As a military veteran, you possess unique skills and experience that can give you a competitive edge in the civilian job market. Success lies in knowing how to promote these attributes, and the best place to start is with your résumé. Before you begin your job search or head out to the next veteran employment fair, take a moment to review the following tips so you can put your best foot forward.
First things first, your résumé may look different than those of your non-military friends, and that’s okay.
We are used to seeing a familiar format with résumés: past jobs listed in reverse chronological order with education (and sometimes references) appearing at the bottom. For veterans, especially those who entered the military at a young age and lack traditional job experience, there may be a better layout.
When composing your résumé, consider a skills-based format that spotlights the specific proficiencies—both hard skills and soft skills—developed during your time in the military; just make sure the language you use makes it easy for potential employers to understand how those skills apply to the job you want. With skills-based résumés, you can still include a brief work history at the end that simply lists the company name, your job title, employment dates and locations.
Leave behind the acronyms and the military jargon.
After years in the service, most veterans feel like they’ve learned an entirely new language, one loaded with obscure acronyms, titles and terminology that is often lost on those without a military background. While it’s important to list any distinguishing accomplishments and responsibilities, be sure to do it in a way that civilian employers can understand. Again, it’s all about using the right language to make your experience relatable to hiring managers.
A great way to ensure prospective employers can understand your résumé—and, as a result, your potential benefit to their company—is to ask a non-military friend or family member to take a look at it. If there is something they don’t understand after reading it, that’s a good indication you may need to alter your wording a bit.
Make sure you have a clear objective in mind.
Just like civilian job seekers, most veterans will focus on a specific position or field in which they want to work. Think about that job or field and then consider how your military experience applies. Choose the most applicable traits and build your resume around them, as opposed to being too general and listing every skill you ever acquired. Instead of limiting your options, this clarification will help you stand out and show employers exactly why you are the right fit for the job.
Finally, follow this quick list of dos and don’ts to create a winning résumé.
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression—and your résumé is often your first impression. Follow this quick list of dos and don’ts to ensure prospective employers know you mean business.
- Make sure all of your contact information is correct.
- Include your email address.
- Highlight your educational background, including relevant training and certifications.
- Keep it short—no longer than two pages.
- Check (and double-check) all spelling and grammar. Reading aloud is a great way to identify errors.
- Have a copy of your DD214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) on hand to show proof of service.
- Include photos.
- Include personal information.
- Use “I” statements.
- Include your rank, especially in your heading. Remember: You are leaving behind your military career and applying for a civilian job. Using just your full name lets employers know you are ready to move forward.
- Use the word “retired,” as employers may confuse the military meaning with the traditional meaning of the word.
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