Military to Civilian Career Change – Actionable guide

Changing your careers in the midways can be intimidating, even for the people in military. Yes, the transition can be a tough process to go through. But if you know the right way, this challenging task can be accomplished without much trouble. And to start with the process, you need a great Military to Civilian Career Change Resume.

In this guide you will find:

  • 1. Preparations before you start building your civilian resume out of a military resume
  • 2. Building the best civilian resume: A step-by-step guide
  • 3. Tips & tricks to get more interview calls

Why do I need a fresh resume?

Before going forward with preparation required before building resume. Let us quickly see the need for fresh resume.

Millions of people transfer every year from military to civilian jobs. To successfully land a job, the very first thing you need to do is pay attention to your resume.

You cannot just use an ordinary military resume full of your military skills and experiences, because a civilian job recruiter (who is used to deal with only a civilian resume) won’t be able to see your aptitude for the new job that way.

To solve this problem, you will need a target-oriented, specially optimized civilian resume that will beat the ATS software that tracks the right candidates for the right jobs, as well as impress the human recruiters who will call the final shots. This is why you must devote some time in building a fresh civilian resume out of your existing military resume.

Recruiters or hiring managers quickly scan through the resumes at hand and select only the best ones.

Which are the best ones?

Those that are professional yet eye-catching, not too long, not too short, containing all the relevant information but not overstuffed, and having a catchy resume summary.

So you can see how many steps are there before they even start considering your application for the job. And these initial challenges are depending on your resume only. That’s why it is so important to convert your military resume into a proper civilian resume.

Now let us get ready and see how to prepare yourself before even starting resume preparation.

Preparations before you start building your civilian resume out of a military resume

Well, the headline says it all. Before you start building a civilian resume, you need to decide which career you want to pursue. Now considering your military background, it might be difficult for you initially to decide on which civilian career to settle in.

So, how do you decide?

Well, your educational background might be a good starting point. For example, if you have a college degree in a specialized field, you can easily choose from a job related to your subject. Even if you don’t have a college degree, your high school subjects, rather your interest in a particular subject or group of subjects might be a deciding factor.

For example, if you have an honours degree in Accountancy, choosing a career in Finance is the easiest choice for you.

Having said that, it’s not necessary that you choose a career solely based on your degrees. You can choose to go into HR or Marketing as well, even if you are coming from a science background. But then of course, you wouldn’t pursue a lab assistant’s job in a medical lab when you have a degree in literature, right? So really, deciding on a future civilian career after your extensive military career is not that hard.

Narrowing it down to a few job roles:

Once you choose the field you want to get into, then the next step is researching about all the available jobs in that field.Our advice is, use a job searching website to know about different descriptions of the same job profile. When you go through the criteria set by recruiters, you can self-assess yourself and figure out exactly which posts or job titles will you be suitable for. That’s how you decide on the major task of selecting a job title.

Other than speaking with people doing that jobs. You can do this research by multiple ways here few methods.

  1. Browsing jobs and studying job descriptions
  • 2. If you know specific job title, search the job with that title in several job sites such as indeed , Dice or Monster.
  • Using linkedin and typing the job title in search bar. To see what are the roles that people held and they made transitions , what skills they posses.

You may also copy paste the job description in RezRunner to analyse the skills that are required for the job. Even if you do not have resume ready, simply paste the job description on both fields. So that you can see the skills in completely matching skills. Which lists all skills required for the role.

Run Your Resume Against Job Description to Get Suggestions

Preparing yourself for that role:

Before you even start building a resume or start applying for jobs, you need to shine up your armours, i.e. work on your skills and qualifications. With the help of job searching tools, you can make a list of all the skills necessary for the job title. You can either choose from your military skills effectively and transfer them in civilian jobs, or acquire the missing skills by working on them. This goes for academic and professional qualifications too. See if you can manage to get the necessary certifications/ diploma required, if any, for your desired job role. Bridge the gap between what you have and what they want.

How to bridge the gap?

Here are some ways that can help you in bridging the gap.

  • Join MBA or MS program
  • You may even consider courses from Coursera or Udemydepending on your area of interest.

