How To Write a Veteran-to-Civilian Resume

This article was contributed by Liz Hogan, Digital Partnerships Manager and a CPRW at Find My Profession

Hanging up your military uniform and transitioning to civilian life can be challenging, and entering the workforce for the first time outside of the structured life of service is no different.

While available career paths may look different than jobs you’re used to, the good news is that many skills are transferrable in this new journey. The key is to highlight those strengths in a civilian-format resume so employers can easily identify the value you would bring to their company.

Pick a Resume Format That Works

There are a few common resume formats that can emphasize your experience if you have an impressive work history or highlight your skillset if that is where you are more confident.

Below are key content differences in these resume styles:

  • Chronological: Also called a reverse-chronological or standard resume, it’s the most common format used by job seekers, focusing on your work experience, and listing jobs in a reverse-chronological order. This format involves highlighting your roles and adding bullet points to explain your duties and accomplishments.
  • Functional: Also known as a skills-based resume, this format emphasizes your skills rather than your work experience. It can be handy if you have gaps in your resume or less education than the job requires.
  • Combination: This is also called a hybrid resume and focuses on both your skills and work experiences in fairly equal measure.

Choose the resume format that will best highlight your strengths and don’t feel constrained by traditional formats!

Start with a Compelling Summary

On average, it takes a recruiter roughly seven seconds to skim through your resume to determine if they feel you’re qualified for the role or not.

Kick off your resume with a short, concise statement that tells the hiring manager who you are and what skills you bring to the table. This paragraph doesn’t need to list all your accomplishments as those will be highlighted in a later section. Include key words from the job posting so if the resume is scanned by artificial intelligence, it will stand out.

Properly Highlight Your Skills

As a veteran, you have skills that are as in demand as civilians. But a recruiter doesn’t necessarily know that. Their main concern is what you can do professionally, and how your skills fit the work. For example, if your job was “Air Force Technical Aircraft Mechanic,” you can highlight duties from that to show you’re qualified for civilian aviation maintenance and repair.

However, depending on your role in the military, it’s possible you don’t have a hard skill that would be relevant for the position you are applying for. In this case, list the skills that are closely related and convey your willingness to learn on the job.

Translate Your Military Experience

Military culture is unique and structured, usually down to the most minute details, including verbiage. This jargon may be well known to you and your former colleagues but will need some translation for recruiters.

Avoid using military acronyms and other military-specific language that may not make sense to a civilian.

A recruiter may not understand what you mean when you call yourself a “sergeant” or a “lieutenant.” The same is true when you say you conducted troop leading procedures.

While it may seem like the most straightforward thing for you, it’s completely different for a civilian recruiter, so it would be beneficial to translate your military experience into common terms.

This means writing “base” instead of “AFB,” using “team performance review” instead of “OER” or “Officer Efficiency Reports,” and using “business trip/leave” instead of “TAD/TDY.”

Another good example of translating your military experience into civilian phrasing, according to Military OneSource, is replacing:

“SNOIC for 2d MarDiv G-3, planning and executing all logistics for operations conducted in our AOR.” 

with:

“Supervised staff of 15 people. Planned and coordinated operations conducted by various subordinate units within our division.”

The ability to translate your military experience to more common terms clearly communicates to recruiters that you’re able to work comfortably in different environments. 

If you’re not sure what your military buzzwords mean in the civilian world, you can use a military translator like Millitary.com to better convey your military experience to a civilian recruiter.

Tailor Your Resume To Your Target Job

It can be tempting to use one resume to blanket apply for positions. But to increase your hiring chances, each submission should be tailored based on the job description.

This involves studying the job description of your target position and identifying the important skills they’re looking for. Then, fill in the skills, experiences, and achievements that are relevant to the job.

For example, if you’re applying for an engineering job, your headline as well as your skills and accomplishments, should be engineering-related and in commonly understood tems.

Now that you know how to write a veteran-to-civilian resume, you’re in a better position to apply for the job you want. All the best in landing the civilian job you’re looking for, and thank you for your service.

Liz Hogan is the Digital Partnerships Manager and a CPRW at Find My Profession. She regularly shares her advice on job search and resumes writing with others. She is also passionate about volunteering.

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