Preparing Your Military Resume for the Civilian Workforce

If you’re a servicemember, you may wonder about career possibilities as a civilian.

While hanging up the uniform may be a good move for you, your skills and experience may not necessarily resonate with a business owner or recruiter that has limited military knowledge.

A few adjustments to your resume can demonstrate your potential outside of the military. Below are a few to consider:

Watch Your Language

The military has its own lingo, but don’t assume the person reading your resume will know what the terminology means. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and consider what language will be most powerful. Refer to yourself as an “employee” or “coworker” instead of “soldier.” Likewise, an “overseas assignment” can mean the same as a “deployment,” while your “team” can refer to your “troop” or “unit.”

State Your Objectives

It’s counterproductive to prepare a resume and begin the job search before you actually know what you want to do. Define your objectives, and figure out what kind of job or career you want. Once you have this information, you can begin tailoring the resume for your desired industry and position.

If you make your job search too broad, your resume will appear unfocused. Do your research and narrow your options as much as possible. If you want to pursue several different career paths, you might want to prepare a different resume for each one.

Demonstrate What You can Do

When people read your resume, they’re not really interested in what you’ve done. They’re more interested in what you’re capable of doing based on your experience and actions. Focus on accomplishments and not just responsibilities in your resume.

  • Were you involved in any efforts that improved productivity, morale or efficiency?
  • What did you do in your leadership roles?
  • What new skills did you learn?
  • How did you apply your new skills?

The goal is to demonstrate your capabilities in leadership, teamwork, ethics, dedication and adaptability – skills and behaviors that transfer from military service to civilian employment.

Leave Out Combat Details

As important as it is to explain experiences and accomplishments, you don’t have to include everything. If you’ve been in active combat, you may be better off leaving out those details. Employers might not be able to relate to that particular aspect of your military experience.

Request Feedback

Once you’ve got a resume drafted, get some feedback before sending it out to potential employers. Share it with family members and friends, and ask for constructive suggestions. The best insight may come from people with no military experience, or veterans who have transitioned into civilian careers.

At this point, you’re ready to start sharing your resume as part of your job search. If responses are slower than expected, consider ways you might be able to modify your resume.

Remember, writing a resume can be daunting and tricky. Be clear, consider what the employer is looking for, and promote the skills and experience you’ve learned that are transferable to civilian careers. You’ve got what it takes to be a great civilian employee, and the right resume will help employers see it.

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