How should I address my military experience on my resume?

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military_sealsDebbie from Elon University asked:

How should I address my military experience on my resume?  Should I break down every deployment by year or just provide a summary?  What about  additional work experience beyond my military experience?

Hi Debbie –

One of the greatest challenges veterans face when they seek to transition from the military to the civilian workforce is translation: How can you translate what you did in the military from military jargon and context into language meaningful to civilian employers?

This translation can be really difficult. Regardless of where you came from professionally, it is usually challenging to explain what you did in terms relevant to someone who doesn’t understand how your qualifications translate.  If you are a teacher, try to explain to someone in business how your teaching skills translate to business. If you have worked in business, try convincing someone in the non-profit sector that you have the ability to work in their world.  The translation isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and it is your job as the job seeker to do the translating.

A while back I responded to a similar question: How can I get  into consulting after a military career?  I recommend you review my advice in that blog post as well.

Now your specific question about resume format and structure.

If the military service is directly relevant, list the specific roles (described in civilian terms) in the Experience/Relevant Experience section of the resume

Military Experience 1

or

Military Experince 4

Sometimes, simply using military experience to illustrate leadership skills is a good option

Miliary Experience 2

Many resumes include Honors and Affiliations or Honors & Recognition sections.  This can also be a good place to include military honors

Military Experience 3

It is important to focus on the “Why” and not just the “What” when preparing content for your resume.  Answer the “Why” question and you will know where and how to include your other experience on your resume as well.

Your resume should tell your story.  Not your entire story; but the parts of your story that are relevant to employers told in a way that makes sense to them.  You are the storyteller, so tell an interesting and compelling story.

When you focus on the “Why” message in your resume (your story), you have to translate what you offer into language meaningful to the audience you are trying to persuade of your candidacy.

I hope these examples help.

Good Luck

matt-signature


About the Author

Matt Berndt

“Head Coach and Career Services Evangelist” of The Campus Career Coach. Vice President of Career Services & Research at GradLeaders, Inc. Matt has 20+ years in career services and workforce development, including serving as Director of Communication Career Services at the University of Texas at Austin, Director of Career Resources at St. Edward’s University, and Manager of Student and Corporate Relations for the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He has also served on the Boards of Directors of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the Southern Association of Colleges and Employers, and the Southwestern Association of Colleges and Employers.

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2 responses to “How should I address my military experience on my resume?”

  1. […] How should I address my military experience on my resume? […]

  2. Aaron M. says:

    Translating your military skill-sets can be difficult and many job coaches will give general advice on making the information relevant. The key is to identify the position you wish to pursue and target your resume based on that job description. (Pretty general, I know.) But to get your transferable skills to civilian terms, go get your Verification of Military Education and Training (VMET) which will give you civilian terms for your MOSC. https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/tgps/

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