- In your military career, body language often plays a big part, right, of how you show respect and authority. Your CO walks into the room, you know to stand at attention. You know what it means when somebody who's of a higher rank walks in and everybody responds. Well, the issue with body language is no one knows how you're feeling. All they know is what they can see. Others have no idea what you've experienced prior to that moment, and when we think about the civilian world, you're going for that interview, and you're stressed out and maybe you're perspiring, maybe you're fidgeting.
That hiring manager doesn't know that your dog decided to escape from the house this morning or your daughter is stressed out about getting into college, and you're feeling that anxiety. All they know is what they can see. It's been said that more than 90% of information that's communicated, is non-verbal, which means your body language is telling a very powerful story. It's telling me how confident you are, how friendly and approachable you are, and how attractive you are for a position I might be hiring.
So, it's important to pay attention to some of those primitive survival skill body language, and then, the ones that we're going to use more socially to show people that we're relatable, and that we want to start having a conversation. So, here's some do's and don'ts about body language, especially in the military-to-civilian transition. Eye contact is crucial, and while in some situations, eye contact can feel very threatening or intimidating, or even intimate, it's really important when meeting people in a professional setting, that you look at who you're talking to.
Look them in the eyes, and after a few moments, it's alright to look off to the side to break the eye contact for just bit of relief, but if you're talking to someone or they're talking to you, it's really important that you make and hold good eye contact. Next up, is the handshake, and while I know you're confident and you're strong, and you're very well in shape, if your handshake hurts my hand, that doesn't leave a good impression. So, you want a handshake that's approachable, and firm, and confident, but isn't bone-gripping.
Next, let's talk about posture. When you walk into the room, maybe it's for an interview or you're going into a networking event, when you walk into the room, have your shoulders back and show confidence. Have a positive and approachable expression on your face that looks like you're receiving of those who want to come up and talk to you and not intimated or fearful. Walk in with confidence and assuredness, even if you don't know anyone else in the room. It's a wonderful posture to have somebody want to feel like they're welcome to come talk to you.
Try to avoid some of the stereotypes that we think of when we think of military veterans, and some of the hiring managers have a little bit of a bias, too, and some of that is a little bit of an overly rigid posture. If you're sitting, sit with correct posture, not lax or too casual, but not so rigid that it looks unapproachable. Avoid hesitating or singling yourself out in a way that means, "I don't feel like you can fit into my company." Show that you're open. Have your shoulders back.
Have your palms facing up, so that the person you're talking to, understands you're willing to learn. You're adaptable. You're willing to assimilate into a new environment. You have a lot to offer, and you're confident about your abilities and your values. That's the kind of person somebody's willing to take a chance on.