The point of all these certifications and courses are the same- improve/ increase your qualifications to land better jobs. By better we mean both in terms of positions, responsibilities and remunerations.

Many universities offer free or highly discounted programs for military veterans. You should take advantage of these chances to shine yourself up for a new career in civilian jobs.

  • Talking to your previous colleagues and doing researches on what courses they took and what they are doing now can be a big help when you are confused.
  • Some companies have programs for your military to civilian transition where they provide necessary training to take up jobs. Here are few examples for US veterans. There would be many in your area or country.

Kaiser Permanente Veteran Jobs

Bank Of America Military Transition

  • Talking to a mentor or a professional career coach is another way to help yourself. ACP USAis one resource that can help you find the right mentor for you from the industry.

Building the best military to civilian resume: A step by step guide

1stStep: Deciding on the format of the civilian resume that you want to use

Now that you have the required skills, and you already have a target job and industry, you may start working on the actual civilian resume that you will build out of your military resume. You may start by picking a resume format that you want to use.

Combination resume format or functional resume format will be the best choice for a military to civilian career change resume (or any other kinds of career change resume for that matter) as they highlight your skills rather than experiences. A combination format is especially good for a military resume converted into a civilian resume as they are essentially more creative, and you can highlight any part of the resume that you feel could be a deciding factor.

To know more about different types of resume formats and their usage, visit “Best Resume Format and Styling tips guide”. Once you have the resume format/ template for your new civilian resume, now it’s time for filling in the details to that resume format.

2nd Step: Building a catchy resume summary

A resume summary is one of the most important sections in a civilian resume (or any kind of resume including a military resume itself). Most recruiters only go through the summary and decide whether to consider/ shortlist you or not. That’s why, it is of utmost importance to include a catchy resume summary in a civilian resume.

A resume summary is not merely a list of your skills and achievements. Rather, you need to paint a picture of your professional profile within a few short sentences. A tough job no doubt, but doable.

The formula is, include as many keywords as possible, but keep it short. Try and refrain from using too many adjectives like ‘the best leader’, ‘most powerful’, ‘extremely efficient’ etc.

For Example:

A. Resume Summary for Military Resume

4 years of experience in battlefront as Major in Indian Army posted in highly sensitive areas of India, trained in combat, responsible for hands-on working with radars in military operations, accomplished heavy weapon handler, skilled in working under high-tension situations.

B. Resume Summary for Civilian Resume

Highly experienced military veteran looking for career change in civilian job, ability to work under pressure, accomplished in critical thinking and decision making, served the Indian Army in Senior Administrator (Major) position, responsible for handling heavy mechanical equipment and sophisticated electronic communication systems.

3rd step: Working on transferable skills

Military veterans bring so many important skills to a civilian job, but most of the time civilian job recruiters fail to see it. This is because these skills are not listed in the applicant’s civilian resume properly.

While transitioning from a military career to a civilian one, one needs to work on their transferable skills. There are numerous skills already acquired by the veterans, and all is needed is to include them correctly, i.e. convert them into understandable terms while building a civilian resume from a military resume. For example, here’s a small list of basic military skills that are useful for any civilian job.

  • Organizational Skills
  • Teamwork and Leadership Skills
  • Time Management Skills
  • Adaptability
  • Discipline and Responsibility
  • Accountability
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Decision-making and Problem-solving Skills

You can also add professional skills for specific jobs that have been newly acquired by you, or were already acquired but had no use of in the military. The skills that you felt no need of including in your military resume, can now be included in the civilian resume, if relevant. You may look at ontoonline site which can help identify skills and tools that one may have acquired during their military experience.

4th Step: Including Military Experiences in a correct way

Military experiencesespecially combat related experiences may not be directly relevant in a resume built for civilian jobs. But if you know how to convert them in civilian terms, you can still include them in your civilian resume targeted for you future new job.

The task of including military experiences must be very target-oriented. Having a clear notion of why you’re including a particular experience, and what you are trying to show with the experience is important.

Paying attention to the vocabulary is another important thing. Assuming most recruiters of civilian jobs will not understand military jargon, you have to use easy and common terms. The Telegraph (UK) shows a list of such military-to-civilian terms conversion chart*, given below.

