Military to Civilian Resume – Guide for Veterans

Since the Gulf War, more than 5 million American soldiers have made the transition from military to civilian life. Sadly, thousands of veterans are struggling to find stable employment opportunities and build careers after serving the country.

The challenge you face is similar to thousands of other job seekers who have fallen short in their quest to land steady employment.

However, as a veteran, you’ve acquired skills and experience that can carry over to the civilian workplace. These are assets that give you a unique advantage over other applicants.

The key is to submit a resume that effectively translates these skills and experiences into a language recruiters can fully understand and most importantly, appreciate.

Build a Military to Civilian Resume

Expert Approved Resume Samples

Our samples are written by career experts with over 10 years of experience in resume writing.

Get inspired and explore what’s recommended to write in each section of the resume.

We’ve written this guide to help you prepare a resume that will get recruiters interested in what you can do for the company.

What can you expect to learn from our resume guide?

  • The Key Sections of a Civilian Resume
  • How To Put All Of The Sections Together
  • Top 5 Tips On How to Write a Good Military-to-Civilian Resume
  • Should You Attach a Cover Letter?

After learning about the key sections of a resume and how to write them effectively, we’ll use all of the tips and techniques we shared and put together a military-to-civilian resume that you can use as a reference for your own job applications.

We also prepared a list of the 5 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from veterans about writing resumes for civilian jobs.

Now, let’s get started by learning the key sections of a civilian resume.

The Key Sections Of A Civilian Resume

There is no terrain that a military veteran can break down and organize into strategic areas in order to successfully carry out missions. A resume is a similar terrain that must be organized properly in order to be understood and valued by the recruiter.

Your mission is to get the recruiter interested in what you have to offer. This means highlighting your strengths and establishing how your military skills and experiences are relevant and accurately translate to the civilian job’s duties and responsibilities.

A resume is broken down into 5 key sections. To create an effective military-to-civilian resume, each section must successfully achieve its purpose, complement the other sections, and support your mission:

To prove that you’re the best candidate for the position.

Contact Information

This section is self-explanatory and must include the following information about you:

  • Full Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address

If you have a particular rank, you can put the abbreviation after your name. It’s important to provide updated information. For example, if you changed addresses, give the correct details including your phone number, if needed.

As for your email address, use one that reads like a professional. For example, [email protected] is professional but [email protected] is not.

Let’s see how Andrew Gordon’s Contact Information section should look like:

Name: Andrew W. Gordon
Address: 2365 Winslow Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85018
Phone Number: (602) 974 6978
Email: [email protected]

Objective Statement

The objective statement is the shortest section in your resume but it could have the most influence in your quest to land a civilian job if it’s properly written.

First, the objective statement is located in the top third section of your resume which means it’s highly visible to the recruiter. Second, the objective statement is like your voice on the resume. It’s the most ideal section to share with the recruiter your reasons, plans, and goals for a civilian career after the military.

How do you write a compelling objective statement?

Review the Job Ad

The job ad summarizes the requirements for the job and this includes technical skills and certifications. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a Cybersecurity Analyst, the skills might include the following:

  • Reverse-engineering
  • Application design
  • Firewall administration
  • Knowledge of cybersecurity software
  • Certifications in Cybersecurity Analysis

Take note of these qualifications and assess if you have them. If so, follow the next item…

Lead-off with Your Key Strengths

Let’s assume you meet the qualifications for knowledge of cybersecurity software and certifications for cybersecurity analysis. An eye-catching strategy would be to lead off with these qualifications:

“Veteran with 12 years of military service with knowledge of the best cybersecurity software including Wireshark, Malwarebytes, Solarwinds, and IBM QRadar plus credentials as a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).”

By leading off with the skills that meet the requirements of the job, you will tick off the box and impress the recruiter.

Reiterate Your Objective

The answer might seem obvious on why you decided to apply for the job. But for someone who’s transitioning from a career in the military to join the civilian workforce, reiterating your objective helps establish the relevance of your previous experience with the position.

You can write something like:

“My primary directive in the US Army was to anticipate, overcome, and prevent cyber-attacks to our network. During my stint, we encountered an average of 10,000 attacks per day. I believe my knowledge and experience fighting off cyber-criminals on a global scale will most benefit your company and your clients.”

Include 2-3 Soft Skills

Recruiters aren’t only interested in what you can do. They are also interested to find out more about you as a person. Soft skills are the traits that best describe your personality. Recruiters use soft skills to gauge if you’re an ideal fit for the company or not.

