Translating Your Military Experience for a Civilian Hiring Manager
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.
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.
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.
When possible, try and 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.
Some other resume issues that are a turn-off to hiring managers are spelling and grammar errors, typos, and improper resume styles. Disqualifying mistakes such as using C-level titles (i.e. CEO or COO) or a generic, one-size-fits-all resume should also be avoided.
All this talk of practical examples and relevant skill sets should not, however, deter you from considering the intangibles you bring to the table. You embody some of the most sought after skills in Corporate America. Aside from the cutting-edge technical skills you possess, you are also an innovative thinker with a strong work ethic with customer service skills, energy, and dedication, with a full understanding of the value of teamwork. While these assets cannot always be clearly conveyed on a resume, you can certainly showcase them in your interview.
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