Women who have served our country through military service are an excellent source of talent in the civilian world. It’s only during the last 30 years that women have obtained the long-awaited right to serve in multiple non-combat positions. Given that fact, there are many women with some excellent technical and leadership skills transitioning out of the military each year. History Of Women In The Service Surprisingly, the history of women in the military is fairly extensive. Not many people realize, but women have served our country since the American Revolution. There are many stories about women who helped the injured and even some who disguised themselves to go directly into battle. But it wasn’t until 1901 during World War I that women were actually given “full military rank and status” as military nurses or caregivers. Over 30,000 women actually served in that war. Enlistment then grew to even greater numbers; our effort in World War II attracted over 400,000 women patriots to serve our country. But it wasn’t until 1971 that women were given the right to enter into a multitude of service opportunities besides the field of healthcare. The opening of the doors has led many women to seek out the experience of military life for many reasons. Besides the available variety of military occupations to choose from – the quality of experience, the benefits, and the virtually cost-free education is why many women today choose the military. According to the Department of Defense, recently there are almost 200,000 women who comprise the total active duty personnel, representing about 14% of the entire active service. Depending on the year, about 30,000-35,000 new women recruits enter the service each year. Making The Transition Many of those women who have later chosen the civilian life hold their military experience in high regard. Pamela Compton, a former air traffic controller with the Navy, now works as a national recruiting manager at a major corporate retailer. She says, “If I had to go back and do it over again, I would.” She says that among many benefits of the military, some of her experiences that have uniquely helped in the civilian world are an ability to “listen and take it all in before responding,” and a sense of “toughness.” “It [the military] made me a lot tougher, giving me a thicker skin to be able to deal with some of the challenges of the civilian work world.” <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> Employers hold military experience for women in high regard as well. One of the clearest benefits to an employer is the high quality person they get from the military. In the case of Compton, she is working in a position now that has “zero” technical connection with her military experience, even though she could have easily moved into a similar position at any large airport. And while there are many transferable technical positions available in the civilian workforce, there are an equal, if not greater, number of positions where the employer is looking for a person of high integrity, intelligence, discipline, and responsibility…many of the character qualities I’ve spoken about in previous articles. Even so, many women have found it difficult to make the transition. The technical-to-technical transition is much easier for an employer to see and measure the fit. Compton says that unless you have specific technical skills the employer wants, “…there’s not a great acceptance” of women transitioning out of the military. For that reason, women should plan and prepare for what they want to do long before they get out. For those who don’t desire to work in the technical arena, there are many “soft” skills that can be learned and promoted to future employers. So while we look back at the many years and many thousands of women who have served our country, it is important that we as a nation embrace this segment as a rich recruiting source, giving our service members a chance to prove their worth and then watch the high-performance results that follow.
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