How to Write a Military To Civilian Transition Resume

Translating Your Military Experience for a Civilian Hiring Manager

As a transitioning military professional, you've most likely never before been required to create a professional resume. A resume is a snapshot of your accomplishments, education and work experience. It should reflect your strengths in a concise and coherent manner. Through your resume you typically have about 30 seconds to convince a potential employer that you deserve an interview. In today's competitive job market, a well-written resume is an important tool to get your foot in the door and on your way to landing the perfect position.

How to prepare a resume

Military to Civilian Transition Resume Guide: Table of contents

a) 3 Goals for Your Military to Civilian Resume

b) How to Create a Civilian Resume: Resume Types

c) Military to Civilian Resume Samples

d) Additional Points to Keep in Mind

It may seem a daunting task to effectively translate your military experience on your resume into a format from which a civilian hiring manager can easily extract your civilian qualifications and experience. Hiring managers receive so many resumes that it is imperative that your resume be targeted and concise, with clearly spelled out qualifications and experiences.

Civilian hiring managers can hardly be expected to effectively translate military skills they see on resumes when statistics show that 76% of service members do not know how to translate their own military skills. In fact, having too much military jargon and code on your resume can be the quickest way to ensure your resume is passed over. By translating your skills and experiences for them, you have eliminated the biggest obstacle to transitioning into the civilian workforce.

Step 1: Quantify Your Impact

The first step in translating your resume into civilian terms is to list all positions with specific and quantifiable detail. Quantify how many people worked for you and the dollar amount of the equipment, budgets and programs for which you were responsible for. "Battery Commander" on a resume may not convey much to a civilian hiring manager, but quantifying with "As Battery Commander, I was overall in charge of 100 soldiers and responsible for five million dollars worth of equipment" will demonstrate the depth of your responsibility. Numbers are critical.

Step 2: Translate Your Achievements

Quantifying your experience, however, is not enough. You must also translate your achievements. Treat your achievements and assignments as programs, and include details relevant to the position for which you are applying. Illustrate how you were able to map out a plan and achieve it. Use practical examples to show transferable skills, such as leadership, decision-making, and technical skills and certifications. By doing this, you can prove that your skill set is a match for that required.

Step 3: Incorporate Civilian Counterpart Job titles

When possible, try to use the civilian counterpart job title on your resume with your military position and rank in parenthesis. Hiring managers may not always know what a Staff Sergeant is or how many people they oversee. This position may best be described as a Manager or Leader. Keep in mind, though, that rank is often not an important factor on your resume. Many hiring managers know that service members' experience often exceeds their pay grade and that responsibility doesn't always come with rank.

How to Create a Civilian Resume

Resume Types

Chronological Resume

You should typically use a chronological resume if you have less than 15 years total professional experience and your professional timeline is relatively easy to follow.

This format lists your professional experience in reverse chronological order, so a potential interviewer, military or non-military, can easily follow your professional timeline and very quickly get a good overall understanding of what you are qualified to do.

How to prepare a resume

Keep the following in mind when creating a chronological resume:

  • You must effectively differentiate between your duties and responsibilities, and your achievements.
  • Remember that there are thousands of people who have held a job similar to yours in terms of responsibility, but your achievements are what will set you apart.
  • Be specific and quantify wherever possible.
  • Your duties and responsibilities should be listed directly under your job title and concisely describe your overall responsibilities in two to three lines.
  • Below your responsibilities paragraph, you should list 2-4 achievements for each job held.
  • GPA should only be listed if it is above 3.0.

Keep the following in mind when creating a skills based/combination resume:

  • Ensure your summary paragraph accurately outlines your professional experience.
  • Carefully select the skills listed and the achievements that support each. The first skill set listed should be your strongest and the one you most want to emphasize.
  • Your achievements supporting each skill set should be specific, concise and quantifiable where possible.
  • The Employment Chronology section should not contain gaps in your timeline.

Military to Civilian Resume Samples

These resume samples are intended to give you an idea of what your resume may look like using the Chronological and Skills Based/Combination formats. Consult with your Candidate Recruiter for specific resume preparation assistance and advice.

