“…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 easy for veterans to get discouraged when they don't see a clear 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 a strategically-written resume. Check out these 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. Most job seekers, military or civilian, write about themselves and not to their audience’s needs. Instead, build your resume to showcase how your strengths will deliver value to your target employer. Take inventory of not only the roles you played in the service, but also 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 strong advantage here: Their careers are documented in much greater detail than those of their civilian counterparts. One client kept what he called his “I Love Me” binder. This kind of documentation (typically called a brag book for those of us with less creativity) is a powerful asset for civilian or military resume writing. SMART transcripts, VMETs, evaluation reports, training certificates, and award narratives all 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 they should be highlighted on any military-to-civilian resume. Let’s say you have Top Secret Clearance. It would cost a private employer hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for that degree of background investigation. Any security clearance you may have saves employers time and money, as well as offers proof of your responsibility and accountability.
Showcase your accomplishments.
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 numbers, dollar amounts, and percentages: rankings, cost savings, degree of improvement, etc.
Translate military terminology and acronyms.
Employers can't value what they can't understand. Thankfully, there are many online resources to help you put your military vocabulary into layman’s terms. A few you may find useful:
O*NET Online, from the Department of Labor
O*NET's companion site especially for veterans, My Next Move
Department of Labor (DOL) Military to Civilian Occupation Translator
Military.com's Military Skills Translator
VA for VETS Military Skills Translator
Click on the following link for more job-search advice.
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