Updated: Jan 30
Have you served in the US Armed Forces? Are you now out of service and looking for a job in the civilian world? It can be difficult to translate the wealth of your military experience into terms and descriptions that a civilian hiring manager or employer will understand and appreciate. This article will cover tips and resources to help you get started with creating or updating your civilian resume! Many people who serve in the US armed forces do so soon after high school and while they are in service, they do not need to work through a civilian job application process. If this applies to you, keep reading!
When getting started with your resume, pay close attention to the formatting. For starters, make sure to fully spell out the words for job titles and descriptions. Don't use acronyms. Across different job sectors, the same acronym could mean different things so it is important that you keep your resume content clear and concise for whoever may read it. Also keep in mind that your resume may not be read by a human and may in fact be subjected to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). An ATS is a computer program that digitally scans a resume to look for keywords associated with the specific job description. This is a very common practice by companies across job sectors. You likely won't know if your resume will be reviewed by staff in Human Resources or will go through an ATS and so you should prepare as if a computer program will review your resume. You should ensure that your content is clear and concise! One way to do this is to make sure you're using key words throughout your resume when you're describing your skills and experience. Find key words from the job description and use them to describe your experience. By doing that, you are making it more clear to the reader that your experience does match what the job description is asking for. Additionally, an ATS should recognize those key words and rate your resume higher due to your experience in those areas.
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A common tip for a resume is to keep it to one page only. Depending on your amount of experience while in the military, it could make sense to extend your resume to two pages. The first page could focus on your job-related experience and education. If you need the space, you can focus the second page on your certifications, honors, and other highlights.
Your experience during your term of service is VALUABLE! When switching from the military and into the civilian world, you need to take more time to translate your military experience into examples that a civilian will understand. Similar to how you should avoid using acronyms in your resume, you should also avoid using the military occupational specialty code to describe past jobs and instead use a civilian-equivalent title. Leverage common job search sites such as Payscale.com or Glassdoor.com to view existing job postings and descriptions. Based on those descriptions, you can get a better idea of what qualities the company is looking for and it should then be easier for you to highlight your military experience using similar terms.
There are many examples of additional experience that you should list on your resume including:
* Management/Supervisor roles
You may have held a role in the military where you were a leader of a small group or a unit within a larger team. That is excellent experience that translates to management and supervisor positions in civilian jobs. In cases where you held a higher rank than others, that meant that you delegated tasks and responsibilities to others which also is great management experience. Solid communication and teamwork skills are at the top of any list for companies looking to hire. In addition to knowing the actual job or duties, companies need employees who can work together to find a solution and effectively communicate the project, issues and resolutions as needed. These are commonly referred to as 'soft skills' but are just as important as having technical or specific expertise in various subject matters.
We live in a tech-focused world and so no doubt you interact with many types of technology on a daily basis. The great news is that a lot of that technology could be applicable to the civilian career world. In addition to your military-based technology programs, make sure to highlight other examples of technology that you've used. Some of the programs that are most commonly seen in civilian job descriptions include:
* Microsoft Office suite - Document creation/editing
* Adobe Acrobat suite - Document creation/editing
* ArcGIS platform - Mapping and analysis
* Python - Scripting
Additionally, here is a list of additional technical programs & skills estimated to be in strong demand in 2020.
Don't underestimate the power of your references! References provide information to your prospective employer about you such as your work ethic and how you work with other people. References can play an even more vital role if you have little or no formal job experience yet in the civilian workforce. Read more about getting started with references in another blog article.
After you've drafted your resume, make sure to have others review it for content and clarity. Additionally, if you would like a professional review of your resume along with a revised version with tips provided, check out the Resume Review services provided by That Purple Book!
In summary, while it can be difficult to transition your wealth of military knowledge and experience into civilian terms, it can be done! Furthermore, there are great resources available to help our veterans transition from the military and into the civilian workforce. While I couldn't cover all of the necessary details in just one blog post, I'd like to point you to two great resources which are sponsored by the US Government and focused solely on supporting those currently serving in the military as well as veterans:
* Career One Stop (sponsored by the US Department of Labor)
* Military One Source (part of the US Department of Defense)
The sites listed above provide helpful tips focused on veterans entering the civilian workforce and include links to additional resources.