Summarize Your Military Experiences into a Civilian Resume

An excellent resume will generate the interviews you need to get a civilian job after leaving military service. A sharp resume requires 4 plus 1 features.

1. Brief descriptions of actual work experiences on an 8.5 x 11 inch page
2. Perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation and phrasing that all make sense to non-military evaluators
3. Focused format in chronological sequence or themed groups
4. A specific type font on quality paper that photocopies and scans clearly
5. The plus is a “great” cover letter composed after the resume is complete

First, assemble notes and generate an outline based on your Verification of Military Experience and Training document, DD Form 2586.

Second, select the appropriate resources from the following:

1. For Federal employment, go to Mil2Fed Crosswalk and identify equivalent jobs.
2. To match your military skills with civilian occupations go to CareerOneStop, enter your military occupation code or specialty keywords and find comparable jobs.
3. To match military education and training with civilian jobs go to O*Net Crosswalk Search, find the military box and enter your occupation code.

From your notes and job or education descriptions, write sentences about your work using the civilian terminology from the resources. Exclude all military jargon, abbreviations or slang.

Third, use a dictionary to check all spelling. Eliminate “I” and “me” by using verb statements such as “Repaired and replaced instruments” or “Analyzed map data.”

Fourth, make a decision about your resume format based on longevity. With four years service, for example, as an electronics technician, organize a paragraph about schools attended, task assignments, skill levels, incentive pay, under the heading “Work Experience.” However, with 20 years service, separately list each assignment from most recent to earliest, by month and year, to emphasize increasing technical proficiency, advanced schools and greater responsibility. If needed, an additional category of “Supervisory Experience” may be added for section chief or NCO-in-charge assignments to indicate professional achievement. Officers use the category “Management Experience,” instead.

Civilians do not understand military rank so senior master sergeant or first sergeant or second class petty officer or lieutenant junior grade seem unimportant. Use pay grades, as in E-3, E-7 or O-2 and indicate your promotions as wage raises and describe the percentage increases. Emphasize proficiency pay, flight pay, incentive bonuses, in civilian terms.

If you have less than 10 years experience, compose a themed group format with a narrative paragraph under each heading: Job Objective, Work Experience, Education and Achievements. With 11 or more years in service, use a chronolological format with a narrative paragraph under Job Objective, dated entries under Summary Experience, followed by dated lists under both Education and Achievements. In the Achievements category you should list medals and commendations by date, but do not explain them.

Fifth, best character font for ease of reading and clarity of printing is 11 point Times New Roman. Select a high quality paper that has excellent substance. A photocopy shop can help you with this decision. For an electronic resume, also choose Times New Roman. If you have “html” computer skills, use special formatting with boxes and sidebars that increase reader interest in your resume.

After composing the resume, your cover letter can be developed from it. This document “sells” your resume to the people who make hiring decisions. Go read another section at CareerOneStop for instructions on formatting and writing your cover letter. Compose your cover letter in Times New Roman on the same paper as your resume.

Tip #1: Take your resume and cover letter to the nearest employment security office and ask the veterans counselor to review them.

Tip #2: Read your resume and cover letter aloud, record the readings and make changes as needed to be sure your documents make sense and actually sound logical.

Tip #3: Do not state, reference or imply any aspects of injuries, wounds, combat experiences or veterans administration benefits. Avoid the subject matter and only deal with it during an interview if you need special disability accommodations.

Tip #4: At all points, where appropriate, emphasize your leadership roles or assignments and teamwork.

Tip #5: Do not exaggerate.


Career Resources

Military Resumes

Military Resume Tips – Tips on how to write the best resumes
Military Resume Example – Examples of military resumes
Cover Letters – Tips and examples of cover letters for your resume
Military Aviation Resumes – Examples of military aviation resumes
Résumés & Letters of Recommendation – help and advice
Military-to-Civilian Transition Resume Service – Online Service

Military to Civilian Transition

Military Transition – How to best present yourself to civilian companies
Military Transition Reading List – Reading list recommended by top military corporate recruiters
Negotiating a Salary – What salary are you looking for?
Hire Veterans – Find out why Companies are looking for veterans
Federal Government Jobs – Tips and advice on how to find a Federal Job

Prepare for the Interview

Corporate Interview – Overview on how to prepare for your corporate interview
Behavior-Based Interviews Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new mode of job interviewing
Interview Questions – Prepare for the typical corporate job interview questions
Communications – Get some advice and tips from the pros on how to communicate better