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Military To Civilian: How To Translate Your Skills Onto A Resume

Image: military to civilian

Congratulations on starting your transition from military to civilian life. This is a big step, and one of your first priorities is probably starting your civilian career. One of your first moves will likely be to create a resume suited for the civilian job market. But trying to craft a resume that translates experience from military to civilian terms can leave you scratching your head and searching for a place to begin. Here are some pointers on how to translate your military skills onto a civilian resume that can help you launch your new career.

Lost In Translation

The biggest mistake many transitioning military members make is not speaking the same civilian lingo that the person doing the hiring will understand. You don't want to overwhelm him or her with confusing military jargon or slang. Be sure to spell out acronyms and put key experience at the top of your resume. Translate job duties, courses and training into terms one of your friends or family members would easily understand. For instance, if your military job title is "avionics maintenance chief," you can explain that you are adept at electronics system repair, calibration, and interpreting blueprints and diagrams. Always remember to emphasize those leadership, organizational, communication, management and problem-solving skills that you learned during your military career as they can make you an attractive job candidate. has an excellent Military Skills Translator and resume-writing tools to help you choose a format and get started.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

Don't expect to write one resume and have it fit all job openings. Make a standard resume for starters, then take a few minutes to tailor a different copy for each job you want. Decide which skills or experience pertain specifically to each job, and put those at the top to make your resume stand out from the crowd. Your military background may mean you can handle it all, but make your resume specific and emphasize appropriate skills for each position.

A good way to hit the ground running is to ask civilian friends and relatives if you can look at their resumes. This will familiarize you with the civilian format and show you what works and what doesn't. Once you land an interview, you may consider taking along a portfolio with additional materials such as evaluations, citations, letters of recommendation and military awards that may not fit on your resume but will impress a hiring supervisor in person.

Where are today's dynamic career opportunites? Find out what they are and how you can get there: View our interactive CareerBuilder Resource Guide.