Translating Military Service to the Civilian Workforce

One of the reasons I first became interested in the career coaching and resume writing business was to help our military veterans successfully transition into good-paying civilian roles that reward their years of dedication, experience, and discipline. Frankly, I think every organization could benefit from having military veterans on their team.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Even organizations that want to recruit and hire military veterans have difficulty recognizing when they find a candidate with the requisite skills and experience they’re seeking. Why? Because, unless the hiring manager or recruiter has military experience themselves, they often don’t understand the terminology in a candidate’s military history. In essence, they’re reading a resume or job application as if it’s in another language.

So, how can military veterans overcome this obstacle?

It starts with two simple steps:

  1. Focus on what portions of your military training, experience, and achievements are directly correlated with the job or career path you’re seeking; and
  2. Translate that information into terminology that is consistent with the job posting.

Step 1: Focus on What’s Important

Create a list of your relevant courses, training, and awards (or other recognition) to demonstrate your achievements. It’s important to focus on those that translate to the industry or job you’re seeking. You don’t want a recruiter or hiring manager to miss out on key achievements because they’re distracted by other parts of your military service that are not critical to the civilian role you wish to secure.

I actually ask all of my resume or LinkedIn profile clients, not just veterans, to do this. It’s important for any job seeker to be able to filter out all of the noise and focus on what makes them unique, how they’ve demonstrated excellence in their past experiences, and why that should matter to a potential employer.

Step 2: Translate Military Jargon into Job Posting Lingo

As we discussed in our overview of applicant tracking systems, mirroring the language used in job postings of interest to you helps an ATS match your experience to the skills and experience that the potential employer is seeking. It goes without saying that you should never misrepresent your experience, but you can increase your chances of being selected for further consideration if you appropriately focus your experience.

As previously mentioned, this is especially important when it comes to military jargon. Most civilians simply don’t understand what this means. It may as well be written in another language because it simply doesn’t translate. It’s important for candidates to make the hiring manager or recruiter’s job as easy as possible – don’t make them guess as to what something on your resume means or why it should matter to them. This applies to acronyms, job titles, etc.

For example, here is a bullet from a recent client’s resume. “Managed a platoon of soldiers with various skill sets.” We translated that to say, “Led a team of 35 soldiers with jobs across 4 skill sets including logistics, maintenance, and transportation.”

The above is a great way to start the process of honing your personal brand as a job seeker in the civilian sector. Unfortunately, the transition from the military to the civilian workforce can be rocky for many. If you’re interested in some professional help, we offer discounts for military veterans. Contact us for more information.