Transitioning from military to civilian life isn’t always easy. But the experience you gain during your service is highly valuable and desirable to employers.
The key is to leverage it on your resume so that hiring managers know exactly what you bring to the table.
That’s because, while military jobs can be similar to civilian ones, they sound quite different to someone who hasn’t served.
So how can you leverage your military experience on your resume?
We’ve created a quick guide to help you craft a resume that will impress civilian hiring managers – and land you an interview.
Tips to leverage military experience on a resume:
- Choose the right resume format.
- Focus on your transferable skills.
- Translate military jargon.
- Write a cover-letter.
Read on to get more information on each of these tips and set yourself up for job search success.
1. Choose the right resume format.
Your resume tells a story.
So, before you start writing, decide what you want your resume to say about you. For example, do you want to emphasize the roles you’ve held in the military? Or would you rather focus on the skills you’ve gained?
Depending on what you decide to highlight, you will format your resume differently. Luckily, there are several common types of resumes, and any one of them might be right for you.
Here are the three most popular formats:
- Chronological: This type of resume highlights your job experience in reverse chronological order.
- Functional: This resume format focuses on your skills. It leads with a professional summary and then breaks down the skills and experiences you have gained over your career.
- Combination/hybrid: This format highlights both your skills and chronological experience on the same document. It begins with your skills and follows with your work history in reverse chronological order.
If you need help writing your resume, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Writing a Stand Out Resume. It compares each type of resume and explains who they might be better suited to.
2. Focus on your transferable skills.
While the military world is very different from the civilian landscape, the expertise you gain there can still be extremely valuable in a non-military setting. The key is to make that connection obvious so that a potential employer doesn’t have to think hard about how you might be a good fit for their job.
Take a moment to think of the job you want and how your military experience prepared you for it. Consider whether you have any skills that might directly apply to it.
For example, if you’re looking for a manufacturing job, did you operate machines during your service? Similarly, if you’re interested in a Logistics or Warehouse Career, did you ever handle cargo or inventory while in the military? Or if you’d like an office role, did you ever perform administrative tasks?
Whatever job you’re applying for, chances are you’ve had some relevant experience. Make sure to list them on your resume as they could place you at the top of a hiring manager’s mind.
Think beyond your technical expertise as well. Veterans bring lots of valuable non-technical, or soft skills, to the table. Abilities like team-work, discipline, problem-solving, and adaptability are common skills that people earn in the army. Don’t forget to include them in your resume, along with concrete examples.
3. Translate military jargon.
Military language is incredibly specific and full of specialized terms that might not make sense to a civilian. In order for your resume to be easily readable, you’ll need to simplify jargon.
Try to swap out obvious military terms right away. Then, go through your resume again and highlight any technical language. Replace it with language that might be more easily understandable to the general public.
For instance, switch out any acronyms, ranks, duties, and military codes with a civilian synonym. And don’t worry if you’re unsure how to translate a term on your own. There are online tools to help you.
To make extra sure that your resume is easily understandable by a non-military audience, ask a civilian contact to read it as well. They will be able to tell you if there are any areas of your resume or terms that they don’t understand. They might also have some insight on how to clarify these areas.
4. Write a cover letter.
If an employer doesn’t explicitly ask for a cover letter, including one might not seem necessary. However, a cover letter can go a long way to helping you land a job.
That’s because a cover letter builds upon your resume to describe exactly how your experience makes you the right fit for a job. As a veteran, it’ll help you explain exactly how your time in the military has prepared you for a civilian job. It can also help you clarify any areas of your resume that might be confusing or unclear to a potential employer.
That extra explanation could go a long way to convincing an unsure hiring manager that you are the perfect person to hire.
That’s not to say that a cover letter should replace your resume, or that you should put less effort in your resume if you include a cover letter. But do consider adding one to make your application more well-rounded.
If you need additional resources to help set you up for job search success, check out websites such as the Veteran Employment Center or Transition Assistance Online. These are some of the many sites with advice to navigate applying civilian jobs.
Similarly, consider reaching out to a staffing agency for help in your search. Staffing firms work with many employers in various industries. They can connect you with opportunities that might not be available to you otherwise.
Not only that, recruiters can offer on-going support in your application process. They can help you update your resume, will even prep you for job interviews, and will follow-up with you to make sure you are satisfied.
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