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How to De-Militarize Your Resume

Jul 8, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

If you’re looking to make the transition from a military to a civilian career, you’ll need a resume that appeals to civilian employers.

There are significant challenges in doing this—as military language and roles aren’t always commonly understood by those outside the military, or those in traditional or accredited online schools that don’t deal with large populations of veterans. Still, it can be done. Here are a few guidelines.

Know what you’re qualified for on the outside

If you’re hoping to transition from what you’ve been doing in the military all this time to something completely different, you’ll have a more difficult time convincing civilian employers to give you a second look. Your resume will be stronger if it’s tailored to a position you’re a natural fit for—and your only task is simply translating the military lingo to show the hiring manager how your previous experience already aligns.

Don’t just write a general resume and hope for the best. Do some research and identify the positions on the outside that are the closest equivalents to the responsibilities you had in the military. Know what the job titles are and which industries they’re in. This will help you target a market where your military experience could be a strong advantage, if you present it right.

See Also: Earn Your Degree While Serving Your Country

Get rid of all the acronyms

The military loves acronyms. But most of the military acronyms you’re used to are mystifying to non-military people. Scrub your resume of all acronyms; write the essential things out fully and, where possible, give them more easily-understood names.

See Also: Online Degree Programs

Get rid of lingo

The military has its own language—and you may speak it fluently, but chances are the civilian hiring managers you’re hoping to impress don’t. Go through your resume with a careful eye toward anything that sounds “too military”—any titles of projects, equipment, duties, or other things that aren’t immediately obvious to a civilian. If you find this difficult—and you may be so steeped in the language that it’s difficult to identify—have a civilian friend look through your existing resume and circle terms that are hard to understand.

See Also: College for Military Personnel

Explain your titles

You may have been a “Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge” of a program or facility, but hiring managers may not know what that is or why it’s important. Wherever possible, assume civilians don’t understand the significance of your titles. Check out your service’s personnel manual or the Military Occupation Training Data series to find military jobs and tasks linked to their civilian equivalents, or use the Military Skills Translator [].

Leave out the gory details

Information about your military accomplishments that are too gritty can sometimes make civilians uncomfortable. It’s best to keep the focus on job-relevant tasks and leave out information about on-the-ground missions, weapons training, and firefights; anything violent should be taken out of the resume.

The exception here is if you’re applying for a position in law enforcement or private security; in these cases, you should include information that’s relevant to the job including your combat and weapons training.

Make sure your accomplishments are obvious

Don’t just state what you did. State what effect that action had. For instance, if you organized a supply chain, explain how you streamlined operations to get supplies to a remote and challenging location faster—while saving costs (include a specific dollar amount if you can.) Write a bulleted list of achievements under your general description of duties for each job, and be sure you explain not just what you did, but the impact it had on the organization.

Get rid of irrelevant information

Don’t include military awards, training, or distinctions that are not either directly related to the job or of high recognition value to a civilian. For instance, civilians will probably know what a Purple Heart is; they won’t care about your medal for rifle marksmanship, unless you’re applying for a job in law enforcement or private security. Be sure that everything on your resume is as focused toward the career path you’re aiming for as possible—and eliminate anything unnecessary.

Some employers realize that a military background is an asset—it produces employees that are dedicated, strong leaders with cross-functional skills and an ability to keep calm under intense pressure. But employers that haven’t had much experience with veteran employees may not understand the benefits of hiring from the military. You’ll have to show how your military background is actually an asset—while making sure they understand how your previous job history translates to what they need.




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