Serving in the military can be one of the best résumé builders for a career in the private sector. But once you hang up your fatigues and start drafting your résumé, it’s crucial to know your audience. Civilians, especially those who have never served, will be looking for qualifications, skillsets, and keywords that might surprise you. Below are three big tips to keep you on track.
1. BE SPECIFIC.
As impressive and wide-ranging as your military experience might be, it may not give a potential employer a clear idea of where to place you. That’s why you need to tell them. Be sure to clearly state your job objectives and have a specific career path in mind. If you’re not sure what career feels right for you, do your research, talk it out with loved ones, or meet with a career coach first. Or, for a general starting point, take this quick aptitude test. However you go about it, remember this tip: figure it out before you send it out.
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If you’re still an active duty, guard, or reserve military member, your first test will be covered (first attempt only). Learn more here.
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2. BE CONCISE.
Your military career is likely chock-full of training accomplishments, awards, and jaw-dropping bravery. But the truth is, most employers won’t care about the nitty gritty. They already know how diligent, professional, organized, and strategic you have to be to serve in any branch of the military. So, be sure to hang on to any accomplishments that directly relate to the job field for which you’re applying, but eliminate any that don’t. For example, if you’re applying for a position at a web development company, technology and management achievements will fare far better than tactical training awards.
Your résumé should never, ever be longer than one page (not including cover letter), and this will likely require you to be very selective with your military highlights. If you’re applying for various jobs in multiple fields, there’s nothing wrong with tailoring a résumé for each opportunity. Never forget the golden rule of “quality over quantity.”
All the above being said, make sure your résumé clearly states that you are a veteran. As important as it is to be concise, you certainly don’t want to gloss over or downplay the fact that you served. Few would argue that protecting our nation is an extremely admirable role that requires a serious work ethic. Don’t be afraid to flaunt it.
3. TRADE THE MILITARY JARGON FOR CORPORATE JARGON.
Here are a couple examples of how to “demilitarize” your résumé, courtesy of Monster.com:
Example of a demilitarized accomplishment statement:
Increased employee retention rate by 16 percent by focusing on training, team building, and recognition programs. Earned reputation as one of the most progressive and innovative IT organizations in the Army’s communications and IT community.
Example of incorporating a military award so employers understand its value:
Received Army Achievement Medal for completing 400+ medical evaluations and developing patient database using MS Access. Database improved reporting functions and tracked patient demographics, records, medication, appointments, and status
Now that your résumé is updated, you’re ready to take the next step toward finding your post-military career. Rest assured that even if the job search process feels a little unfamiliar, odds are you are more than qualified for the job. Enjoy the mission!