How to Translate Your Military Service Into a Civilian Resume
Transitioning from military to civilian life is tough enough. Throw in a job hunt, and it can feel almost impossible.
As career coach Matt Berndt writes, “How can you translate what you did in the military from military jargon and context into language meaningful to civilian employers?”
That’s the question Grammarly aims to answer today.
Before you can write an effective resume, you need to gather information. First, collect any documents related to your service, such as performance evaluations, awards and commendations, and your Verification of Military Experience and Training (or VMET, available here). Veterans and civilians alike can benefit from keeping copies of education transcripts, employment history, and accolades in a handy binder.
These records will make it much easier to create an accurate timeline of your service. They’ll also help you to recall specific, measurable details. According to Shareem Kilkenny, a career services expert who specializes in working with veterans, “Trying to write your military resume without these documents at hand will make the process much more difficult, and most importantly, almost guarantee that your final product will turn out lackluster and thin on your accomplishments.”
Veterans make great leaders in the workplace. According to the University of Notre Dame, “Veterans are not simply trained to respond to commands. In fact, the goal of their training is to help them to recognize the talents inherently in their people and to develop those talents to enable their team to succeed.”
What happens when you’re not looking for a management position? As a veteran, you’re used to following a strict chain of command. While some workplaces prefer a flatter management structure, many employers still use a hierarchical structure. What does that mean for you? Unlike recent grads and employees who are used to more casual leadership structures, you’ll be ahead of the pack when it comes to fitting into the corporate structure.
Offer Solid Numbers
According to Megan M. Biro, one of the reasons that employers want to hire veterans is because of their results-oriented attitude. “When you’re in uniform you have a mission,” writes Biro, “one on which lives may be dependent. Performance and results are non-negotiable. You know how to get things done[,] and you do them.”
To demonstrate your ability to get results, offer solid numbers whenever possible. Hiring managers might not understand all of the specifics about your military service, but they do understand statements like “supervised 20 subordinates” or “cut department expenses by 3.8 percent in 2007.”
Cut the Jargon and Alphabet Soup
Your resume should read as if you were speaking to your grandparents. That’s what Bradley-Morris, a firm specializing in helping vets find work, recommends. Most employers will have no clue what military jargon and acronyms mean, so make sure to use the civilian equivalents.
If you must use an acronym for the sake of brevity, spell it out the first time you use the term, and then put the acronym in parentheses immediately following the word or phrase. Then you can use the acronym from that point forward. For example, you might write “Department of Defense (DOD)” the first time it’s mentioned and then just “DOD” thereafter. If you only mention a term once in your resume or cover letter, however, there’s no need to include the acronym at all.
Proofread Before Sending
Accuracy is key when it comes to any business writing. That’s why you need to pay special attention to spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and typos in your resume. One mistake could cost you the interview, so eliminate typos with Grammarly’s automated proofreading tool, or get a friend to help you.
Veterans, thank you for your service! We’d be honored if you’d share your advice and stories about transitioning into the civilian job force in the comments!