Your military experience can be extremely attractive to potential employers, but only if you know how to list that experience in your resume in a way that translates to civilian needs.
If you are a veteran of the armed forces, there is a good chance that you have asked yourself, “Should I list my military experience on my resume?” The answer is simple: yes, you should! According to government estimates, roughly 200,000 American military personnel leave their active duty roles each year. For many, the transition to civilian employment can be challenging, as they often feel as though they are starting their lives over from scratch.
Without a compelling resume that highlights your skills, you may continue to struggle to reach your full civilian employment potential. In this post, we will show you how to list military experience on your resume in a way that enables potential employers to better understand how your skills translate to civilian employment.
Begin by making a list of all of your skills
During your service, you will have learned and utilized a host of valuable skills. What you may not realize is that many of those skills you used each day in the military can be just as valuable in the civilian workforce. Moreover, there is a good chance that your experience using these skills will have helped develop them in a way that gives you a clear advantage over other civilian job seekers. The key is to identify those skills and recognize how they translate to civilian employment.
These abilities will include both hard and soft skills that civilian employers look for in their hiring efforts. For example, military experience can hone soft skills like:
Leadership and team building
Strong work ethic
Respect for authority and chain-of-command
Self-initiative and resourcefulness
Integrity and reliability
Discipline and attention to detail
Your time in the military will have also taught you valuable hard skills that employers need. These skills can include things like:
Information technology support
Mechanical maintenance and repair
Before you prepare to list military experience on your resume, you should narrow that list of skills so that you focus on those that are needed for the job you seek. You can refer to the job description during this process, and make sure that you use the same terminology the company used in that description. That will help to ensure that your resume satisfies any applicant tracking system that the company may be utilizing.
Use available resources to translate military skills and job roles into civilian terms
As you create your list of skills, you may find yourself struggling to translate the descriptions into civilian terms. This is important to do since you do not want to confuse your resume reader with military jargon, titles, or acronyms. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you with that process. For example, milConnect provides a Verification of Military Experience and Training document that can help you describe your military role in terms that civilians can more easily understand.
Include your military experience in your resume summary
The first place you should focus on is your resume summary. Since this is usually the first thing that hiring managers review when they see your resume, it is important to make a great first impression. Be sure to include mention of your relevant experience, skills, achievements, and career highlights in that summary. It is also important to quantify any achievements with real numbers so that the hiring manager can better understand the value that you can provide to their organization. For example:
Resolute leader with twelve years of experience organizing and developing talent for personnel deployment in the United States Navy. Skilled communications expert with a deep understanding of project management, workforce development needs, and the benefits of an integrated approach to team-building. Responsible for creating and implementing workforce optimization strategies that increased team efficiency by 12% while raising personnel retention numbers by 18% over a two-year period.
Detail your service and achievements in your work experience section
Of course, you will be able to go into even more detail when listing your various military experiences in the employment history section of your resume. You should approach this process just as you would with any other type of work history, with a separate experience listing for each role you filled during your service. The only difference is that you may want to create a separate experience section for your military service, in addition to a section devoted to your experience in civilian life—unless your entire work history has been devoted to military service.
Again, use simple civilian terms that any hiring manager can understand, avoiding military jargon and occupational specialty codes. You can even translate your job positions into civilian terms. For example, if you were a commissioned officer, you may just want to describe your role as a supervisor or manager. Most importantly, don't forget to focus on real achievements that have relevance to the position you are seeking.
As for any combat experience you may have earned, it is usually best to avoid focusing on the war aspects of those operations. Instead, detail the skills you used during that deployment like strategy development, operational management, communication abilities, and leadership. Those are the types of skills and experiences that translate well to civilian employment.
Examples of how to list military experience on your resume
The following examples demonstrate some possible options for listing your military experience on your resume. Obviously, your experiences will vary, so be sure to use these examples as a guide while crafting your own military experience section.
UNITED STATES ARMY (deployments around the globe) 8/2010 to 8/2022
Led 16-person team tasked with maintaining operational security of multiple bases. Responsible for leading security threat assessment, developing incident response strategies, and overseeing day-to-day external and internal security details.
Trained and mentored personnel, increasing promotion rate by 10% and reducing attrition by 8%.
Implemented regular technology upgrades used for monitoring grounds, maintaining incident documentation, and safeguarding property and equipment.
Conducted and oversaw multiple security investigations, interviews with witnesses, and regular security reviews.
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE (deployments around the globe) 5/2014 to 5/2022
Aviation Maintenance Supervisor
Led a dynamic team of avionics specialists to maintain and repair hundreds of millions of dollars worth of critical aircraft assets. Conducted regular scheduled maintenance inspections, identified needed repairs, and worked with the team to ensure the highest levels of operational effectiveness and safety.
Trained and mentored team members to ensure that all relevant safety standards were maintained at all times. Supervised usage of personal protective equipment and monitored compliance with HazMat regulations.
Scheduled and prioritized aircraft maintenance and repair to meet the goal of ensuring operational flights exceeding 4,000 each year. Maintained a 97% success rate for timely maintenance completion.
Focus on attention to detail and effective planning resulted in a 100% quality assurance rate over a five-year period, resulting in more than 98% flight readiness.
Military skills and experience can often be extremely attractive to potential employers if you know how to list military experience on your resume in a way that hiring managers can understand. These tips and examples should provide the insight you need to ensure that your resume highlights your most relevant skills, makes the best possible impression to a hiring manager, and lands you the interview you need to secure civilian employment.
If you are a veteran who needs a resume that can help you simplify your transition from military to civilian life, our team of professional resume writers at TopResume can help you find your next mission!