One of the biggest challenges facing Uniformed Military personnel in a military-to-civilian career transition is translating their Military job (i.e. Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC), Air Force Specialty Code, etc.) into the civilian equivalent. How easy or hard was it for you to match your military job to its civilian equivalent? What did you do in order to "civilianize" you resume, interviewing skills, or job search activities?


When I left the Navy I went to school; however, the intent was the same. I needed to translate my military experience into "real life" experience in order to 'pass out' of some electives without having to pay for more classes. Instead of looking at my "job title", I looked at when I did. I was a mechanic, not an AM3. I performed in security, not stand watches. Your job title has a civilian equivalent. On resumes place a civilian equivalent first, then your MOS/rating in parentheses. Go to your branch's advertising site and see how they list your job. For example, the Navy's website lists the similar civilian specialties the ratings cover. Logistics Specialist (LS), for example, shows several similar civilian occupations. Here are a few: Accountants, Budget Analysts, Mail Clerks and Mail Machine Operators, Except Postal Service, Postal Service Mail Carriers, Procurement Clerks, Purchasing Managers, Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Manager. When you write your resume, make sure there are no acronyms without explanation either. Take it to someone you know who has not associated with the military much and ask them to mark anything they don't understand. The best advise I got about resumes and job searches was with my state's job service. They have vet reps there that will help you every step of the way, and get you into opportunities only vets are eligible for.
Resumes I agree with sinistral. I would also add that you have to begin with the end in mind. We do so much in the military that is out of our real job scope that it can become overwhelming trying to incorporate all those other experiences into a short, concise resume--which is exactly what recruiters want. You can get a sense of your military job's civilian equivalent(s) using a number of different military translators such as the one at That will guide you to look for certain positions and jobs and this is where you can begin with the end in mind. Each position will list the job duties and responsibilities along with the minimum and preferred requirements needed for that job. Your resume should speak to each of these areas. Talk about your job duties and responsibilities that were similar in the military. Make sure you expound upon your qualifications that they desire in the job posting. It's an open book test. This ensures that your resume is talking about what the recruiter wants to hear and not what you think they want to hear. You can borrow terminology and start "speaking their language" instead of military acronyms and terms. It helps you narrow down your scope and length of your resume also. Once you do this for one or two jobs in the your field, you'll only have to make small edits to your resume for each position you apply for. Every time you submit your resume, you should make sure that it is customized to for that unique job posting. Resume Dos 1. Customize your resume to each job posting. Dont leave recruiters guessing if you have experience or qualifications for the job. 2. Keep it short and concise. Less than 2 pages, but 1 in some situations. Less is more here. Spark their interest and blow them away when you speak to them. 3. Your resume should AIMAction, Impact, Results. Most resumes list responsibilities. Anyone can just do their job. Talk about how you make an impact to an organization. How you improved or help the organization achieve and succeed. Resume Donts 1. DUA--Dont Use Acronyms (except maybe state abbreviations). Too many times veterans say things like, I was TAD at NORCOM and answered directly to the CO which worked directly for COMSUBFOR 2. Dont use USAJOBS or federal resumes at civilian job fairs. 3. Dont forget that your resume is a living document. Improve it, get help and tips every time you speak with someone. Interviewing Dos 1. Remember youre always interviewing. I met my future boss the night before a job fair in a hotel lobby. 2. Know about the company that youre interviewing for. Memorize their mission, talk to people there, research them online. 3. Dont use sir and maam (all the time) or the position of attention. This isnt boot camp. Use the person's name that they introduce themselves as and address them by it. 4. Remember the ultimate question an interviewer is asking is Can I (and my team) work with this person? Interviewing Donts 1. Dont be too late or show up too early. Too early can be as bad because many times executives interviewing have very busy schedules and it makes people uneasy to keep people waiting when they show up early. Give them time to prepare. 2. Dont under dress or over dress. This goes back to knowing the company. Ask whats appropriate. Wearing a suit for a construction site walk thru would be just as bad as wearing Hawaiian shirt on Wall Street. 3. Dont forget to practice, practice, practice. Whether its in the mirror, a spouse, or friend. Practice a variety of interview questions. (Pro Tip: Many companys interview questions can be found online. Use at your own risk). Be prepared for the most common questions Tell me about yourself. Why do you want to work for XXX? etc. Alright, hope this all helps in your job search. We havent even begun to talk about stuff like transitioning by going back to school or networking. The vast majority of jobs are not posted online, but come through networking. Just a final tip for networking, I suggest getting involved in the organizations in your profession. For example, for IT folks theres Grace Hopper Convention, AITP, etc. Get involved! Its a tough economy out there, but as a veteran you have a leg up in a lot of ways. Mostly, its just a matter of becoming a better job seeker and letting your experience and education do the rest. Dont be afraid to mention youre a veteran to federal contracting companies. It will help out! -MarcScar
I tried to make my resume as readable as possible by getting rid of acronyms and military speak, but when I did the first draft, I was planning on a military related job, so I wrote it in a way that a military person could relate. When I found out about a civilian job opportunity, I studied what I would be doing, and using the language in the job posting, I re-wrote my resume in that same language. When companies run automated resume reviews, they match words in the job description with your resume--so using the appropriate language is important.
