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Transitioning to Civilian Life: De-Militarize Your Resume

There comes a time in most soldiers’ lives when it’s time to put away the uniform. This transition also often calls for landing a post with an employer who may or may not have military experience. With that in mind, it is important for those seeking the smoothest transition possible to brush up on their resume writing skills.

Start at the Beginning

Before attempting to write a resume, it’s important to clearly define civilian job objectives. This helps narrow the search while also making it easier to keep the resume on point for a desired career field. Research occupations and try to focus on a specific career path. If this proves troublesome, check with the transition office or a career coach for some guidance. Should more than one path present, tailor resumes for each.

Demonstrate What You Can Do

The main object of any resume is to show an employer what you can do. Research the types of positions desired and take time to focus a resume on the aspects of your background that best fit employer needs. Should an accomplishment not suit the goal, don’t include it. Take care to consider if a potential employer will care about an experience. If the answer is no, eliminate it. Remember, civilian resumes tend to be short; one to two pages at the most. If information won’t assist in landing an interview, don’t include it.

Play it Safe

One of the biggest obstacles in writing a civilian resume is the military jargon veterans are so comfortable with. Since the main objective is to sell yourself, it’s vital that the hiring manager understand what makes you an excellent candidate. With that in mind, demilitarize job titles, accomplishments, duties, training and awards. Remove military terminology and acronyms by translating them into language any civilian can understand. Use “base,” for example, instead of AFB or “Operations Department” rather than “S3.”

Once you’ve created a draft, have a civilian friend read it over to point out any areas that are difficult to understand. Remember, the key here is speaking to experience and showing how skills gained in service translate to the civilian world. If a potential employer doesn’t understand what you are saying, the purpose has been defeated.

Showcase Accomplishments, Military Background

Don’t be afraid of making sure potential employers know you have a military background. After all, many hiring managers do understand that skills honed in service fit civilian posts well. Traits such as leadership, teamwork, ethics, dedication and adaptability are viable in just about any arena. In addition, accomplishments are also important, just make sure to demilitarize them.

Leave Out Combat Details

As important as it is to explain experiences and accomplishments to potential employers, not every detail needs to be mentioned. Those who served in active combat will want to leave combat horrors off their resumes. The skills mastered during duty may fit the career goal and should be included, but the gory details should not.

Try it Out

Once a resume is created, it’s time to try it on for size. Send it out to potential employers and track response rates. Ask for feedback and incorporate constructive suggestions for improving it. Remember, a resume is a living document, which means it can and often should evolve over time.

Resume writing is tricky business, but military personnel have a leg up on the competition. Many of the skills that have been finely honed through service are in high demand by civilian employers. Just make sure the important details don’t get lost in the translation.

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