How To Write A Strong Civilian Resume

According to various government and military reports, more than a million veterans will return home to our nation’s shores over the next five years—and they will be looking for meaningful employment. They’ll also need to write a strong civilian resume when they make the transition. With fewer jobs and greater competition, if you’re a veteran, it’s critical to make your military experience shine in a way that civilian employers understand. “Focus on where you want your career to go by examining your knowledge, skills and abilities and using your personal interests as a frame of reference,” advises Brian Orczeck, a U.S. Air Force veteran and veterans employment representative with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Websites like and Mil2FedJobs can help you evaluate your experience and talents and find a good job fit in the private or government sector. Your training probably didn’t teach you how to draft the perfect civilian resume. However, the military offers resources to help you do just that. “I think almost every military installation has a [U.S. Department of Defense] Transition Assistance Program (TAP) or Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC),” says Wendy Enelow, executive career consultant and author of Expert Resumes for Military-To-Civilian Transitions. “Those are available at no charge, and you certainly should investigate and take advantage of them.” Though you may think your military experience speaks for itself, if a prospective employer is unfamiliar with military jargon, it doesn’t translate. “Many employers will not understand ‘COB,’ let alone ‘NAVPACINSCOM,’" says Orczeck. “Leave the acronyms behind.” Also, translate those military words into corporate words. For example, what the military calls “procurement” is often referred to as “purchasing” in the business world. While your military duties might not align perfectly with the responsibilities of the civilian job you’re seeking, your skills do. Critical thinking, problem solving, team work, scheduling—these are skills that should be highlighted for human resources to clearly see your background. There is no one-size-fits-all civilian resume. You have to tweak your resume for each job announcement, changing the language a little bit to emphasize the skills employers want. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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