Your military experience can be valuable to an employer — if you use it wisely.
It's easy for veterans to get discouraged during the job search when they don't see a clear connection between their military service and a job in the civilian world. The problem, of course, isn't a lack of skills, qualifications, or professionalism — it's the challenge 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 military-based capabilities and an employer's needs, the better your chances of landing the job. Most job seekers, military or civilian, write about themselves — not to their audience's needs. Instead, you should 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. Most importantly, feature any major accomplishments or important projects you took part in that can be related back to the role for which you are applying.
Use your documentation
All professionals should keep a brag book throughout their careers to track their notable accomplishments. As a veteran, you have an advantage, as your career is documented in much greater detail than those of your civilian counterparts. SMART transcripts, VMETs, evaluation reports, training certificates, and award narratives all detail valuable training and accomplishments you can use in your job search.
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.
Of course, many civilian careers will not require any kind of high-level security clearance. However, you should still include those details on your resume as they demonstrate 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 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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