3 Questions to Ask as You Translate Your Military Resume

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What does it take to make a successful transition from active duty to the civilian world? There’s no shortage of online advice and transition assistance groups who tackle this question. But I’m a fan of “keep it simple,” an approach most veterans know well.

Quick background on me and why I’m writing this…I served in the Navy after college and left active duty in the early 90’s. For me, the Navy was an incredible learning, growth, and development experience. After leaving, I worked in Information Technology (IT) roles as an individual contributor, project leader, manager, and now a senior IT leader. I’ve been working for Adecco Group for the past 8 years.

Getting Your Story Straight

As both a veteran and a hiring manager, I am always interested in military experience as a qualification and resume differentiator. However, I find that people often struggle to concisely and clearly explain their “story.” Your story is what you are good at, why you’re good at it, and how you’ll be a strong contributor.

For me, other veterans I know (and non-veterans too), working to get clarify the message in your military resume is fundamental.

To get started, let’s break down the questions you ask yourself before you translate a military resume:

What you’re good at.

Identify the top two or three major responsibilities of your current job, rating or designator. Use your evaluations and fitness reports to help you identify them. When deciding what to put on your military resume, focus on your most recent responsibilities first. Then you can zero in on your strengths. The strengths I see in military resumes most often are a combination of people management, planning, and technical/administrative responsibilities. These may not jump out as differentiators for you, but executing them in a 24×7, high OPTEMPO (maybe wartime) situation is a serious differentiator.

Next, why you’re good at these things

Think about how you performed your duties. What about your thought process or demeanor helped enable your success? You likely did these things every day over your service period resulting in successful support of your command’s mission and objectives. Not to mention inspections and certifications. Any hiring manager wants someone who can explain why they get things done.

Finally, explain how your what and why resulted in positive results.

Civilian hiring managers or HR may not understand military terms so avoid saying something like “IT1.” Instead, use the closest civilian equivalent, like “supervisor of the IT team.” It may help to have a non-military colleague or friend read what you’ve done to make sure it’s understandable.

These points are simple, you’ve probably considered them before. In my experience, doing the basics well makes a big difference.

Are you ready to begin the job search? Download our job seeker’s guide! 

Thank you for your service and I wish you the best in your transition!

Eric Alfaro

Group Vice President, Adecco Group North America

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