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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

How to Get Your Military Resume in Shape for a Civilian Job Search

Your go-to guide for making the transition from the military to the civilian workforce. [TWEET]

“…You must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn.”

-- Miyamoto Musashi, "A Book of Five Rings"

It’s very easy for veterans to get discouraged when they can't see an obvious connection between their military service and a job in the civilian world. One of the worst things I've heard from a client, in this case a soldier transitioning from the Army, was "I'm a highly trained nothing." The problem isn’t a lack of skills, qualifications, or professionalism. It’s a problem of translating military service into terms employers recognize and value. It’s a problem of perspective, and one you can solve with your resume. Check out our tips on how to get your military resume in shape for a civilian job search.

Connect the dots.

The clearer and more obvious you make the connections between your capabilities and an employer’s needs, the better your chances. From experience, most job seekers – military or civilian – write about themselves, not to their audience’s needs. Build your resume to showcase how your strengths will deliver value to your target employer. Take inventory of not only the end result (the roles you played in the service) but the training, skills, and qualities that you developed getting there. Including your military experience on a resume can help you stand out from a crowd.

Use your documentation.

Veterans have a decisive advantage here: their careers are documented in greater detail than those of their civilian counterparts. One client kept what he called his “I Love Me” binder, but by any name it’s a powerful asset for civilian or military resume writing: SMART transcripts, VMETs, evaluation reports, training certificates, and award narratives detail valuable training and accomplishments.

The “Rater’s Comments” section on evaluations is especially useful, often yielding not only specific metrics about your performance but quotable testimonials about accomplishments and character. Remember: if someone put it in writing, it’s fair game to repurpose for your resume.

Highlight your security clearances.

Security clearances can be extremely valuable to employers, so it should be highlighted on any military to civilian resume. A TS would cost a private employer hundreds of thousands of dollars if they had to pay for that degree of background investigation. Any security clearance offers proof of your responsibility and accountability, saving employers time and money.

Use metrics to benchmark your accomplishments. Many veterans were entrusted with equipment, supply inventories, and budgets running into the millions of dollars. How was your performance measured? What difference did you make--and how can you describe that in numbers? Again, look to your records to find documentation of these data points. Think in terms of #, $, and %: rankings, cost savings, degree of improvement, etc.

Translate military terminology and acronyms. 

Employers can't value what they can't understand. There are many online resources to help with this. A few you may find useful:

Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!