Top 5 Ways to “Civilianize” your Résumé

Does your résumé have too much military language in it?  Well worry no more; it’s time to learn how to transform your military skills and education into a dynamite civilian résumé! Now that your getting out of the service, it’s time to get ready for the next chapter in your life; a civilian career!  Your most important tool in your arsenal is your résumé during your job hunt.  However, getting your military service to convert over and be understood by the civilian world can be difficult.  We have listed the top 5 ways to “civilianize” your résumé.

It only takes 10 Seconds!

How long should your résumé really be? You should always aim for one page for every 10 years of work experience/military service and no longer than two pages.  However, the question you need to be asking yourself is: Will it pass the 10 seconds?  A civilian hiring manager sees hundreds of résumés to find a handful of qualified potential candidates.  Your résumé has to first survive this initial process.  Let’s assume that each candidate’s résumé will get 10 seconds of the hiring manager’s attention.  During those 10 seconds the hiring manager has to immediately find the keywords that match the position being sought.  If you feel your background and experience deserves more than one page, make sure all the great accomplishments are on the first page!

Speaking about Accomplishments:  

Organizations hire job seekers for their potential, their experience or a combination of both.  If your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) has a civilian equivalent and you want to stay in that field, by all means highlight that information on your résumé.  If on the other hand you’re not staying in your current field then you should be selling your potential more than your experience.  The most important in either case, is how well you perform in the job.  So instead of listing your job descriptions, rather list your accomplishments.  It’s your accomplishments that sell you and your potential, your work experience sells your past. Ultimately, I assume you want to look towards the future in your career, not your past.

“Civilianize It”

Most of what you did in the military service may make sense to our civilian counterparts.  However, there are some positions, tasks and functions that have very little or no civilian equivalence.  (Grenade Handler)  The fact that you were assigned as your unit’s S1 or S3 shop, may get lost in translation.  You don’t need to take them out of your résumé, but rather “civilianize” it!  Therefore, it might read “Maintained and kept up-to-date personnel records for more than 400 employees; reduced financial error rates by two-thirds in one year saving $70 million.”  These positions are significant positions with a huge amount of responsibility.   Therefore you should translate it into a language a civilian manager can understand.



Take out the Alphabet:

There is much about your military experience that works in your favor!  The issue lies within most military folks typically don’t know how to “civilianize” it.  In addition, the hiring managers don’t understand the military terminology.  This is the biggest challenge in being recognizable to these companies. i.e.. (TRADOC, SITREP, FORSCOM, DOD) etc.

Most military service members are under the impression that they should completely remove all things military in their résumés.  However, going to this extreme can be a mistake. There are hundreds of civilian employers that want to hire you because of that military experience! Whether you’ve been in 4 years or 20 years, transitioning Military & Veterans need to ensure they demonstrate the value to an employer as well as make your career document visually appealing to the hiring manager!

Training & Development:

Most civilian organizations enjoy hiring military folks. The reason being is they are already trained.  In addition, many prior military already have college degrees.  Don’t worry if you don’t hold a degree, most Veterans have a considerable amount of technical training from their military service.  Don’t forget to utilize your GI Bill if you want to continue with your education.  That being said, companies also like to hire educated folks, especially the ones who have served and performed well in a stressful environment, such as the military.  Therefore, make sure you keep these in mind when creating or updating your résumé.  Don’t forget, it only takes 10 seconds!


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