Translate Your Military Skills to Civilian Jobs in 6 Easy Steps

Debra Wheatman
by Debra Wheatman   Career Advice Expert 
Published On : December 15, 2017 

How do you present your military skills and experience in such a way that civilian hiring managers will understand? In other words, how do you translate your military skills to civilian jobs? This question is a difficult hurdle for military jobseekers to overcome in their civilian job search. Undoubtedly, military experience is valuable. But it can be difficult for a civilian employer to grasp how it can translate into the private sector. It is the jobseeker’s responsibility to convey his/her qualifications in terms that prospective employers will understand.

The transition from years in the armed forces to a civilian lifestyle is a significant change. You need to conduct ample up-front research on the private sector, then develop a strategy by which you translate your military skills to civilian jobs.

How do you best apply your military skills to civilian jobs?

Conveying your military skills to civilian jobs is relatively easy on a resume, but if you think you might get stuck here, consider using a resume builder for assistance. Learning to rephrase military skills during real-time interviews is where servicemen and women frequently stumble.

The process starts with researching civilian occupations to understand the language and skills relevant to your civilian career field. A military-skills translator can help you identify civilian jobs that are similar to your military training. This site can also help you identify civilian occupations requiring the same or similar skills as your previous jobs in the military.

To further vet out opportunities to use your military skills in civilian jobs, conduct informational interviews with friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. Focus on the fields/occupations that you are interested in joining.

See if the people you find to talk to will spend some time discussing 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. In other words, use your network to help you translate your military skills to civilian jobs.

Six Steps for Translate Military Skills to Civilian Jobs

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.

Military resumes tend to go into extreme detail about equipment, for example. A civilian hiring manager is not likely to be familiar with such technical details. Your challenge is to rewrite your resume in a way that translates your military skills to a civilian job market, adapting the terminology so that it is understandable to the average person. Don’t worry about using military terms or acronyms. At a high level, use terminology that will be both compelling and comprehensible to non-military personnel. This will help the hiring manager see that you can bring your military skills to civilian jobs.


Military skills are enormously valuable in a civilian job. But, many hiring managers are busy, untrained, or just not creative thinkers. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to highlight how your military skills will be an asset to their civilian jobs.

One thing that the military has in common with the private sector is its focus on efficiency and results. Use this to your advantage when selling your military skills and experience.

If you’ve spent years in the military, chances are that you are hyper-focused on technical expertise. Although technical know-how is very significant, civilian jobs often look for a combination of skills. Be sure that you highlight your technical, interpersonal, and leadership skills. This will be critical for creating a bridge between your military skills and the civilian job market.

Fellow veterans can refer candidates to jobs, pro-military companies, and particular recruiters or online resources that are the most helpful. They can also be enormously beneficial in offering guidance into how best to position your military skills for use in civilian jobs.

Enlist the assistance of your contacts in the civilian workforce, and practice your pitch with them. This will allow you to refine your description of how your military experience translates into civilian jobs. See what does and does not resonate with your civilian audience. Get comfortable talking about yourself in civilian terms.

The VA’s vocational rehabilitation and employment center is a good place to start. But don’t stop there. Look to your local veterans’ organizations, as well as the multitude of online resources, to help you transfer your military skills into the civilian job market.

The Bottom Line

Starting a new career is daunting. Adjusting to life outside of the military is similarly challenging. You will have to change your mindset and adjust your expectations so that you do not grow frustrated by the challenges you will face. If you follow these six steps, you will have succeeded in translating your military experience into civilian terms. But that is just the first step. Focus on your superstar accomplishments, and reframe them in a manner that a civilian employer can easily understand. Above all else, identify the business problem that a potential company has, and position your military experience as the best solution to this particular civilian job.

Additional Resources for Job-Seekers:

About the Author

Career Advice Expert

Debra Wheatman Career Advice Expert

"Debra Wheatman is a certified professional resume writer and career coach, and the president of Careers Done Write, a leader in professional resume and career services.Debra is a globally recognized expert in the field of career planning and management, with more than 18 years of experience in corporate human resources. She has formed partnerships with more than 10,000 job seekers, advising people from diverse backgrounds in connection with career advancement, and can package executive level skills and accomplishments in a compelling and creative way to generate interest on behalf of decision makers at leading corporations.Debra has been featured on Fox Business News and CNN, and has been quoted in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and "


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