I agree with all posts left so far. We are now in school and one of the classes we are taking is a class to help you with reusme's. There is a web site they told us to go to in order to do a resume depending on both the job you are looking for and the job you are leaving. You will need a password and user name to get in and you can only get that with a key from the book or if you purchase access. The site is
A wonderful on-line translation site exists: This DOD site is designed to furnish "certification or verification of any job skills and experience you acquired while on active duty that may have application to your employment in the civilian sector." The site is uniquely designed, so my suggestion is to practice patience when navigating through it.
For those military people leaving the service, there are companies such as mine, Siemens Corporation, that are committed to hiring veterans. Moreover, many vets don't realize that their experience can translate directly into jobs. For example, enlisted vets with experience in communications, electronics of any kind can apply for jobs as electronics or communications technicians. We make alarm, security and other devices for buildings, for example, and are always looking for qualified people to install and service them. In my case, i served during the Vietnam war, and worked on nuclear XXXXX. Who knew, that would turn into career as a systems engineer? Anyone changing jobs needs to reinvent themselves and create a resume that maps their military skills to commercial ones. I don't want to put an advertisement in for my company, but all our jobs are posted online, and there are many for military techs leaving the service, try Happy hunting.
Expand upon your strengths to your work ethic, organizational skills, team work, and leadership and worry less about your current job description on your resume. Everything you do translates into something else in the civilian sector and pretend you are explaining what you do to a family member or friend who has never been involved in the military. If you were a non commissioned officer and worked on airplanes and had E1-E3 report to you - say it like this: "Supervised a team of technicians for day to day maintenance of multi million dollar aircraft in support of mission essential support for global operations". This is not a lie, this is not an exaggeration. Its how you translate the critical support military personnel do every day and take for granted. Even the person who puts the packages on the truck in supply chain do a critical function. As a former member that transitioned to civilian life the things they taught us in separation training were invaluable. If this is still available DO IT. They make you practice interviews, help with everything you are asking, and teach you how to be a civilian again. As a hiring technical manager one of the biggest things I look for next to experience is a good work ethic. Asking candidates to give their idea of a good work ethic seems to be the hardest question to answer. There is no right answer so to speak. You can have a great education, good looking resume on the surface, yet never hold a job more than 18 months. 20 years in the military means you chose to stick with something and are not afraid of commitment. Employers like this and one of the biggest things you get from it is a great work ethic. Sell yourself, do mock interviews with your friends, be confident but not so much you come across harsh. What is hard about leaving the military is coming into the civilian world and realizing that everything is not black and white. Learn to accept this, it will drive you crazy at times.
The previous comments have been on the mark. Remember that you were given resonsibilities and assets that do not translate well into civilian terms. That you commanded an Abrams tank might translate into leading a team in the safe operations of a $7 million dollar piece of heavy equipment. Don't be afraid to go back to school. The GI bill makes it financially easier, but it still takes dicipline and focus. The education will make a difference.