Include no more than 3 soft skills in the objective statement. Make sure these are the skills that define who you are because you’ll have to substantiate this in the work experience section.

Keep Your Objective Statement Short

Recruiters are only going to scan your resume. They won’t read it word-for-word. Therefore, keep your objective statement short. Make sure all of your strong selling points are summarized in no more than 5 sentences.

Now, let’s put it all together:

“Veteran with 12 years of military service with knowledge of the best cybersecurity software including Wireshark, Malwarebytes, Solarwinds, and IBM QRadar plus credentials as a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). My primary directive in the US Army was to anticipate, overcome, and prevent cyber-attacks on our network. During my stint, we encountered an average of 10,000 attacks per day. I believe my knowledge and experience fighting off cyber-criminals on a global scale will most benefit your company and your clients. Typical of those who served in the military, my core soft skills are dedication, commitment, and integrity.”

Skills/Strengths

In this section, you provide a summary of the skills that you acquired through formal training in the military. The best way to present your skills is to group them into categories:

For example:

  • Computer
  • Peer/Subordinate Development
  • Training Coordination
  • Public Relations and Media Management
  • Budgeting

Once you’ve created the groupings, break them down into details:

Computer:

  • Cybersecurity Software: Wireshark, Malwarebytes, Solarwinds, and IBM QRadar
  • Certifications: CEH
  • Administrative Software: MS Word, MS Excel, Google Sheets, Google Docs, QuickBooks, and Evernote.

Peer/Subordinate Development:

  • Supervise the professional/personal development of subordinates.
  • Provide mentoring/counseling services to junior officers.

Training Coordination:

  • Design training manuals.
  • Schedule training and orientation sessions for various departments.

Public Relations and Media Management:

  • Perform duties and functions of a PR Officer.
  • Manage social media accounts.
  • Create and post content on social media accounts.
  • Prepare media press releases.

Budgeting:

  • Review and manage the budget for cybersecurity.
  • Review and manage the budget for personnel development.

To substantiate the summary of skills that you’ve listed, request for a copy of the Verification of Military Experience and Training from the US Department of Defense and attach it on your resume.

Lastly, don’t forget to include at least 3 soft skills that you’re 100% confident best define your character and your approach to work.

From our previous example, these 3 soft skills would be dedication, commitment, and integrity. You can expand on these traits a bit in the Skills/Strengths section:

  • Dedicated to completing tasks
  • Committed to producing results
  • Maintains integrity and honesty

Education

Summarize your educational attainment in this section. Make sure the following details are included:

  • Course completed
  • Type of Degree – Bachelor’s or Associate
  • Name of the University or College
  • Address of the University or College
  • Inclusive years
  • GPA – If 3.5 or higher

Here’s an example:

College
Management Information Systems
Bachelor’s Degree
University of Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
2010 to 2014
GPA: 3.74

You can also include information about your high school education with the following details:

  • Name of High School
  • Address of High School
  • Inclusive years

Work Experience

The work experience section plays a valuable role in becoming a part of the civilian workforce because it gives you the opportunity to align your military experience with the duties and responsibilities of the job you’re applying for.

Your mission is to convince the recruiter that your time in the military gave you the skills, the training, and the experience to handle duties and responsibilities that are the same or at the very least, similar to the ones outlined in the job ad.

How do you complete this mission?

  • Review the job ad and carefully read through the summary of duties and responsibilities as well as job expectations.
  • Evaluate your experience and skills. Did you manage tasks that were the same or similar as those described in the job ad? If so, prioritize them in the work experience section.
  • Highlight accomplishments and substantiate them with numbers and statistics.
  • Lead-off your job descriptions with the ideal verbs such as:
    • Advance
    • Analyze
    • Coordinate
    • Develop
    • Collaborate
    • Investigate
    • Perform
    • Conduct
    • Maintain
    • Manage
    • Plan
    • Organize
    • Resolve
    • Train
    • Supervise
    • Orient
    • Enhance
    • Create
    • Implement
    • Monitor
  • Write your job descriptions in an easy-to-understand or conversational language. Additionally, keep them short and concise.

With these tips in mind, how should you write your work experience section? Let’s stay with our current example of a veteran named Andrew W. Gordon who’s applying for civilian work as a Cybersecurity Analyst.

