Military Transition Resume Strategy

Over the last few years I have written a number of resumes for people planning to transition from military to civilian careers.

It's not an easy change if you think about it. No more uniforms or numerous ranks, different expectations, and fewer training opportunities, at least not at the standard offered by the Canadian military. (As a learning "junkie," I admit I am envious of the quality and quantity of training one can pursue with the military.)

There's also the issue of jargon. Military resumes are almost incomprehensible to civilians, as from rank to duties, a military career is steeped in a language all its own.

In a recent  overhaul of a military to civilian resume, I stripped away words such as heavy machine gunner, combat tour, heavy enemy engagement, private, corporal, battalion, platoon, regiment, warrant officer, and others. But I did leave terms that were relevant to my client's intended job goal in security - safe weapons handling and maintenance, radio communications, conducted operations, and patrolling. I also added a great deal more, selecting jargon, or terminology, appropriate to civilian security duties.

I changed the language to make sure the resume does not bamboozle the recruiter, translating into plain language for readability and sale-ability. I could hardly "sell" my client into a new role with words alien to the reader's comprehension.

It's a delicate balance, keeping info real yet understandable.

My strategies also include finding title equivalences. For example, I helped the recruiter understand my client's title like this:

Manager-equivalent (Master Corporal)

And under the title I offered proof of management level accountability, selecting what defined his role with information that sells him into his preferred, advanced role in security.

Creating a resume's strategy can be a challenge, especially in a major career transition!

Major Career Transition: Military to Civilian

Last week I interviewed a military careerist. With almost 30 years of service, his "militariness" was expressed to the max, from bearing to language. Maybe even his DNA had undergone an alteration!

This isn't the first time that I've worked with a client who was transitioning his or her career from military to civilian; my inspiration to finally write on this topic came from a recent Globe and Mail Globe Careers featured article, "From the battlefield to the boardroom."

Apparently my client is one of 5000 who annually exit the military, of whom at least 25% have difficulty finding a post-military job. My client - let's call him Jim - has been trying to land an interview in advance of his retirement, but his resume is not generating any interest.

After reviewing Jim's resume, it's easy for me to say why: it's speaking a different language. From position titles to details, a civilian would be lost trying to interpret details or see the relevance to the position at hand. And the applicant tracking system? Not a chance that Jim's resume would score well.

In general, along with a wide disconnect in terminology, there is a similar disconnect in each sector's "buying motivators." The military values someone who follows orders; non-military emphasizes indepedent thinking and taking initiative. The military moves personnel to new jobs every two or three years; non-military employers tend to view this as job-hopping or an inability to hold a job.

From A to Z, these two worlds appear non-compatible.

But, as the article explains, "Military members are groomed for leadership roles throughout their military career, often faster than civilians." (The articles so quoted Melissa Martin, a military-to-civilian career coach located in Kingston).  And having worked with several military-to-civilian clients, I certainly agree. Their continuing education is a dream for a life-long learner like me - the types and quality of training available stirred feelings of envy! and the frequent position changes build skills, knowledge, flexibility, and adaptability that far outpace non-military job hunters.

This week one of my tasks is to take this client's career details and translate them from military jargon to civilian jargon, and reframe the context from military-focused "buying motivators" to those found amongst civilian employers. Given that Jim's three fields of specialty are highly militaristic, this will be a considerable challenge. But I love a good resume challenge! And in conducting Jim's intake interview, my mind was already identifying methods to make this happen.

No matter what kind of transition you may be contemplating in your career, once you've ensured a solid base for a new career (new training, for example, if making a move that requires brand new knowledge and skills), there is a resume strategy that will help you turn a dream into reality. New Leaf Resumes can help.