Earlier this year I had a question from a former member of the military asking how to translate military experience into a civilian resume. In honor of Veterans Day, I’d like to expand on some of the advice I gave that correspondent. Here are a few of the most important considerations if you are a veteran looking for a civilian job:
- Know what job/industry you are interested in. The military assigns you where they want you; civilian companies expect you to tell them where you fit.
- Military abbreviations and jargon are hard for civilians to understand. Keep acronyms to a minimum and spell them out first. You also may want to use a non-military equivalent.
- Numbers are as important in civilian life as in military life. Maybe you supported 1,000 troops with your supply chain skills; trained 300 individuals; or kept a 30-vehicle motor pool humming—all those numbers are easy for civilians to grasp.
- When relaying your experience in your civilian resume, concentrate on the common denominators between the military and civilian careers. In both environments, people value individuals who communicate clearly, are able to work with all levels of the organization, have leadership skills, and have demonstrated concern with efficiency, productivity, and cost control.
- Focus on results. Companies are less interested in how you saved $5,000 or organized the transfer of 400 troops than in the fact that you did it. Even if military procedures have no equivalent in civilian life, the results definitely resonate.
- Focus on the numbers, experiences, and results that are most in line with the position you are applying for. Your resume does not have to include everything you accomplished during your military career, only those accomplishments that relate to the job you want.
- Person-to-person networking is just as important as filling out forms online. Make sure of local veteran resources and also attend the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to get a handle on what businesses are looking for and to sharpen your networking skills.
- In many cases, your security clearance, overseas experience, ability to work with diverse or remote teams, and quickness of advancement will generate interest in civilian employers. Make sure you mention any awards or special recognition you received.
If you are a veteran in need of resume writing and career advice, please contact me.