Mission Wisconsin News & Blog

Blog posts, articles, press and more

Cracking the Code

A guide for translating military experience into civilian resumes 

Transitioning from a military career to a civilian one can be an exciting yet challenging journey. A significant challenge many transitioning service members and veterans face during this time is effectively translating their military experience into a civilian resume. Military resumes can be filled with jargon and terminology that civilian employers may not understand. To help you bridge this gap, we’ve put together a guide on how to crack the code and create a resume that showcases your skills and experiences in a way that civilian employers can appreciate. 

Start with a strong summary 

Your resume’s summary or objective statement is the first thing employers see, so it’s essential to make it impactful. Instead of using military-specific terms, focus on the core skills and accomplishments that are universally relevant that showcase who you are. Highlight your leadership, problem-solving abilities, and any relevant certifications or training. 

Example: “Results-driven and highly adaptable military veteran with a proven track record of leadership and strategic thinking. Skilled in team management, project coordination, and problem resolution. Possesses certifications in [relevant certifications].” 

Translate military job titles 

Most civilian employers aren’t familiar with military job titles and responsibilities, so translate these roles into language that makes sense in a civilian context. Start by listing your military title and then provide a brief description of your responsibilities and achievements. 

Examples: If you held a position as a “Logistics Officer,” you could translate it as “Operations Manager” or “Supply Chain Coordinator.” Then, describe your duties, such as overseeing inventory, managing transportation logistics, and ensuring timely deliveries. 

Highlight achievements and quantify results 

A critical aspect of any resume, whether military or civilian, is showcasing your achievements. Employers want to know what you’ve accomplished and how you’ve made a difference in your previous roles. Be specific and quantify your achievements wherever possible. 

Example: If you were responsible for managing a team of 20 personnel, overseeing a budget of $1 million, or achieving a certain percentage improvement in efficiency, include those details. Quantifying your accomplishments provides concrete evidence of your capabilities. 

Emphasize transferable skills 

Veterans and transitioning service members often possess a wide range of transferable skills that are highly valuable in civilian roles. These skills include leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, and the ability to work under pressure. Emphasize these skills throughout your resume. 

Use specific examples from your military experience to illustrate these skills in action. Describe situations where you led a team, resolved a challenging problem, or adapted to changing circumstances. These anecdotes help employers see how your military skills can benefit their organization. 

Tailor your resume for each job 

One size does not fit all when it comes to resumes, whether you are transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce or already in it. Tailor your resume for each job you apply to. Carefully read the job description and identify the specific skills and qualifications the employer is looking for. Then, adjust your resume to highlight your relevant experiences and skills, pulling key phrases and words from the job description that reflect and incorporating them into your own resume were pertinent. 

This customization shows the employer that you’ve taken the time to understand their needs and have the qualifications they’re seeking. It can significantly improve your chances of getting noticed and called for an interview. 

Use civilian language 

Avoid military jargon and terminology that may confuse civilian employers, using plain language instead. If you’re unsure whether a term is civilian-friendly, ask someone outside the military to review your resume and provide feedback. 

Example: Instead of saying “Served as a Signal Corps NCOIC,” you could say “Led a team of communication specialists responsible for maintaining and troubleshooting communication equipment.” 

Seek professional assistance

Creating a civilian-friendly resume can be challenging, especially if you’ve spent a significant portion of your career in the military. Consider seeking the assistance of a professional resume writer who specializes in helping veterans transition to civilian roles. They can provide expert guidance and ensure your resume effectively communicates your qualifications. 

Mission Wisconsin can also provide support. We’ll take a critical eye to your resume and set you up for success as you start to apply and interview. Connect with one of our transition coaches today to get started!

Tools to help your job search & resume writing

  • Jobscan: This tool uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to give job seekers an instant analysis of their resume and cover letter.
  • Resume Builder: Build beautiful resumes easily with Resume Builder. Offers examples and templates specifically for veterans and transitioning military members.
  • teal: This platform helps you simplify and organize your job search and provides a variety of tools, including a resume builder, to help you land your next job.