Work Experience:

Cybersecurity Analyst
U.S. Defense Security Services
1034 Black Highway Road
Phoenix, AZ
2014 to 2021

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Monitor and watch out for unusual activities in the organization’s internal and external networks.
  • Design, develop and implement security protocols for all networks, processes, and systems.
  • Recommend changes and improvements in the technological infrastructure including software and hardware.
  • Perform random and scheduled tests on the existing network infrastructure.
  • Conduct studies and tests to affirm the integrity of the current security protocols.
  • Research on the latest technologies and developments in Cybersecurity.
  • Create instructional manuals on networking and security systems.
  • Respond expeditiously to all identified threats and work to resolve them in the fastest and most efficient manner.
  • Update all installed programs to confirm the current standards in cybersecurity.
  • Defended the network from an average of 10,000 attacks on a daily basis.

How To Put All Of The Sections Together

Now that you know how to write the sections of a resume, how do you put them in a way that catches the interest of the recruiter?

The answer is it would depend on the resume format you choose to organize these sections. There are 3 types of resume formats to choose from:

Reverse-chronological Format

  • The ideal format for someone with at least 2 years of work experience without an unemployment gap exceeding 4 months.
  • Work Experience is the main focus of the reverse-chronological.
  • Present the duties and responsibilities in the work experience section in reverse-chronological order meaning you start out with the latest or most recent employment period.

Functional Format

  • If your work experience in the military is less than one year, the functional should be your choice because the focus will be on your acquired skills.
  • The Work Experience section is de-emphasized by placing it at the tail-end of the resume.

Combination Format

  • If you have more than 10 years of work experience under your belt, the combination format is your best choice.
  • The combination “combines” the key features of the reverse-chronological and functional formats.
  • The Work Experience section is located at the end of the resume but this is because you use the skills and education sections to validate and create more value in your employment history.

Let’s assume that Andrew decided to go with the reverse-chronological resume format because he has less than 10 years of experience and he has the necessary skills to become a civilian Cybersecurity Analyst.

Military to Civilian Resume

Contact Information:

Name: Andrew W. Gordon
Address: 2365 Winslow Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85018
Phone Number: (602) 974 6978
Email: [email protected]

Objective Statement:

Veteran with 12 years of military service with knowledge of the best cybersecurity software including Wireshark, Malwarebytes, Solarwinds, and IBM QRadar plus credentials as a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). My primary directive in the US Army was to anticipate, overcome, and prevent cyber-attacks on our network. During my stint, we encountered an average of 10,000 attacks per day. I believe my knowledge and experience fighting off cyber-criminals on a global scale will most benefit your company and your clients. Typical of those who served in the military, my core soft skills are dedication, commitment, and integrity.

Skills/Strengths:

Computer:

  • Cybersecurity Software: Wireshark, Malwarebytes, Solarwinds, and IBM QRadar
  • Certifications: CEH
  • Administrative Software: MS Word, MS Excel, Google Sheets, Google Docs, QuickBooks, and Evernote.

Peer/Subordinate Development:

  • Supervise the professional/personal development of subordinates.
  • Provide mentoring/counseling services to junior officers.

Training Coordination:

  • Design training manuals.
  • Schedule training and orientation sessions for various departments.

Public Relations and Media Management:

  • Perform duties and functions of a PR Officer.
  • Manage social media accounts.
  • Create and post content on social media accounts.
  • Prepare media press releases.

Budgeting:

  • Review and manage the budget for cybersecurity.
  • Review and manage the budget for personnel development.

Dedicated to completing tasks
Committed to producing results
Maintains integrity and honesty

Work Experience:

Cybersecurity Analyst
U.S. Defense Security Services
1034 Black Highway Road
Phoenix, AZ
2014 to 2021

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Monitor and watch out for unusual activities in the organization’s internal and external networks.
  • Design, develop and implement security protocols for all networks, processes, and systems.
  • Recommend changes and improvements in the technological infrastructure including software and hardware.
  • Perform random and scheduled tests on the existing network infrastructure.
  • Conduct studies and tests to affirm the integrity of the current security protocols.
  • Research on the latest technologies and developments in Cybersecurity.
  • Create instructional manuals on networking and security systems.
  • Respond expeditiously to all identified threats and work to resolve them in the fastest and most efficient manner.
  • Update all installed programs to confirm the current standards in cybersecurity.
  • Defended the network from an average of 10,000 attacks on a daily basis.

