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Seattle, WA 98116
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Tandem Powered offers a full suite of Professional Resume Writing, Career Development, and HR / Business Consulting services.

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Tandem Powered's blog is dedicated to empowering readers by highlighting best practices in the arena of resume writing, career development, and organizational effectiveness, as well as by providing readers with an insider's view of the corporate hiring process.

Listing Military Experience on a Resume for the Private Sector

Kent Nolen

One of my main goals with Tandem Powered is to provide people with credible, honest, and actionable advice based directly on my extensive experience working on both sides of the table. So I've formalized this Q&A series and – as I always have – welcome your questions. Don't hesitate to get in touch; you may just find your question addressed right here in the Tandem Powered blog.

Q. I have recently separated from the military and am having difficulty creating a resume that makes sense for civilian jobs. What advice do you have for people transitioning out of the military?

A. Translating military experience for civilian readers certainly poses some unique challenges, but my high-level advice to you (or anyone transitioning out of the military) is no different than what I tell many of my clients that come from a specialized field.

Consider your audience.

Whether listing military experience on a resume or outlining a background in, say, geospatial engineering, you need to find a way to communicate your experience, skills, and achievements in a way that will make sense to a broad range of readers.

Here are some tips for translating your military experience into a civilian resume (but these tips are broadly applicable):

Keep it simple – Military ranks can get very complicated and don’t always easily translate into the private sector. Also, it is not uncommon for someone on the military to have multiple roles at once, lots of different positions across their tenure, and perhaps several deployments. Instead of trying to be comprehensive, focus on being strategic. Do whatever you can to simplify your titles and professional timeline.

Focus on achievements – This is good advice for everyone creating a resume, but it is especially important when it comes to military experience. Achievements are inherently transferable because they speak to success in your role. And a clear indication that you’ve been successful in your roles is what readers in the private sector are looking for.

Be careful with language – One of the hurdles that people in the military face when trying to write a private sector resume is that they just “talk” differently. Look at your EER / EVAL / FITREP and you will see many acronyms, lots of hyperbole, and a whole bunch of terms that just aren’t commonly used outside of the military. It’s challenging, but you can’t use military terminology and “voice” on your private sector resume.

Ultimately, many separating Service Members are just not familiar enough with the private sector to effectively translate their own experience into a private sector resume. In that case, I strongly recommend finding someone outside of the military to provide an objective eye and to help make sure that your resume makes sense for civilian readers.