by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
If your next objective is obtaining a civilian job — and you know exactly the type of job you seek — then your first step toward transition success is creating a sharply focused, smartly written job-search resume.
A civilian job-search resume has several key functions — and your mission is to develop a resume that helps you succeed in transitioning from military service and finding a new job. A good resume will tell employers exactly how you can improve their success; a good resume will help you cut through all the clutter and other applicants and get offered an interview; a good resume will help you tell your story in the job interview.
Your civilian resume must be razor-sharp, specifically targeted to the job and employer. Your resume must include key accomplishments and skills that relate directly to the job you seek. Your resume must be concise, attractive, and sharply written. Your resume must highlight your military experience and accomplishments, but in a way civilian employers can understand and relate to.
Here are Some Additional Guidelines — Some Do’s and Don’ts for Creating Your Military-to-Civilian Transition Resume
Don’t use military jargon and descriptions to explain your military history.
Do include transferable skills gained from military experience.
Don’t talk about your needs; instead, do clearly address the needs of the employer.
Do translate military vocabulary into civilian vocabulary so that it’s easier for employers to understand.
Don’t use a Word or any other template for creating your resume.
Do leave out military combat details.
Don’t mention anything negative on your resume.
Do focus on accomplishments — from your military and all other experience.
Don’t write in long, full paragraphs; do use bullet points and one-sentence explanations — and do stick to about 3-4 bulleted accomplishments for each experience you list.
Do quantify accomplishments whenever possible.
Don’t use expressions like “Duties included,” “Responsibilities included,” or “Responsible for.” That’s job-description language, not accomplishments-oriented resume language that sells.
Do research jobs and employers, and do utilize on your resume the same keywords used by employers for the type of job you seek.
Don’t go overboard on details; be concise. A resume is a highlight reel, not the entire movie.
Do keep resume length to two pages. If you have more experience to showcase, consider using resume supplement, such as a Projects page.
Don’t include personal details, such as health, weight, marital status, and the like.
Do consider a section such as “Summary of Qualifications,” or “Profile,” which can also help sharpen your focus. Here’s a resume with an example of such a section.
Don’t justify your text.
Do stick to standard fonts and font sizes.
Don’t use more than one color on your resume — and make that color black.
Do read our detailed Frequently Asked Questions About Resumes: The Complete Job-Search Resume FAQ if you have questions about resume writing and preparation.
Don’t use personal pronouns (I, my, me) in a resume.
Do consider using the LinkedIn profile format as a tool for organizing your resume.
Don’t ever lie or exaggerate your experience on your resume.
Do proofread carefully. Misspellings and typos are deadly on a resume.
Don’t list references on your resume.
Do list your information (experience, education) in reverse chronological order.
Don’t include salary information on your resume.
Do share your draft resume with others; solicit feedback from career professionals and people in your network of contacts; ‘then, do revise (and keep revising).
Do consider using a professional resume-writer — including some no-cost resources available at your local One Stop Career Center — to help you get started or write your entire resume.
Final Thoughts on Transitioning Resume Do’s and Don’ts
If you’re applying for federal jobs, remember to use your KSAs — Knowledge, Skills and Abilities. Learn more here: A Crash Course in How to Apply for Federal Employment.
For a good summary of strong resume-writing suggestions, do read, FAKTSA: An Easy Acronym for Remembering Key Resume Enhancers.
Finally, check out the many, many expert resources, tools, and advice we have in the resume resources section of Quintessential Careers.
Maximize your use of the many no-cost veteran and career resources — including career consulting to resume-writing to job placements. These resources are there to help empower you to success in your transition from military service to civilian worker.
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.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.