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Returning from the military to civilian life and finding a government or private sector job might seem like an overwhelming task. But if you’ve spent some time in uniform as an officer or enlisted person, and you’ve been through basic training, cruises, and deployments, then you should be confident in your abilities and accomplishments – just get ready to tackle the resume creation process one step at a time.
The first step will involve creating a resume that grabs employer’s attention and increases your chances of landing an interview. As you launch into the resume writing process, you’ll have two choices: You can build your own document section by section from the ground up, or you can rely on resume creation and editing tools (like Livecareer) that can help you choose a template and populate each subsection with the right information.
If you go it alone, you’ll still have access to plenty of tips and resources, including the collection of military resume samples shared here. These military resume samples can demonstrate the kind of presentation and formatting your employers will be looking for. And just as important, military resume samples like these can give you a feel for the kind of language and phrasing that can get your message across in the civilian workforce.
In addition to these military resumes samples, examine the sections below for writing and editing tips, mistakes to avoid, and descriptions of the information you’ll need to include in your document.
What to Include in a Military Resume
As you review these military resume samples and start putting your profile together, you’ll need to think carefully about the nature of the position you’re searching for. You’ll also need to do plenty of research. Military resume samples only really have one thing in common: the applicant’s past. Every applicant’s future will look very different based on the position he or she wants to step into. In this particular resume category, our advice will focus on making the most of where you’re coming from; where you’re going will be up to you. For example, your message will vary if you’re looking for work as a grade school teacher, a paralegal, a police officer, an EMT, or an office manager.
Even within your target industry, you’ll need to align your resume with the requirements of a specific job. Review these military resume samples and look for similarities that may carry over and apply to your own set of goals. As you do so, you’ll notice that most of these military resume samples can be divided into the following subheadings:
· Resume Summary
· Education Section
· Work Experience Section
· Skills Section
What’s more, most resumes can be separated into one of two major formats. As the military resume samples illustrate, you can choose between a chronological layout that presents each previous position in order of occurrence, or you can choose the functional layout, which emphasizes skills and abilities rather than the dates and details of former jobs. You can also choose to mix these two styles and present a hybrid format that doesn’t quite fit into either category but still gets your message across.
In most cases, civilian employers find the functional format easier to use and understand than the chronological format when they’re reviewing the resumes of current and former military personnel, so this may be the most effective presentation depending on your needs. Look for more information about these three options under the work history subheading below.
How to Write the Military Resume Summary Statement
No matter how you present your work experience, and no matter the order in which you present your other resume subheadings, you’ll always need to start your document with a clear, short, information-packed resume summary. Every successful resume starts with a few introductory lines that highlight the applicant’s most important credentials and provide a forecast of the information to follow. Military resumes are no exception.
Your summary will not need to exceed about four or five lines of text, and your details should be concrete and targeted to the position you’re looking for. In addition to the military resume samples, here are a few example summaries:
- Marine Corp Military Police Officer in search of narcotics investigation position with Saint Mary’s Country PD. Have a BA in criminal justice, security detail experience, extensive field training, and experience with successful undercover operations. Expertise with crime scene management and counterterrorism simulation.
- Forces Captain, US Army, seeking project management role at the director level for APEX Systems. Held command, control, and administrative responsibilities for 12-person Special Forces detachment in remote area of Iraq. Handled 42,000 dollar budget and all equipment management, maintenance, advisory and training requirements for indigenous and coalition forces within a four square mile compound.
How to Write the Military Resume Education Section
After you complete your brief summary, you’ll move on to the next required sections of your resume, which can be placed in the order you choose. Some applicants, but not all, follow the summary with the education section.
This section will include a succinct, facts-only description of your educational credentials, certifications, and specific, relevant training. List each of your academic degrees if you have them, including two-year associate’s, four-year bachelor’s, master’s of arts or science, PhDs, and professional degrees. Include each distinction even if you haven’t completed your program just yet—you can list graduation dates that lie in the future as long as you’re enrolled. Include your degree, course of study, institution, and completion dates if you choose.
If you’ve only obtained a high school diploma, it’s fine to list that as your highest level of educational achievement.
