Air Force-speak needs “translation” for civilian job world

by Robert Fay
Allied Schools

Talk with people who advise Airmen on preparing résumés for their civilian job hunt, and they’ll tell you Airmen must learn to translate Air Force-speak into civilian language. Airmen need to explain terms like “deck,” “flight line” or “cryptographic linguist,” for example, in ways that civilian employers can appreciate.

Airmen should understand that “Bravo Zulu” and “catshot” are foreign words to most civilians. And if Airmen can remember back to “Zero Week” at Lackland, then they’ll recall they didn’t understand much of what their training instructor was shouting. Separating from the Air Force means exchanging your Air Force-speak for terminology that will help you secure a civilian career.

 Unlike other military personnel, Airmen are fortunate that most Air Force Specialty Codes can be translated into a civilian job, yet that doesn’t mean former Airmen shouldn’t take pains explaining their AFSC in simple, non-military ways.

Civilian employers are looking for individuals who can manage time effectively, take direction well and work on multiple tasks – qualities that most Airmen have acquired by serving in the Air Force. By entering the military, Airmen have learned how to jump into a new culture and quickly assimilate new information – a skill that should pay dividends in a civilian career. Instead of focusing on the military aspects of their AFSC, former Airmen should emphasize the elements that are relevant to the job they are interviewing for.

Airmen looking to obtain a whole new career language for their civilian careers, they should consider taking courses that prepare them to speak like a professional. To build a foundation for a medical career, for example, a course in medical terminology is a good bet, while Airmen who want to start their own business, should consider taking a small business management class.

Airmen can take advantage of Air Force Tuition Assistance to enroll in civilian education courses, with the Air Force paying up to 100 percent of tuition and fees up front. For Airmen deployed overseas in the “sand box” or anywhere else in the world, they might consider taking an online course, so they can study when their work schedule allows for it. Airmen are encouraged to use their TA money as early in the fiscal year as possible, as TA money often runs out.