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Get Your Military Resume in Shape for a Civilian Job Search

Kim Isaacs, Monster Resume Expert

You’re leaving the service and are faced with the daunting task of developing your resume. Your military career is filled with accomplishments, but even the most decorated veteran needs to figure out how to effectively communicate and sell those successes in civilian terms. Follow these tips to draft a high-impact resume that shows how your military experience is transferable to a civilian job.

Define Your Civilian Job Objective

You can’t effectively market yourself for a civilian job if you don’t have a clearly defined goal. Because so many service people have diverse backgrounds, they often make the mistake of creating resumes that are too general to be effective. Before writing your resume, do some soul searching, research occupations and pinpoint a specific career path. If you’re having trouble with this step, tap into your local transition office or solicit the help of a career coach. If you’re torn between two or more potential goals, set up different resumes.

Create a Resume That Speaks to Employers’ Needs

Now that your objective is defined, you’re ready to create a winning resume. Consider a resume’s purpose: To answer the employer’s question, “What can this person do for me?”

A great way to start thinking about employers’ needs is to research your target job. Search for jobs on Monster, scour company Web sites and read as many job postings as possible. What types of skills and experiences are employers seeking? What aspects of your background are most relevant?

Any information that does not relate to your goal should be eliminated or de-emphasized, and this includes any unrelated military awards, training and distinctions. For example, that medal you won for rifle marksmanship doesn’t belong on a civilian resume. This is often the hardest step for ex-military personnel, which is why it’s so common to see their resumes span five pages or more. As you decide which information to include, ask yourself, “Will a potential employer care about this experience?” Include only the information that will help you land an interview.

Assume No Knowledge of the Military

Demilitarize your job titles, duties, accomplishments, training and awards to appeal to civilian hiring managers. Employers with no exposure to the military don’t understand the terminology and acronyms, so translate these into civilianese. Show your resume to several nonmilitary friends and ask them to point out terms they don’t understand. Refer to job postings and Military.com’s skills translator for help substituting civilian keywords for military terms.

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