You can also use this section to list your certifications, licenses, and special training courses you’ve taken. Just make sure you emphasize the courses and seminars that are most relevant to your target employers. Furthermore, if necessary, explain any military-specific jargon in a way that makes your qualifications attractive and understandable to employers.
How to Write the Military Work Experience Section
As mentioned above and demonstrated in these military resume samples, your work experience section can be presented in any of three distinct formats. You can choose the chronological format, functional format, or a hybrid of the two.
If you choose the chronological format, you’ll list each of your former job titles separately—both military and civilian titles—in the order in which they occurred, beginning with the most recent. Within each heading, include your rank or position, the company or organization you worked for, your dates of employment, and a brief description of the responsibilities you held while you occupied that role (this last part can be in bullet point form for readability’s sake. You can also include a list of your most important or impressive accomplishments within that position.
If you choose the functional format, you’ll merely include a quick rundown of your former position titles, but don’t provide excessive detail for each one. Feel free to skip the dates you held each role, and don’t list or describe your accomplishments and responsibilities. You’ll rather use the skills section to emphasize the abilities and achievements most relevant to the role you’re applying for.
You can also offer a blend of the two formats, as long as you convey the most important aspects of your history to potential employers in a way that’s easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to skim. Most military veterans choose a hybrid or functional layout since this can highlight skills and accomplishments while downplaying dates, resume gaps, or non-relevant positions.
Action Verbs to Include in Your Military Work Experience Section
As you draft your work experience section, choose action verbs that emphasize your most important accomplishments, but try to keep these in alignment with the demands of your targeted role. Consider verbs like these:
How to Write the Military Resume Skills Section
After your education and work experience sections, you’ll create a section that lists your special skills, specifically the skill sets that didn’t fit seamlessly into earlier sections. These can include software skills, language skills, athletic or artistic skills, or special skills specific to certain types of equipment or activities that may hold value for your potential employers. If you have public speaking and presentation skills, first aid, CPR, or safety skills, or skills related to plumbing, electrical, or automotive maintenance, this is the place to list them.
The most important thing is to consult the job description for the position you’re applying for. Here, the employer will outline the skills most important to them, and if you hold any of the mentioned qualifications, you should absolutely list them.
Furthermore, if you’re writing a functional resume, you’ll want to include some accomplishment highlights that demonstrate how you could add value to the organization you’re applying to.
Again, take a close look at the military resume samples to get a sense of how this section should appear to reviewers.
Should I Include References in my Military Resume?
In a civilian resume, it’s usually not necessary to include references and their contact information within the text of the resume document. But you’ll want to have these references listed and ready to hand over as soon as your employers request them. Create a list of commanding officers, supervisors, and mentors who can be trusted to speak in an accurate and positive way about your skills and your approach to your work. Include names, titles, email addresses, and phone numbers on the list, and make sure these people know that you intend to use as references provide them.
In the meantime, check your target job post carefully for any special instructions on how to prepare or present this list.
Military Resume Fails: Mistakes to Avoid
As you review these military resume samples and create your own documents, you’ll want to watch out for these common mistakes.
Missed opportunities: This is the biggest mistake made by transitioning military personnel, and it often happens because the candidate assumes the employer won’t understand, won’t be interested in, or won’t be impressed by a given credential or accomplishment. This may be true, but if you aren’t sure, err on the side of inclusion. Let your readers make up their own minds.
Unintelligible phrasing: It can be very difficult to convey a complex message in one line of text, especially if the message contains confusing military jargon and potentially baffling subject-verb-object orientation. But don’t let this stand between you and the career you’re trying to build. Invest time and attention in every line, and get the outside editing help you need to smooth out these grammatical puzzles and to make all of your success understandable to your reader.
Length problems: Your resume should be no longer than two pages and no shorter than one page, no matter what you’ve done (or not done) in the past. Too much and your readers might miss valuable information. Too little and you may be missing opportunities to show off your skills.
Job Prospects in the Military to Civilian Field
For more information about job prospects in your targeted field, go online and visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Conduct a keyword search using your industry or your specific job title, and you’ll learn more about job growth and the number of opportunities in this profession between 2014 and 2024. You can also learn more about salary averages, working conditions, and what it will take to move your career forward in this field.