by Carl Savino
How do you accurately and honestly portray your military skills and experience into language that civilian hiring managers will understand? This question is a difficult hurdle for military job seekers to overcome in their civilian job search. It is the job-seeker’s responsibility to convey his/her qualifications in terms that prospective employers will understand.
Identify Civilian Skills
The process starts with researching civilian occupations to understand the language and skills relevant to your civilian career field. The military-skills translator can help you identify civilian jobs that are similar to your military occupation. Veterans.jobs also helps you identify civilian occupations requiring the same or similar skills as your previous job in the military.
Take note of the skills training and experience required to perform these jobs. Use sites such as the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook or the O*NET Online Crosswalk site to gain insight into the education training or work experience required for thousands of civilian jobs.
Conduct informational interviews with friends colleagues or acquaintances who are currently employed in the civilian occupation you are interested in. See if they will spend some time talking with you about the nature of their responsibilities. Your focus for these interviews should be on learning what it takes to succeed at the type of job they hold. Most people especially those with former military experience will help you and offer you a wealth of information.
Use Linkedin to research your career field and its skill requirements. Search for jobs using the advanced search filters and take note of the experience and skill requirements that are listed on the job postings. Also search for people on Linkedin who have the same type of job you’re hoping to land. Study their profiles to see what education certification training and skills they possess. This process will give you a good indication of what is required for that position.
6-Step Military Experience Translation Process
Once you’ve researched your targeted civilian occupations and skills you can begin the process of matching your military skills and experience with the equivalent or similar civilian skills. The challenge is to restate military-unique terminology and acronyms in a more industry-relevant way without losing the meaning or impact of your experience.
Follow this 6-Step Translation Process to illuminate your military work history and make it appealing to civilian employers.
Step 1: Write down your military assignments in reverse chronological order. Use the downloadable worksheet Work-Content Skills List from the Corporate Gray Online Transition Guide to describe each assignment in detail. For each skill describe how you applied the skill (Activities Performed) to accomplish a given task or project (Accomplishments). Where possible accentuate the content-specific (as opposed to transferrable) skills or knowledge you applied in the performance of your military duties.
Don’t worry about using military terms or acronyms at this point. Use your Verification of Military Experience and Training form (VMET DD Form 2586) to help list your military experience and training as well as your evaluation reports training certificates awards transcripts and the like.
Step 2: Using the research you conducted on the civilian occupation as discussed above list the required skills knowledge and experience that hiring managers seek.
Step 3: On a new page list your military skills from Step 1 in the left column and the needed civilian skills from Step 2 in the right column. Now compare the items on these two lists. Can you connect any of the items on the left to those on the right? If not is it a problem of semantics (different words but similar meanings) or is it the case that you simply do not currently have the skills required? If the latter you might consider obtaining additional training or schooling either on a part or full time basis (be sure to use the education benefits you may have earned from your military service).
Step 4: Once you’ve matched the skills in each column return to the list of detailed military experience you created in Step 1. For those military skills that relate to your targeted civilian occupations carefully revise your documented skills and experience by incorporating the appropriate civilian language that relates to what you did in the military. Remember your objective: to accurately and honestly restate your military experience using language that a civilian hiring manager will understand. Replace the military-unique expressions and acronyms with more industry-relevant terms without losing the meaning or impact of your experience.
Step 5: Show this revised write-up to civilian friends and colleagues who are currently working in your employment field(s) of interest. Ask them to objectively critique and evaluate whether it conveys your qualifications in terms relevant to their industry.
Step 6: Refine this document by incorporating the comments received in the previous step. The finished document should clearly and accurately portray your qualifications in terms appropriate to the industry in which you desire employment. This document is the Work History of your resume.
Final Thoughts on Successfully Translating Your Military Experience to Civilian Hiring Managers
If you follow these six steps you will have succeeded in translating your military experience into civilian terms. It is important to express your qualifications in words that match the needs of civilian employers and in terms that they can easily understand.
Remember to check out all the Job Transitioning for Vets & Former Military.
Note: The 6-Step Translation Process is detailed in the handbook Military Resumes and Cover Letters.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
This article is part of Job Action Day 2013.
Carl S. Savino founded Corporate Gray in 1994 to help transitioning and former military personnel more easily secure civilian employment. In addition to co-authoring the Corporate Gray Series books he also runs the Corporate Gray Military Job Fairs and Corporate Gray Online a nationwide military-niche employment website. Carl is a former Army officer and West Point graduate with corporate experience at Booz Allen Hamilton and The Hay Group.