  • Field Artillery Battalion Operations Officer can be Operations Manager or Operations Supervisor
  • Accounting Officer can be Financial Manager or Financial Supervisor
  • Propulsion Officer can be Systems Manager (Propulsion)
  • Intelligence Officer can be Research and Analysis Manager
  • Air Traffic Controller can remain if the candidate is looking to move into civilian air-traffic control. If not, seek a functional title
  • Sergeant can be Team Leader

*Chart is sourced from “Fine tuning your military CV for transitioning” dt. 23 May 2016

5th Step: Rest of the details- Resume objective, qualification, certification, languages, hobbies & interests etc.

Resume Objective: Including a resume objective is optional in most cases, but for a career change resume, specially for a military to civilian resume, the Resume Objective can be a perfect chance to hint the recruiters about why you are changing your career and what you are looking for in the new career- in short, your future plans. So, including a resume objective into a military to civilian resume can be a good move, although it is not mandatory. The decision depends on you. If you feel there’s something worthwhile to say, then only include it, otherwise skip.

Qualifications: Both academic and professional qualifications (if any) should be included in a civilian resume, in reverse chronological order.

Certifications: Any completed or ongoing certificate/ diploma courses that is relevant for the new civilian job.

Languages: How many languages you know, and the degree of proficiency, for each language.

Hobbies & Interest: Only those which are directly or indirectly related to the new job. Interest in blog writing can be remotely linked with Humanities subject teacher, but affection to music is not related to a career in finance.

That’s how you should judge the relevance of every word and phrases that you are including in your resume. Not a single irrelevant word is desirable in a resume.

Tips and tricks to get more interview calls

Using words that are understandable by civilian job recruiters

We have already stressed this point about using words that are understandable by civilians. You can use Google Search to convert military terms into civilian terms. For example, search “Sergeant First Class Civilian Equivalent” in Google, and you will get results suggesting close equivalents for the term. Do this for all the military terms. Some common translations are:

  • Weapons: Mechanical equipment
  • Tanks: Heavy Machinery/ Heavy Equipment
  • Soldiers: Employees/ staffs
  • Uniforms, Ammunitions, Weapons: Supplies

Similarly, you can find civilian equivalence to most military terms easily. Use them in your resume to improve your chances of being noticed.

How to make sure your resume gets past the ATS screening and lands in the hands of recruiters?

A resume matters to your recruitment process more than you think. We have already talked about the ATS applications. The Applicant Tracking Systems are softwares that help recruiters finding the right candidates. Most ATS applications work in a similar fashion.

Recruiters usually specify skills, experiences and/ or qualifications that are desirable for the particular job, and then ATS searches among thousands and lakhs of resumes and seek out only few hundreds or even less than that. That’s why it’s important to include the right keywords, in all sections of your resume including the Job Title, Resume Summary, Skills, Experiences and Qualifications.

Beating the ATS is the first hurdle in your attempt to land a desirable civilian job. The next challenge is convincing the Hiring Authorities about your potentials. You will have plenty of chances to impress them with your personality in the interview, but let us remind you that not all candidates who are shortlisted by the ATS get interview calls.

Building a targeted resume for a particular career/ avoid being vague in your goals

Your resume should be targeted for a particular job role (not necessarily a single job title). From the very beginning, you should sound confident and determined. Recruiters must not feel like you are unsure of your future plans in career, or you lack self-assessment and don’t know which roles you are suitable for.

Building a resume for a career in Marketing or Sales and then implying that you are available for HR jobs too will land you nowhere. In case you are actually interested in both jobs, it is suggested that you build two individual resume. Read our blog “How to use Resume Keywords to get more interview calls: Examples & Tips” to know more about keywords usage.

Avoid adding too much information/ unnecessary information

The experiences/ skills in military career that has no implication in your future civilian job should be avoided. Similarly, even when it comes to relevant experiences and achievements, you need to keep them brief and to-the-point.

Once you complete resume building, run it through RezRunner to make sure your resume is optimized for ATS screening, which helps you get more interview calls.

Here are few other blogs that may be of use.

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