Education:

College
Management Information Systems
Bachelor’s Degree
University of Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
2010 to 2014
GPA: 3.74

High School
West Phoenix High School
Phoenix, AZ
2006 to 2010

The functional and combination resume formats share the same structure:

  • Contact Information
  • Objective Statement
  • Skills/Strengths
  • Education
  • Work Experience

The difference between the functional and combination is the content for each section. As previously discussed, the Work Experience section of the combination is more detailed because the candidate has been employed for more than 10 years.

How To Write A Good Military-to-Civilian Resume

Let’s get into the details of how to write a good Military-to-Civilian resume, one that is relevant to the job you are applying for. “Relevant” is the keyword here.

You want to make sure that your resume is aligned with the available position. It must be written in a way that the recruiter sees you as an ideal candidate or better yet – fit – for the job.

Here are our top 5 tips on how to make your Military experience translate into a career in the civilian workforce:

1. Choose a Job That Meets Your Skills and Experience

There are many jobs that are in high demand but if your skills and experience don’t match, your chances of getting hired are greatly reduced.

Don’t just apply to any type of job just to join the civilian workforce. Choose a job that meets your skills and experience. Right there is half the battle won!

Going back to our example, Andrew Gordon’s skills and experience in the military were rooted in Information Technology. His chances of landing a job in the IT industry, specifically cybersecurity, are much higher than if he applied for positions in healthcare.

It will be easier to tailor-fit your resume to the needs of the potential employer if your background suits the requirements and demands of the job.

2. Showcase the Certifications You Acquired While In the Military

There are some veterans who entered the military straight out of high school. Whether you’re one of them or not, your resume will greatly benefit if you showcase all of the certifications you acquired while in the military.

Yes, all of them even if they’re not relevant to the job you’re applying for. Why? Because it shows that you have the ability to learn and complete formal training. Of course, prioritize the certifications that are relevant to the position but don’t leave out those that aren’t.

For example, if Andrew Gordon received certifications in First Aid, warfare planning, and logistics operation management, he should still include these pieces of information in his resume.

He has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

3. Embed Your Resume with Keywords

Many civilian companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to prequalify resumes that are sent online. By pre-screening resumes, the Human Resources department saves time and resources.

The ATS tracks the resumes for keywords. Those that don’t have the keywords don’t move on or make it to the inbox of the recruiter.

The job ad contains these valuable keywords. If they’re not highlighted, they usually refer to the requirements of the job. Look out for the specifics. For example, a position in Cybersecurity will require the candidate to be knowledgeable in certain software programs.

Or you can do quick research for the most popular keywords for the position. For example, the most popular keywords for the position of Cybersecurity Analyst are:

  • Cybersecurity Analyst
  • Vulnerability Assessment
  • Information Security
  • Firewall
  • Risk Management
  • Mitigation
  • Remediation Assessment
  • Cyber
  • Top Secret Clearance

4. Translate Military-speak Into Civilian Language

Military-speak includes the use of a lot of abbreviations and acronyms that are part of everyday communication but cannot be understood by the civilian recruiter.

For example, instead of describing a task in your Work Experience section as

“Mobilize the SNEW to coordinate with the preparedness of Troop 1-A SCQ”, you can just write “Preside over the training and orientation of 20 new military recruits.”

Submit a Professional-looking Resume

As a veteran of the military, we have no doubt that you are disciplined, responsible, and detail-oriented. However, even the best ones make mistakes.

Once you send out a resume, there’s no getting it back. It’s always a good idea to be confident that you sent out a professional-looking resume or one with the following qualifications:

  • Use an accepted font style such as Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Helvetica, or Times New Roman.
  • Use a size font that makes the words easy to read. Size 12 to 14 should be fine.
  • Use headers to distinguish one section from the other. The font size of the header should be slightly larger and must be in boldface for emphasis.
  • Review your resume thoroughly and edit errors in spelling and grammar. Run your resume through a spelling and grammar checker to be sure.
  • Unless you have more than 10 years of military experience, keep your resume down to 1 page.

Should You Attach A Cover Letter?

The standard definition of a cover letter is that it’s a document that’s attached to your resume and introduces you to the HR Department by summarizing your experience and other qualifications.

However, there’s more to a cover letter than just being a letter of introduction. It can be used to sway the favor of the recruiter toward your application IF you can include a name of a person or a referrer who carries a measure of influence in the company you’re applying to.

