Military to Civilian Resume – Tips & Examples to Show off Your Skills

The military equips its personnel to handle a variety of situations. It’s not uncommon to see a junior military member managing millions of dollars worth of equipment, or making life and death decisions. In many ways, military members handle decisions and responsibilities of a far greater magnitude than their peers in the corporate world. But…
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The military equips its personnel to handle a variety of situations. It’s not uncommon to see a junior military member managing millions of dollars worth of equipment, or making life and death decisions. In many ways, military members handle decisions and responsibilities of a far greater magnitude than their peers in the corporate world. But how to do you get that across in a resume?

Translation is the Key

Times are tough. It’s no secret jobs are hard to come by, but as a service-member you posses a unique capacity that can set you apart. In order to highlight these wholly unique skill sets, you need to understand a few basic points. First and foremost, civilians rarely understand the scope that a military career field covers. It is your job to inform them. Secondly, you need to translate those military responsibilities into civilian friendly summaries. Limit your acronyms – employers rarely understand them.

Translating an infantryman’s skills:

It’s a late night on the dark streets of Sadr City, Iraq. Visibility is low due to heavy cloud cover. And for some odd reason, your GPS went black. But you manage to hit your final checkpoint utilizing a map and compass. Directing your section out the rear-hatch of an LAV – assuring a solid headcount, you stack against the pockmarked remnants of a cinderblock wall. Assuring the biometric iris scanner is good-to-go, you make liaison with air-support, lock/load a trusty M-16A4, and signal the flash-bang man to make ready. As a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, you’re moments away from leading a dozen young men into hostile territory – an apartment complex abutting the Tigris River.

The US Military labels such individuals as “Infantrymen.” But the breadth in which they operate demonstrates skills way beyond a simple one-word expression. Therein lies the rub – how can a service-member equate their military service into civilian terms? Whether writing a military to civilian resume or introducing oneself in the professional realm, the ability to convert the vast array of skills gleaned from military service is essential.

Types of Resumes

The three general types of resumes include: Chronological, Functional, and Combination.

  • As the word denotes, a Chronological resume focuses on listing work experience in reverse order (most recent job first). This is perfect for service-members who’ve consistently been employed – military or otherwise. It’s important to account for lapses in employment, as companies tend to look for consistency.
  • Moving on, a Functional resume highlights an individual’s skill and experience first and foremost. So-called “Skills Translators,” are great tools to utilize when writing a Functional resume. Military.com has an excellent skills translator. Also, www.onetonline.org offers another excellent free MOS decoder. For example, rather then simply denoting yourself as an “Infantryman,” the skills translator suggests you “operated weapons and equipment in ground combat operations.”
  • And finally, Combination resumes are just that – a combination of both Chronological and Functional. Numerous examples of the aforementioned resumes can be found online here: www.resume-resource.com.

When writing your resume, be sure to include all specialized training received while serving. This can include your MOS training, NCO or officer training, computer or technical skills, etc.

Attention to Detail – The Military Way

All the effort you’ve spent polishing your presentation, won’t matter much if you don’t keep in mind the basics. We’re talking proofreading. Nobody likes misspelled words. It conveys a sense of incompetence and a lack of attention to detail. Plus, in this day and age, there is no excuse for grammatical errors. Two words: Spell Check – it’s there for a reason. Use it.

And don’t forget your contact information. A proper resume includes: name; address; apartment number; city; state; zip code; phone number (including area code); and email address. A small note on emails – save the [email protected] for personal correspondence. If possible, use your first and last name. A good example is [email protected], or any other free e-mail provider like Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, etc. Ultimately, professionalism is of utmost importance – your dream job could depend on it.

Putting it All Together – Further Resources

Transitioning to a new career can be a time-consuming task. It is a good idea to treat your job search as a full-time job, and dedicate as much time and resources to it as you can. Remember, you now hold the keys to your future in your hands.

For further reading on writing a resume, we recommend this excellent resume writing tutorial. The article is over 4,000 words and includes tips and examples for writing and improving your resume.

Combine these tips with your decoded military experience and your military bearing, and you should be in a good position to enter the civilian workforce.

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About Chris Mandia

Chris Mandia is a Southern California writer who writes on military issues. Serving two tours in Iraq as a Marine machine-gunner, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2007 and studied at the University of Southern California's graduate film program. You can find out more about him at ChrisMandia.com.

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