Whether you write it yourself or enlist assistance, preparing your resume is an important part of the military-to-civilian career transition. In addition to making sure your resume is relevant to the industry, company and job for which you are applying, you'll likely have questions including:
- What to include and leave off?
- How much detail to go into for each job held?
- Do you list every position you've held in the military or just your civilian work?
- How many of your accommodations, medals and awards should you list?
And perhaps most importantly: How can you make your work in the military understandable and attractive to a civilian hiring manager?
Use Relevant Keywords
I remember an Army Sergeant First Class telling me about an interview experience he had. As he left the military, he wanted to pursue a career in project management. During one of his first interviews, the hiring manager asked him to describe a time he'd managed a complex project. He looked at her with a blank expression on his face and replied: "I've never managed a project."
Later, while discussing the interview with a buddy, his friend scolded him: "What do you mean you've never managed a project?" The Sergeant replied, "I've only managed missions, not projects."
This kind of disconnect in language is important to address. Learn the correct narrative, terminology and keywords for the industry and company you are pursuing. If they refer to the job as "online merchandising specialist" but you know it as "information technology analyst" then go with their language. They will scan your resume for the keywords they are most familiar with.
Power Resume Words
Like keywords, how you describe your past successes and skills matter. Instead of using passive words, or words that lack specificity, consider these options to make your resume more interesting, informative and powerful:
Get the idea? Instead of listing, "responsible for the transportation of materials and supplies to specific locations," you might write: "Directed and supervised the successful transport of mission-critical supplies…" The latter sounds more confident and skilled.
Before you hit "send" on a resume, cover letter, or online profile, spell check three or four times. Better yet, have a friend or colleague proofread your materials. You can't just rely on your computer's spellcheck or a quick glance. Odds are, mistakes (typos or grammar) will be spotted quickly by a hiring manager, possibly damaging your chances for an interview.