For example, if the referrer is a:

  • Big client of the company
  • Key supplier of the company
  • Director/Key Officer/Decision-maker of the company
  • Politically connected
  • Key business person in the industry

Basically, if the name carries significant weight, include it in a cover letter and attach it to your resume. Before you do, ask permission from the referrer and inform him/her of your intentions.

Another purpose of the cover letter is that it allows you to explain why you’re applying for the position and to this particular company after a career in the military. Think of a cover letter as an expanded version of your objective statement.

Yes, attach a cover letter to your application. Whether you have an influential referrer or not, it will give your chances of getting hired a boost.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Writing a Military-to-Civilian Resume

 

How Do I Put Military Service On My Resume?

The first step is to choose a civilian job that fits your military experience. This way, it will be easier to align the duties and responsibilities you managed while in the military with those required for the civilian job.

The next step is to translate your military service into a language that can be understood by the recruiter.

Let’s say that you decided to apply for a job as a Project Manager at a Property Development company because you’re confident that your combat experience has given you the knowledge and expertise of accomplishing goals.

If you led a troop of 20 soldiers on a mission to take over a territory held hostage by extremists, you can rewrite this to the following job description:

“Organize, plan, and implement strategies for a troop composed of 20 soldiers with various skills designed to accomplish a predefined number of goals that included the restoration of peace and order, the establishment of new laws, and the safe evacuation of unarmed civilians.”

A recruiter who comes across this type of job description can easily make the connection on how your experience managing troops can carry over to the responsibility of managing people on a construction site.

Does Being a Veteran Look Good On a Resume?

Yes, because the first word that comes to the mind of people who hear “military veteran” is “discipline”.

A recruiter who comes across a candidate with military experience will feel respect and honor because you served the country.

It was because of your selfless sacrifice that civilians – such as the recruiter – are able to sleep soundly and go to work the following day.

How Should I List Veterans’ Preferences On a Resume?

Veterans’ Preferences is a benefit that’s accorded qualified veterans whereby they are given special consideration by prospective employers during the hiring process. The Veterans’ Preferences Act of 1944 outlines all of the provisions of this benefit.

Not all recruiters are familiar with Veterans’ Preferences and it might require a bit of explaining to do because the availability of this benefit depends on the status of the veteran – type of discharge, rank in the military, type of service, a disability rating, and preference point.

We recommend that instead of listing Veterans’ Preferences on your resume, it would be best to explain it in your cover letter.

Should I Put Military Rank On My Resume?

Yes, you should indicate your military rank on your resume because it is an accomplishment. You can’t get a ranking without undergoing a qualifying process. It’s something you work for.

That said, we recommend indicating your military rank in the work experience section. Follow the reverse-chronological order. Start off your work experience with your current military ranking. Give short job descriptions of the duties and responsibilities you were tasked to do.

As the recruiter reads through your work history, he will have a better appreciation of your accomplishments as you ascend in the rankings.

What Is a 5 or 10-point Veteran?

A 5-point Veteran is someone who served in the military under the following conditions:

  • Served during a period of war.
  • Served for more than 180 consecutive days during the period of September 11, 2001, and August 10, 2010.
  • Served during the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, until January 2, 1992.
  • Served for more than 180 consecutive days between January 31, 1955, to October 15, 1976.
  • Served between April 28, 1952, and July 1, 1955.
  • Received a medal or badge during a period of war.

A 10-point Veteran is someone who served in the military under the following conditions:

  • Incurred a disability with a rating of 30% or higher during the period of military service.
  • Awarded the Purple Heart.

Conclusion

Transitioning from a career in the military to the civilian 9-to-5 workforce has some challenges but they can’t be as difficult as the missions you handled as a veteran.

Similar to your military experience, it takes a bit of strategy, planning, and precise implementation to accomplish your objectives. In this case, the layout of the territory that you have to overcome is the resume.

We hope that after reading our guide, you were able to acquire the knowledge and confidence to write a resume that successfully lands you a civilian position and build a career with the same dedication and commitment you exhibited in the military.

Felix T. Web

I founded ResumeOK in 2011 to help people increase their chances of getting a better job. I am a career expert that has reviewed and written thousands of resumes. During my career, I found patterns that make a resume successful. Together with our team, we are sharing insights and knowledge in our resume examples and career articles. Do you have a question or need help? Just contact us here.

Last Updated on May 19, 2022 by Felix T. Web

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