Say 'Goodbye' to Uncle Sam: Translating your military experience for a civilian career

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  • Say 'Goodbye' to Uncle Sam: Translating your military experience for a civilian career

Once you’ve decided to quit military service and settle down at a civilian job, you may find yourself slightly confused by the fact that your experience, awards and achievements are not quite suitable for a civilian resume. 

However, it doesn’t mean that vets are out of the competition, actually you can benefit from your former military experience. 

In this article, we will equip you with some useful knowledge on how to adjust your resume to a civilian job market and help with translating military experience to civilian terms, so that you will be able to ensure your would-be employers that you’re a decent candidate for the position in a civilian sector. 

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Turn your military job titles into a civil ones 

Before starting your career search, you should define your job objective. That means you need to understand clearly what positions you are going to apply for and what skills are in-demand among the civilian employers. Thus, first thing you need to do is to convert your military skills into a civil equivalent. To do that, you can use different online tools, such as military skills translator; below you will find some military titles that match civil jobs:

  • Nominative Sergeant Major - Training and Development Specialist
  • Generalist Officer – Director, Coordinator
  • Warrant Officer - Technical Specialist, Department Manager
  • Information Operations Officer – IT Project Manager, Scrum Master
  • Correctional Specialist – Police Officer

As you can see, some of the translations are quite simple and obvious, but what makes this step really important is that you start realizing what skills and qualifications you should highlight while writing a resume

Get rid of the military jargon

The next step you should take is to make sure that each and every line in your resume is free of military terms. Replace such words as subordinates, regulations, medal, etc. Instead, replace them with the alternatives, such as: employees, policies (rules, guidelines), awards. 

If you’re truly determined to get a job and not being judged stereotypically be ready to exclude military language words not only from your resume but from your everyday lexicon. It can be challenging for a while, however it’s a necessary measure. Remember, your final goal not only to get hired but to adjust to your new professional life as smoothly as possible. 

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Work on your “Soft skills” section

There are two types of skills: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are professional and technical skills and knowledge required to successfully perform your duties at work, while soft skills are extremely useful in everyday life. By the way, recent survey by Deloitte revealed that soft skills jobs will make up 63% of all jobs by 2030. Soft skills include:

  • Interpersonal skills. Help you develop relationships with people, maintain conversation, and be able to behave effectively in critical situations. These skills are must have for everyone.
  • Self-management skills. Help you control your time, set priorities and switch between tasks.
  • Management and leadership skills. Those skills are required for people at the stage when they become managers and take responsibility for the companies’ projects. They must be able to lead a team of subordinates and strive for mutual results showing self-discipline, patience and decision-making skills. 

Customize your resume according to a job description

This step is essential if you want to get invited for an interview and leave behind other candidates. The thing is that at the first stage of recruiting process a resume gets scanned by machines called applicant tracking systems (ATS) that check whether it meets the requirements listed in the job description. That’s why to create a resume that will be able to pass the auto-screening stage, you need to make sure you’ve included all the necessary keywords; otherwise you won’t get to the next selection stage. 

To find out what kind of keywords in resume are needed, read the job description carefully and highlight phrases that define the position. For example, if a company looks for an IT specialist the key phrases may include “Proven problem solving skills and analytical thinking”, “Experience in administration of Windows/Unix OS”, “Knowledge of OOP patterns”, etc.

Don’t use those phrases verbatim, instead try different word combinations to ensure HR-managers you haven’t just copy-pasted the text from the job board.

Provide a cover letter

Cover letter is a subject of constant controversy in the recruiting circles. Some of them say it helps you score extra points, and some of them disagree with that by saying that it won’t help you get hired if you are not qualified enough for the position. 

Usually cover letter are required for an internship and entry-level positions, however one cannot deny that a powerful cover letter where you give reasons why you decided to apply for this particular job is an additional proof of your interest. Thus, if  you’re truly determined to catch the recruiter’s eye and receive a feedback, spare no time and effort to write a convincing  cover letter that shows your motivation, highlights your strengths and makes the hiring manager want to find out more about you.

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Don’t forget to spell check 

You’ll be surprised to find out how many resumes are thrown into a trash due to the spelling mistakes. Missing letters or a misspelled word can make your resume look vague and reckless, so is your personality. Mistakes happen for various reasons; you might be in a hurry or slept very little the day before, however it still makes you responsible for each and every line in your CV. 

Formatting is also a matter of great importance. Try to experiment with resume fonts, but don’t go too far, 2 font types would be enough – one for the main content, other to highlight the headings. Also, check thoroughly whether all margins are of same size and there’s no empty space that can distract and confuse the reader. 

After you’ve done the revision, your resume will turn into a pleasant-looking document that represents your serious intentions to be considered as a decent applicant. 

Be proactive 

Getting out of your comfort zone is tough; military veterans got used to a particular lifestyle in a very powerful and tight-knit community. Plus, job search itself can be quite stressful and intimidating process. 

To make your transition less of a head ache, get yourself prepared in advance. Read tips on how to get ready for an interview, be proactive and use social networks to find out more information about the recent job openings; according to Global Recruiting Trends Report 2017, 40% of recruiters use LinkedIn as one of the main hiring channels, so take advantage of it! 

We can assure you, that your confidence will increase multiple times as soon as you pass a few interviews and in the end your enthusiasm complemented by perseverance and determination will help you get a job.

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