absolutely have to follow any order given. Another, who had not been active duty, just reserves, didn’t have as much trouble with this. The third was female and seemed to have benefited from the experience of being a female officer in charge of men (before it was more common).

To just dismiss their military experience out of hand sounds kind of stupid. To count it exactly the same as civilian experience without understanding more might also be problematic.

This would be a misplaced belief, IMHO. While we had procedures for most of our jobs we had an overall mission, and if the procedures were getting in the way of achieving it we were generally encouraged to find a better way.

Sometimes we were reminded that the procedures were there for a good reason. Sometimes things were changed. Really it was little different in that respect from a well-run civilian organization.

I don’t want to make it seem ideal - the military as an institution is certainly inflexible on certain things. But the personnel that make up the military can be surprisingly creative and freethinking.

I’d imagine that military experience would be similar to a liberal arts degree. Both expose you to different ways of thinking through problems and finding solutions, which are valuable soft skills once you get through the door. Neither is probably directly applicable to a standard corporate job (neither demolitions knowledge nor a deep understanding of Chaucer directly apply to many corporate problems) (exception for the supervisory experience bit for NCO’s/officers).

The thing a lot of civilians don’t get is that the military is not all about combat related duties. There are military positions that are pretty similar to most jobs found in the civilian workforce. Truck drivers, warehouse workers, cooks, medical, maintenance, administrative, technical, engineering, legal–you name it, the military probably has someone that does it. A guy that does office work for the military can probably handle office work as a civilian, so in that sense, some military experience is directly relevant.

In a more general sense, the military teaches leadership, teamwork, responsibility–all valuable things applicable across a broad range of career fields.

I was an aerial photographer. Since I’ve been out, no one has wanted me to hop into the backseat of a fighter and take pictures–but the other skills I learned in the military continue to be very useful.

From what I’ve found so far, in my very limited experience, the military doesn’t give you job skills, but life experience.

They don’t care that I can completely disassemble a .50 cal into its smallest components, but it does give me a leg up when they ask me questions like, “When have you had to work around an issue” and I can talk about the time I had to fix my machine gun with a broken hand while flying over Baghdad as opposed to when I had a really hard assignment for school.

Oh I agree. I’ve just seen/heard this attitude over the years about people that were in the service.

Your boss is off base (ha!) on this one. Saying that it’s not “real experience” indicates one of two things: either he’s never been in the military and bears some grudge against those who served; or he has been in the military as a junior enlisted and bears a grudge for having to do his job. Or maybe he’s just stupid.

People who hired me after I retired from the military were thrilled to get someone who could make decisions without endless meetings, direct large numbers of people to the completion of a project, stay on goal, and fairly deal with personnel issues. Making the types of decisions you need to make in a military setting makes the ones you make in civilian life seem like a walk in the park.

I’ve found plenty of former military who can’t think for themselves, and can’t use common sense when blindly following instructions isn’t working.

OTOH, they are disciplined and reliable.

But the skills they learn in the military can be valuable. The electronic technicians trained by the military I’ve encountered were excellent. I don’t think the officers are worth a damn though (bias induced by my late father, retired Reserve General).

Certain types are a very big deal.

I handled recruiting for a major office of a huge systems integration consulting firm. A candidate who, in addition to a top MBA or equiv grad degree, graduated from West Point and led something in the field? Unquestioned advantage.

Two of my closest proteges who have experienced success after working for me were ex-officers.

Like Eagle Scouts, if the person has that on their resume, AND presents well, they make excellent leaders to team with.

I think Bear Nenno had the best answer. Some military experience is supervisory and some isn’t. You were a company commander? You were supervising 150 people. You were a pilot? You had a skilled position but you weren’t a supervisor.