At Ease: Structure Your Military Resume for Civilian Roles

Your military experience doesn’t translate directly into civilian résumés. There is seldom any need for mentioning marksmanship citations (unless you’re into executive security), or munitions’ expertise. Admittedly there will be times when that will not be true, but on the whole you can find better ways to inform prospective employers about your skills, how they are applicable to the job, and how they will benefit the company that you’re applying to.

Civilian Terms

Remember, your résumé should be a DMZ – no jargon or tech-speak. Your job is to translate your experience into understandable writing for any civilian hiring manager.

SC&C Military Transition Resume AdviceThe key difficulty for transitioning service members is translating their experience and skills into a language understood by corporate America,” says Intel’s Ardine Williams. “This is a consistent issue with almost every resume I read and with conversations with hiring managers at other companies. If the person screening the resume is not a veteran then there is a high likelihood of zero understanding of what this person can offer a company.”

No one that performed military service could avoid having experience with these areas: leadership, ability to carry out work with minimal supervision, attention to detail, and ability to work under pressure with strict deadlines, strong discipline, and great ethics. It doesn’t matter whether you were an infiltrator or spent your tour on kitchen duty – you’ve got all those skills. All you have to do is look and you’ll discover useful skills that can work for you in the civilian world.

“Job seekers must think like recruiters,” says Chris Galy, director of talent acquisition at Intuit and board advisor to Vets in Tech. “Read the job description carefully, understand what pain the hiring manager is trying to solve with the role, and describe specifically how your experience and leadership skills will make that company successful.”

Which details?

Ah, that’s a good question! Filling your résumé with duties and responsibilities is going to put people to sleep, fast! Instead, focus on accomplishments. Did you erect a bridge in half the expected time, or transport civilians out of a combat area? Did you ex-filtrate some ex-hostages? Did you save the Company or Base some money by creating efficiencies? Did you plan and execute a new day-pass system that rotated off-duty personnel faster? Anything that was beneficial is an accomplishment.

All these things amount to management, logistics, planning, strategy, focus, perception, foresight, and empathy. Streamlining that day-pass system might point you at a career in human resources; saving money might suggest accounting; transporting civilians out of a danger zone – that sounds like logistics to me; managing to build a bridge faster – self-explanatory.


Aside from all that, as part of your cross-training you probably received training on computer systems and could be as accomplished as many college graduates. You’ve obviously got great work habits, complete jobs, and make sure the paperwork is done. You undoubtedly have a global perspective that can be extremely useful in today’s global marketing and business.

On top of all that, you’re trained to be flexible and adaptable; you’re smart enough to accomplish tasks without step-by-step directions. You know rules are there for a reason and that a hierarchy exists for a purpose. All these items make you valuable to a corporate organization.

SC&C Military Transition TrainingTraining

You don’t have to get a job the first day either. Maybe the career you want requires some training to obtain. Remember, a GI Bill provides educational benefits. The post 9/11 GI Bill pays up to 100% of your educational expenses. Uncle Sam doesn’t mind if you make yourself smarter, more employable and (ultimately) happier. And you’ll make a good taxpayer once you’re fully employed.

Clearly you are capable. You can get the job done. It will only take a little finding your direction to know how to emphasize your skills and make it understandable to civilians.

Just remember, your boss isn’t your commanding officer; you are allowed to smile and ask questions. Don’t stand at attention all the time. Relax…at ease, soldier.

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of senior military and other personnel transition their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200 or visit their LinkedIn page at

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