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Translating Your Military Experience for a Civilian Career

The transition from military to civilian life doesn’t have be rocky. Here’s how to take the skills you acquired and translate them to fit your next career goal. [TWEET]

Kudos to you! You recently served in the armed forces and are ready to take that next step in transitioning your career over to the civilian sector post-discharge. Often, this requires some careful preparation. Below are some steps to help ease the process.

Focus less on jargon and more on skills.

Much of the military terminology commonly used between you and your fellow colleagues on a daily basis will appear foreign to some recruiters, depending on the field you are choosing to transition into. Take a look at your current resume that you’ve used to perhaps apply for military and government positions and work to clean up the content in terms of jargon, abbreviations, etc. Find out new ways to say the same thing in a way that is friendly for all audiences.

Take inventory of your abilities.

It’s easy to get caught up in the terminology, facts, and figures that, while serving in a military role, meant a great deal to your commanding officers. Those skills and achievements still mean a lot, but can be translated into core competencies that are strongly desired in almost any civilian career sector. Critical thinking, time management, interpersonal skills, communication, teamwork, project management, strategic planning, and many other qualities are found in job postings across almost all career sectors. Find ways to explain your expertise and showcase your notable accomplishments in civilian-friendly language that speaks to a non-military audience.

Create a LinkedIn profile.

This social media tool is optimal for networking and sharing ideas. Having a well-crafted profile not only showcases your skills in a more comprehensive manner than can be included on a standard two-page resume, but it also demonstrates your tech savvy and social media skills, strongly desired across various career fields. Plus, you can create a custom URL that can be listed as a form of contact on your resume. Not sure where to start? Check out LinkedIn for Veterans.

Simplify all of the training.

While it is wonderful to have a litany of education and training that you acquired during your years of military service, the entire list will likely not fit within the confines of a standard, modern two-page civilian resume format. Sift through it all and list only the transferable trainings and remarkable awards. If possible, also create a resume appendix of sorts that, if an employer asks for detailed information, you can provide in an aesthetic format that matches your resume. The PDFs and print transcripts provided by military branches are often unreadable by those not familiar with the military, so a more concise list of all completed trainings will highlight your talents, yet not bog readers down with unneeded details.

Consider a professional resume rewrite.

There are resume services out there to help you and guide you in developing a brand-new civilian resume and cover letter that you’ll feel confident using when applying to post-military positions. The benefit of a professional resume writer’s expertise is invaluable to the many clients they serve, so take some time and research the many products and services offered by a professional resume-writing firm; some even offer content development services for the important and aforementioned LinkedIn profiles.

Take advantage of the organizations that exist to help you.

It’s likely that your particular military branch offers transition services for enlisted personnel that are soon to be discharged. These services are free and useful, so take advantage of them if you are still in. There are also other organizations and resources, such as the Wounded Warrior Project,, and many more that are there to offer assistance. Many of those professional resume writing services I previously mentioned hire writers who have specific experience in working with veterans and government personnel, so if you plan to opt for that service, be sure to strongly indicate that you are a military veteran looking to switch into a new and exciting career!

While the prospect of transitioning to a new chapter can be scary and overwhelming, with the right resources and information at your disposal, it is my hope that your transition to a civilian career will be a smooth process and exciting change. Best of luck and cheers!

Landing your dream job starts with the right plan.

Download your free action plan now to get the job you deserve.

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Landing your dream job starts with the right plan. Download your free action plan now to get the job you deserve.