Transitioning from the Military to the Civilian Workforce? Update That Resume!

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

Having worked hard in the military, you have gained valuable experience as a service member. You possess in-demand skills but aren’t quite sure how to modify your resume so that it is accepted and understood in the civilian world. Transitioning back to a civilian job can be tricky for a veteran who’s spent years in the military. Following the steps below can help you become more comfortable with this process and allow you to enter the civilian workforce with confidence.

While there are many military resources that can help you craft a suitable resume, it’s also a good idea to get help from professional editors. In particular, you’ll want to make sure your resume is free of typos or other errors that could take you out of the race before it even starts. Get in touch with our experts for any help with linguistic issues.

1. Get rid of the military jargon

Military jargon can be a serious obstacle to getting hired by a civilian company. While all the work you have done is important, most recruiters won’t understand the language and, for the sake of time, may file your resume. It can certainly be a daunting task to explain to a civilian what you did in the military, but it’s crucial to do it well because a recruiter isn’t going to hire someone whose work history is incomprehensible to them. For this reason, you need to replace the military language with terminology a civilian hiring manager can easily understand.

First, you should avoid using initials and acronyms, especially ones that civilians don’t know or would have to look up (you can safely assume that will apply to most military acronyms). For example, instead of saying that you completed the ANOC, state that you finished the Advanced Leadership and Management Development Course. The hiring manager will know right away that you have exceptional leadership skills.

In addition, translate your military terms if possible. Refer to your platoon as your “team.” If you completed certain missions, cite them as “tasks” or “objectives.” If you won military medals, refer to them as “awards.” Were you involved in reconnaissance? State that you participated in “research” or “data collection.” There are many ways to “demilitarize” terms so that they are easily understood by those outside of the military. Don’t feel shy about reaching out to friends or family for help in coming up with appropriate civilian terminology to describe your military feats.

2. Focus on transferable skills

Very few people boast all the valuable experience and expertise that service members have gained. Wade through your current resume and pull out every desirable skill that can apply to any job. It may be as easy as translating terms into something a civilian hiring manager can understand.

You may wonder what skills can translate. Focus on highlighting leadership abilities, work ethic, discipline, teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving, communication, etc. You might be surprised at all the valuable experience you have gained that is coveted in today’s workplace. Again, you can consult with family members and friends to glean what sort of skills are desired in a modern civilian workplace; they may be able to help you identify more skills you’ve acquired, thus enabling you to bolster your resume.

Go back to any job postings you’re interested in and look for keywords. It’s wise to include some of these words in your resume in case a company uses an applicant tracking system. Most large and mid-sized enterprises use such programs to automatically scan job applications and weed out the ones that don’t seem suitable for the position. “Suitability” is usually determined by the number of keywords in the text, so if you don’t include the right keywords, your resume may never reach a human recruiter.

3. Highlight technical skills and join LinkedIn

If you have worked with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Google Docs, Google Sheets, or other tools, include this experience in your resume. Technical skills are sought after in today’s world. Even if it is not required, it doesn’t hurt to show that you know your way around a computer. Are you proficient in using social media, including Instagram and Twitter? Let them know as this could benefit you in certain jobs. Be careful, though—unsavory content on social media could quickly land you in the rejection pile, so be sure to delete any controversial posts.

In addition, you should create a LinkedIn profile and start networking. Since LinkedIn is a social media platform dedicated to professional connections, you can sell yourself even better on this site by providing extra information about yourself (that is, things that aren’t included in your resume). A LinkedIn profile can also benefit you in the following ways:

  • You can check civilian job postings. You will become comfortable with civilian professional jargon as you peruse commonly used words and phrases.
  • You can reach out to veterans. They can give you advice about searching for a civilian job and tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.
  • You can connect with non-military businesspeople. They can offer you some insight into the civilian workforce and are often more than happy to help you out.

4. Check out military resources designed to help you

Most military branches have organizations and resources that help service members transition to civilian life. Since these resources are free, your best bet is to visit the organizations to see if they can help you create or update your resume.

5. Hire professional resume writers and editors

Take advantage of professionals who draft and polish resumes for a living. They can do everything, from helping you create a professional-looking resume to catching those pesky spelling and grammar errors and unfortunate typos. Slips like these can cost you a job even if you’re otherwise highly qualified, so don’t overlook this step.

In addition, these professionals can help you choose a suitable format for the career you’re entering and trim your resume to one page, which is highly recommended. They may also be able to help you find overlapping skills by browsing various job postings.

While the transition to a non-military workplace can be challenging, writing or updating your resume doesn’t have to be. If you have served in the military, you possess many skills that the civilian workforce values greatly. Get the help you need to make the transition process easier. 

Improve Your Resume or CV