Whether you have served for two years or two decades, leaving the military can be a daunting undertaking. It is hard for many transitioning military personnel to know where to begin this process, particularly when it comes to securing new employment as a civilian. No matter what line of work they would like to pursue, all of their paths must begin with an assessment and translation of the skills that they gained during their time in the service. This first step makes it far easier for retiring personnel to craft effective civilian resumes and land the jobs they want.
All veterans bring unique skills and experience that can be valuable to organizations in nearly every civilian sector. As you embark on your own journey toward civilian employment, you must understand how to properly convey your military background to potential employers. Read on to explore the steps that you must follow when translating your military experience into civilian terms.
1. Consolidate the information you will need
You won’t be able to remember every detail about your timeline in the military, so you will need to gather information about your military service long before you even begin writing a resume.
Start by asking for your Vocational and Military Employment Training (VMET) document; this will provide in-depth details about your military experience. You may not even know that this information will be available to you, but every transitioning military member should receive it. The VMET contains such info as which certifications you obtained and any military occupational specialty (MOS) that you held.
Aside from your VMET, you should look for any performance evaluations, awards, and fitness reports that you received throughout your service. Any information that you can uncover will help you craft a more accurate glimpse into your military experience and make translating this experience much easier.
2. Assess your skills
The next step you must take when translating military experience is to take inventory of all the skills that you gained while serving. Begin this process by taking a thorough look at the tasks you were responsible for on a daily basis and the functions that went into each one. By doing so, you’ll be able to identify which skills you utilized most and which you learned throughout your work.
Sometimes, the roles you held in the military won’t translate clearly to civilian responsibilities. (There aren’t any civilian jobs that equate to infantry, for instance.) If you are struggling to equate specific military skills with a civilian counterpart, then you should look at those capabilities that you can transfer between jobs. Perhaps you worked frequently with computers, completed tasks during high-pressure situations, or led teams of other personnel. Every role you held in the military called upon at least one skill that you can use in civilian jobs.
3. Use resources to translate your skills and experience
As you piece together your experience from the service, you should use some of the numerous online resources that can help you translate your skills and positions. Military.com, for example, has a Military Skills Translator that will give you equivalent civilian job titles when you input your service and MOS. O*NET OnLine has a similar tool that will give you civilian classifications that most closely match your position in the military.
Online tools such as these will be instrumental in translating your military experience to civilian roles, but you will need to do more to communicate your skills to new employers. The military uses vocabulary that civilian hiring managers and employers won’t be able to understand. By translating your MOS, you will be able to give employers a better understanding of your role in the military. For instance, if you served as a commander, then you may tell civilian hiring managers that you held a position similar to a senior manager or vice president. Infantry might equate to a civilian security manager, where a squad leader translates to a team leader. Military acronyms and codes will mean nothing to civilian employers, so you must do your best to help them understand the scope of your experience.
4. Highlight all your most valuable accomplishments
When explaining your military roles to civilian hiring managers, you must also give them a comprehensive picture of the experience you gained during your military service. To this end, you should also communicate your various accomplishments by translating them into civilian terms.
Highlight any campaigns or operations to which you contributed, making sure to mention any roles and responsibilities you held during these times. Think of these like civilian company projects, and detail your experience accordingly.
It’s also important for you to highlight concrete statistics in your military job history. If you were in charge of a certain number of subordinates or helped bring expenses down in your department by a specific percentage, then you should mention those numbers. By showcasing this information, civilian hiring managers who aren’t as well-versed in military life will still get a clear understanding of what you achieved.
5. Ask a civilian to review your resume
If you aren’t sure that you’ve effectively translated your military skills and experience in your civilian resume, then you should ask a few non-military friends or family to read it over. They will be able to tell you if your translations convey your military experience effectively. Make note of any language that confuses them and adapt your resume accordingly. Having a few civilians look over your resume before you embark on the interview process will ensure that there won’t be any confusion about your military experience in the future.