Transitioning back into civilian life can be tough – even tougher if you are looking for employment. The job search is frustrating for anyone, but for someone with military experience, it can be daunting. What do you include in your resume? How much of your service should be emphasized?

Finding a proper balance between general skills and the unique skills you gained during military service is another skill in itself, but it does not have to be extremely hard. Read on for some general tips about including your military service in your resume.

List Your Military Service

resume writing

The most obvious way to include your military service in your resume is to actually list your military service in your resume. Even if you are entering a career that is completely different from being enlisted in the military, list exactly what you have done and accomplished during your years in military service. It would be awkward to have a large gap in your resume if you did not include it and would be a big misstep in showing what you are capable of bringing to a potential employer.

So if you served in the army for three years, type it out on your resume like you would any other job. That includes anything you accomplished during your time in the military. Were you given a medal or another distinguishable honor? Resumes are not the time to be modest, but to show off your accomplishments, big and small. Tell your potential employer exactly what you have been up to those past important years of your life!

Emphasize Universal Skills

Your time in the military helped to develop skills that are applicable for any career. But keep in mind that the skills you list must be widely relevant and applicable to the job in which you are applying for. For example, operating a tank may be a cool skill, but if you are applying to a job where operating heavy machinery is not a requirement, leave it out.

Remember that you need to balance your unique skillset with how it can translate to a typical 9 to 5 job. Skills like teamwork and problem-solving are easy to transfer job to job and are some of the most obvious universal skills to list. Also consider these other general skills when beefing up your resume:

  • Technical skills
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership
  • Ability and willingness to adapt to change
  • Conflict resolution
  • High motivation
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Perseverance
  • Ability to handle critique and feedback
  • Fast decision-making skills

If you happen to be applying for a job that is on a military base, forget making things more watered down and use the more technical terms to prove that you have the experience needed to be there.

List Specialized Skills When Relevant to the Job

military resume

Remember how we mentioned to not put tank driving in your resume unless it is relevant? That still applies, but only if it gives you a competitive edge to your resume. If you are applying to a job as a cross-country trucker, go ahead and mention the tank. If you are applying for a job in management, go ahead and reference your time as a leader and making tough decisions. You do not have to disclose classified information in order to give your potential employer a general idea of what you were required to do during your service.

If you are not sure how to make your more specific experience relevant, has a job skills translator that is handy for that very purpose. It lists the skills that are applicable and relevant to civilian work.

Use User-Friendly Language

Another use for the linked job skills translator is to ensure that a typical human resources department or other higher up deciding who to hire knows what you are talking about. It does not make you look smarter or superior to use military terminology constantly throughout your resume.

Remember, that not everyone understands military terminology and will know what you are talking about with certain acronyms. A good tip in order to write your resume is to assume an employer has zero knowledge about what it is like to be in the military. Elaborate on anything that could be confusing to an outsider.

There are also several charts and tools available online to switch from military to civilian language. Use your desired search engine to find one that applies to your own branch of the military.

Highlight Your Dedication to Your Career, Past, Present, and Future

You have supported your country in an honorable way and can do the same wherever you go. Remember to use your dedication you have shown during your military service as a positive trait for what you can bring to your new career. Highlight what qualities you brought to your service that enhanced the overall morale of your troop. Then, tell them how you plan to show that same commitment to your new career.

Save Something for the Cover Letter

Here’s a – well, sort of – secret: many employers admit to never looking at the entire resume past the first page. If you have an incredible story or other significant experience from your time in the military, keep it for the cover letter. The resume is a vital part of explaining your qualifications, but the cover letter is a chance to highlight parts of yourself that can only be explained in a letter as opposed to a list. It is a more personal introduction that can separate you from every other applicant. So do not hide your best material in your resume that may be skimmed over – put it from and center in your cover letter so that they take a better look at your resume.

General Reminders About Writing Resumes

Now that you have read tips on how to include your military service into your resume, remember this general advice for when putting your resume together:

It is Okay If It Is Not Perfect Right Away

Give yourself some slack – you have not had to apply for a job in a while. You might not even remember how to properly put a resume together – and that is completely fine! There are many templates and other online resources that can help you get started with your resume and turn it into something that is expected for the modern workplace.

Some word processing software such as Microsoft Word have resume templates built in with fill-in-the-blank options already to guide you. But remember – first drafts are almost never perfect, so do not worry if it is not to your satisfaction immediately.

Have Someone Proofread Your Resume

resume consturction

You can have the most impressive background out of all of an applicant pool, but no one will know if they can barely get through your resume.  Remembering to proofread your resume before sending it out will save you time in the long run with your job search, so ignore the temptation to skip that final once-over. Even one typo can separate you from another applicant in a tough final decision.

If you are not confident that you can catch everything, have a friend or professional take a look over it for you. There are also a plethora of agencies and other local resources that may be available to you in your community, such as librarians or unemployment office workers.

If You Hire Someone to Write or Edit Your Resume, Do Your Research

While many people are happy to assist veterans with their resumes for a fair price, there are an unfortunate number of people who are just as likely to scam you or waste your time. Read reviews of services, past client testimonials, and other proof that who you are about to hire is an honest and skilled professional.

But even with the abundance of professional people out there, you really need someone who has handled a military resume and knows how to make it shine. Take your time researching potential writers and editors who could help you during the process. If you can, hire someone who has worked with veterans prior to you. Do not be afraid to ask questions and ask to see samples of their work to ensure you are hiring someone of quality.

Remember To Be Patient

When you send out your resume to a few job applications, give them some time before following up with their human resources department. Some jobs get hundreds, maybe thousands of applicants total, so it may be a while before you hear something. Feel free to ask when to expect an answer or when to follow up with a human resources representative, but do not ask a day earlier than given.

Remember to not be overly pushy or eager, but professional in your conduct. If you are not given the job, thank them for the opportunity anyhow and express your future interest in applying again. Politeness and common courtesy go very far.

Have you been able to successfully incorporate your military experience into your resume? Let us know how you did it and where you are now.


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