Five Common Military Stereotypes Debunked

Retiring military professionals transitioning to civilian life and preparing for a job search in the private sector face many challenges. Sometimes there is a misinformed stereotype associated with military personnel that can be difficult to shake during a job search.

AOL Jobs spoke to executive career coach Don Orlando of The McLean Group to debunk the stereotypes and learn more about how today's transitioning military professionals can add value to the private sector.

Here are the five common stereotypes, and the reality behind them.


No. 1

The stereotype: Military people are rigid. They know only one way to do anything.

The reality: Officers and NCOs are taught again and again that the key to success is flexibility and innovation. They know they won't be promoted unless they demonstrate those capabilities on the job regularly.


No. 2

The stereotype: Military people never had to think. They had only to give and take orders.

The reality: When I ask retiring full colonels and chief master sergeants, "How many of you have ever given a direct order?" I will usually find only one example in a group of a dozen whose combined service easily exceeds 240 years.

Today's military is smarter than ever. Service members won't accept blind orders.


No. 3

The stereotype: Military people don't understand profit and loss.

The reality: Civilians are always surprised to learn the uniformed services must compete in the "real world." For example, even though the Air Force's Air Mobility Command is structured to provide airlift, the work can go to a commercial carrier if AMC can't compete (and that reflects on the commander and staff of AMC).

During the A76 program, the Air Force had to complete with private contractors to provide non-combat-related services. It was done through a request for proposal -- just like in the civilian world. (btw, the Air Force lost to the contractors.)


No. 4

The stereotype: Military people had unlimited resources in money, people, and equipment.

The reality: Almost every element of the uniformed services is chronically understaffed and underfunded. Officers and NCOs are specifically evaluated on this aspect in every performance review. Today, our military is stretched even thinner because of Iraq and Afghanistan.


No. 5

The stereotype: Senior military are prima donnas.

The reality: I'm sure there are a few. But people don't stay for a 20-year career to be very well paid or enjoy exclusive perks. The average retiring colonel or chief master sergeant makes a small fraction of what a civilian counterpart makes, even though his or her responsibilities are much greater.


Next: Military Families Week


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