4 Resume Tips for Transitioning Military Service Members

May 13, 2014 by Adam Levenson

Many of the skills acquired during a military career become valuable assets when transitioning to government or nonprofit management. However, these skills may not always be obvious to those who are doing the hiring, so it’s important to know how to translate your skill set into the language of civilian recruiters and employers. Building a resume that stands out from the crowd is the first place to start.

1. Define Your Career Objectives

Before you can market yourself to potential employers, you need to define your career objectives and goals. Conduct research and learn more about positions you are interested in that are a good match for your skills and experience. If you are not sure how you will fit into the civilian workforce, talk to friends and supervisors about your strengths and talents. You can also complete one of the personality assessments offered by the Big Five Personality Test or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Use your assessment results to compare your personality type with the types best suited for various occupations listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook .

2. Communicate Your Strengths

A successful military career can set you apart as a candidate who can perform under pressure, learn quickly, respect authority, work as a team, and lead by example. Emphasize these and other positive character traits in your resume, and be prepared to discuss them with recruiters and employers. Avoid using military jargon and job descriptions that will confuse civilian recruiters. When in doubt about what to include on your resume, get feedback from friends and contacts who have experience in the civilian workforce.

3. Tailor Your Resume for the Position

Remember that a recruiter can receive dozens of resumes for a single open position. Do not hesitate to tailor your resume so it is a better fit for a specific position. The closer you match the position, the better your chances of being called for an interview. For example, you may want to emphasize your teamwork and leadership capabilities for one position, and highlight your technical skills for another.

4. Decide If You Need Additional Education

A career in civilian public service is a natural transition for military service members. If you are interested in management positions in government or with nonprofit organizations, a graduate degree is one of the most valuable items you can add to your resume. A Master of Public Administration (MPA) will make you more eligible for leadership positions in the public and nonprofit sectors. Earning an MPA will give you the opportunity to adapt skills learned in military service to the civilian arena—you will learn about a wide variety of topics including organizational management, human resources, strategic communications, and program and policy evaluation.

Starting a new career can be daunting for anyone. Take advantage of online resources for transitioning from military to civilian life, and visit VA for Vets to learn about opportunities with the Veterans Administration (VA). The VA for Vets Resume Building Guide is a valuable resource for putting together a resume, even if you are not planning to apply for a VA position. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone and that many resources are available to help ease your transition.