Transitioning from a military career to a civilian career can be an exciting new chapter in your life, but it is not easy to do.  The transition can be hard.

As you leave the military, you walk away with stupendous leadership and management skills. These provide a huge benefit to your perspective employer, but they are not an easy sell.  Most employers will not innately pick up on your skills.  So your resume and your interview will become strategically important.

In order to present a powerful resume and to be able to sail through your interview (more than likely a behavioral interview),  you must understand how the culture of a civilian workplace differs from that of your old military workplace.   The biggest difference is the fact that the military has its own language.   The acronyms, jargon and terminology that roll off the tongue of military personnel are a foreign language to most civilians.  So in order to begin the transition to a civilian workplace, you must begin to remove them from your vocabulary – both verbal and written.  This is your #1 priority.

I have heard it said that the only constant thing about a military career is that it will end.  Therefore, you must plan ahead for your transition to a civilian career; preferably beginning the process while still on active duty.

Begin by translating common military terms into civilian terms.  “Lead” can be translated to “control “ or “directed”;  “Infantry Squad” can be translated to “12-13 person team”; “Platoon Leader” can be translated to “supervisor”; “E-5” can be translated to “foreman”.   Then quantify and qualify your accomplishments.  Civilian corporations want to understand the end result of your activities, but they do not understand how many men are in a platoon or a squad, how many sailors are on a Los Angeles-class attack submarine or the volume of equipment/suppliers typical Marine divisions may have to inventory.

Do not devalue or undervalue your military experience.  Make a long list of your job duties, and then in small, digestible chunks begin to translate them into civilian terms.  For example, if your military duties included driving tanks or repairing a M-ATV or MRAP, you should translate it to “operated heavy equipment” or “maintained large diesel engines”.

You must remember that a smaller share of Americans currently serve in the U.S. military than at any time since the peace-time era between WWI and WWII.  This means that the overwhelming majority of hiring managers and recruiters with whom you will interact have not lived your life.  They have not shopped at Px/Bxs and Commissaries, they have not eaten an MRE or deployed to the other side of the globe.  They certainly will not understand the military terminology/ jargon that you are so used to using.

Even if they have an immediate family member who is serving (or has served) in the military, they may not have been as imbued in the military jargon as you have been. Eliminate it from your vocabulary.  If this is not possible (say for a job title), then provide a civilian translation in parentheses of the resume (or as an aside in conversations).

Snelling is here to help.  We understand that returning veterans are a different kind – a powerful kind – of candidate.  Our offices, across the country, are working to help veterans re-enter (or just enter) the civilian workforce.  We can help.  So visit our website to find your local Snelling office, where one of our talented staffing managers or recruiters can help you find your best-fit job….the job that best-fits your jobs skills.

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.