Translating Military Skills on Your Civilian Resume

For many veterans, making the transition from the military to the civilian workforce can be challenging. However, if you think of it as just transitioning from one type of job into another, you will find your military skills will many times prove to be the same skills you need to be successful in starting your new career.

The skills you developed in the military are a valuable asset in high demand in the civilian workplace, however, describing your skills on your resume in civilian language can be difficult. To help you bridge that military to civilian language gap, use these three steps:

Step 1: Civilianize Your Resume

As a servicemember, your language is filled with jargon and acronyms, most of which are not understood by civilians. Instead of focusing on the specifics of your job, identify the core skill(s) from it that you will bring to the table. For example, instead of saying you were an 11B, E-6, Staff Sergeant (which means nothing to a civilian), say something like, “Led and supervised a team of 9 decorated soldiers, often in high pressure situations.”

Some implied core values displayed by that comment are:

  • – leadership
  • – ability to work with minimal supervision
  • – attention to detail
  • – and the ability to work under stress

Step 2: Highlight Learned Skills

When identifying your skills, be sure to list and give examples of all three types:

  • – Leadership Skills: All of us learn how to lead in the military at some level. Leadership is a highly valued skill in the civilian workplace. Translate your leadership experience similar to the way we did up in Step One.
  • – Soft Skills: Working in the service of the military requires learning a variety of “soft” skills – all of which are valuable in the civilian world. Make sure you work in examples of how your soft skills apply to the job you are applying for. To name a few:
    • * Organizing
    • * Communicating
    • * Team building/leading
    • * Managing
  • – Technical Skills: If you are staying the same basic field of work that you did in the military, be sure to translate those technical core skills. For example, what a Senior Signals Sergeant, MOS 25X does in military terms is rather obscure to a civilian. However, if you say you “Planned, developed, coordinated, directed, and supervised the installation, operation and management of integrated telecommunications and information management networks,” that means something in the civilian workplace, especially if you are seeking a job in the information management or computer network systems fields.

Step 3: Use a Skills Translator

If you are trying to match your military skills and experience to civilian occupations on your own, it can be difficult. Fortunately, O*NET OnLine is a free website with a military crosswalk that helps translate your MOS skills for you. You enter your branch and the military job or MOS, and the program returns a list of potential jobs based on your MOS skills. Select one of the jobs and drill deeper to find out the knowledge, skills and abilities in civilian terms. Use this terminology to write up the experience section of your resume.

There is no doubt the current job market is challenging and will remain that way for at least the next few years.  However, when you are ready to enter the civilian workplace, use these steps to help write a dynamic resume.

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