Sample Military to Civilian Resumes for Junior Military Officers (JMOs), Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) and Enlisted Technicians

Please remember to use Microsoft Word format, and do not use tables, headers, or footers.

How to prepare a resume

Chronological Format Sample Resume

The Chronological Resume format is the most widely used. Hiring Managers are used to seeing it, and this format makes it easy for them to scan your resume and see at a glance if you're a good fit for the position. A Chronological Resume is the best way to explain your background and skills.

download: Chronological Format Sample Resume

Combination Format Sample Resume

Combination resumes list skills and qualifications first, followed by work history. They combine the most notable features of both your skills and your work history, with more of an emphasis on your skills and achievements first. If you have a limited work history, a Combination/Skills Based Resume format is good to use.

download: Combination Format Sample Resume

Skills Based/Combination Format Sample Resume

The Skills Based/Combination Resume format places equal emphasis both on your skills and work experience. It allows you to present a quick overview of your actual employment history and the areas that are transferable. If you have a limited work history, or the history you do have isn't directly related to the job you're applying for, a Skills Based/Combination Resume format is good to use.

download: Skills Based/Combination Format Sample Resume

Functional/Skills Resume

Functional resumes focus on skills and experience rather than on employment history. The purpose of a functional resume is to draw attention to your transferable abilities and skills. If you have a work history that is not directly related to the job you're applying for, a Functional Resume format is good to use.

download:Functional Format Sample Resume

Junior Military Officer Sample Resume

If you are a Junior Military Officer with limited to no civilian work experience, this resume helps to highlight your military experience and focus on your skill set. The best rule of thumb for this type of resume is to avoid military jargon and to include results and achievements during your time in the service.

download: Junior Military Officer Sample Resume

Machinist Mate Sample Resume

For specialized positions like the Navy Machinist's Mate, the resume will look very similar to the Military Technician resume. You will want to draw attention to your areas of expertise within your military role. This will help to focus on the skills that you have obtained while in service. Be sure to also list out any certifications or additional education related to your field.

download: Machinist Mate Sample Resume

Technician Sample Resume

If you are a Military Technician with limited to no civilian work experience, this resume helps to highlight your areas of expertise within your military experience while focusing on your skill set. For this resume, focus on your proficiencies and expound upon any troubleshooting experience and certifications that you have received.

download: Technician Sample Resume

Learn More About Creating a Resume From Our Podcasts and Webinars

Here are some additional points to keep in mind as you begin to develop your civilian resume:

Do not use military jargon.

Position titles like Company Commander, Chief Machinist Mate, or Division Officer are acceptable, but be prepared to explain those terms. You must be able to quantify the number of people who worked for you, your level of technical expertise, and the dollar value of the equipment, program or budget you were responsible for.

How to prepare a resume

There should not be any date gaps on your resume.

You need to adequately cover all time periods specified on your resume.

Spelling and grammar on your resume must be correct and consistent.

Double and triple-check to make sure you have no grammatical or punctuation errors.

Format and styling is important.

Use a standard US Word document. Times New Roman is the preferred font format. Black is the only acceptable font color. Pictures or icons are not acceptable on a professional resume. Margins should be no smaller than 1 inch.Resume paper should be a neutral color, preferably off-white.

Your resume length should be a maximum of two pages.

The length of your resume is entirely dependent on your professional experience, and one page is ideal.

Duties and responsibilities are fine, but keep it short.

Accomplishments are much more important. Companies don't want the person responsible for things, they want the individual who gets things done.

Personal information (age, health, marital status) is not required and should not be included on your resume.

By leaving off your personal information (including age, marital status, gender), you are protecting yourself from discrimination.

There is no need to put "References Available Upon Request."

You will, of course, supply outstanding references when requested. Use the limited space available to showcase your status as a top performer.

When in doubt, consult with your Orion Candidate Recruiter. We will work with you to develop the strongest resume for you based on your background and experience.

Need help finding your next civilian job? Orion Talent can help!

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