War stories are cool, but…

Transitioning Green Beret’s possess excellent skills and experiences to bring value to a new organization upon their transition out of the Army.  Sharing these experiences is critical to networking and informing others about our skill sets.  We all have cool war stories that we can tell.  That time we were surrounded and fought our way out.  Remember when we survived that ambush and pushed our partner force to continue the mission.  Back in that little no-name town in X country where we got blown up by an IED and continued the mission.  Infilling for an operation on a helicopter to a hot LZ and fighting our way into a village to free it from insurgents.  All great stories, but what do they portray?

People may want to hear these stories and we may be willing to tell them in certain situations.  What will the person be understanding when we say the story?  Chances are they are going to be attracted to the shooting, blood, heroism, and sadness of the event.  It’s doubtful that they are hearing about the leadership you provided, cross-cultural communication, and problem-solving that the story also captured.

When telling these stories, we need to do preparation of the environment and think of what we want to be heard from the story.  It is easy to get sucked into telling a cool war story.  However, it probably does not convey our transferable skills in a clear and concise manner.  Fact is no one cares that we shot a weapon or closed with the enemy.  It’s what I like to call a sideshow, an entertaining 15 minutes that gets us nowhere or more than likely sets us back.

Highlight in your experiences the time that you worked by, with, and thru the partner force to accomplish the mission.  The numerous times you solved problems in an ambiguous situation without all the information and achieved mission success.  When you had to coach a junior member of the team or a foreign leader to improve their leadership and operations.  The time you innovated a solution to a problem that affected a whole village or area. Remember the time you negotiated with village elders or militia members.  These are examples of stories that show our transferable skill sets and will leave people thinking I could see this guy in my organization.

So next time you have an opportunity to share your experiences, think about the message that you are transmitting.  How will it be received by the listener?  A little tweak on what we highlight can make a significant difference in how we are perceived.  Don’t be a sideshow or as one retired Green Beret told me today, “neat-o” or their unicorn.


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