How can my military background help me find a civilian career?

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military to civilianMichael from Austin Peay State University asked:

“How do I create a resume for Public Management when I do not have any work experience in this field? I earned a degree in this field, but my professional experience only consist of nine years in the United States Army.”

Thanks for your question, John.

All you have done is serve in the U.S. Army for nine years; that’s an understatement! You have developed people skills, procedural skills and technical skills that you need to highlight on your resume as you search for jobs in public management. It will be challenging, but with a customized targeted resume, you should be able to compete with the best of them.

According to, someone working in public management might be expected to maximize their resources and ensure programs under their direction integrate into an increasing global world. Does any of this sound familiar? Without knowing your exact MOS, I’m going to say yes it does. In order to maximize your resume and highlight your success stories, you’ll need to customize your resume, organize your content, and acquire new skills to add to your resume. By doing this, you are sure to create a resume that provides evidence that you have the knowledge, skills, and ability to excel in a public management job.

Customize your resume

The correct resume format is critical for your success. You want to create a customized targeted resume. A resume can be written in three formats: chronological, functional, and targeted. A targeted resume takes the categorical skills-based sections of the functional format, and the work experience from the chronological format, and creates a customized document that specifically highlights the experience and skills you have that are relevant for a specific job or industry. To view sample resumes download a copy of Austin Peay State University’s student resume packet or if you’re near campus attend one of their Writing Stellar Resumes events.

Organize your content

How you organize the content in your resume is very important as well. Human Resource professionals scan resumes in a matter of minutes and you want the most relevant information at the top. You should be able to fold your resume in half and the top portion screams “I am a public management professional!” Meanwhile, Applicant Tracking Systems look for key words, so it’s very important to organize your content effectively. For example, with nine years of work experience, I recommend the following format:

  1. Contact information: Name, address, best number to reach you, and a professional email address.
  2. Job title or industry: Title of job you are applying for or target industry.
  3. Professional profile or areas of expertise: Summary of relevant experience or key words relevant to public management.
  4. Education: Spell out your degree and add your major- public management, the school you attended, city, and state.
  5. Relevant experience: Work experience specific to the job posting for which you are applying. Start descriptive information with key word headings to draw attention to your transferable skills.
  6. Professional memberships: Join a professional organization and include this on your resume.
  7. Technical skills: Software skills you have you developed over time. Use exact names such as Microsoft Office Word, Excel. Oracle, PeopleSoft, etc.

Acquire new skills

Join a professional organization in Public Management. How can joining a professional organization help you write your resume you might ask, well professional organizations provide a lot of career resources such as tips on effective resume writing for a specific industry and online jobs listings available only to their members.  You can find a list of professional organizations by visiting WEDDLE’s Association Directory. In addition, most professional associations have national, state, and regional chapters and host industry workshops, webinars, and conferences, which can all be added to your resume. Lastly, having a professional organization on your resume will show an employer that you are serious about a career in public management and dedicated to staying connected in your profession.

Every job is a stepping stone to your career.

Remember, you have nine years’ experience in the largest branch of the United States Armed Forces that performs land-based military operations. I’m confident you have acquired skills that have made you a leader who can create plans and solve problems in order to make a difference in the public sphere. All you have to do now is start writing!

Good Luck!


About the Author

Winifred Winston

Winifred has worked in education providing career services for more than 10 years. She has worked with non-traditional students, adult learners, and even high school students. Realizing that how we start, maintain, and change careers is always evolving, she holds several industry credentials to ensure she remains relevant. Winifred is a Certified Professional Resume Writer, Certified Employment Interview Consultant, Certified Global Career Development Facilitator, Certified Federal Job Search Trainer, and Certified Federal Career Coach. Prior to working in education, Winifred worked in human resources with a focus on staffing and recruitment. Having experience in both career services and human resources, she is able to successfully help students navigate their course to career success. Her motto is “every job is a stepping stone to a career”.

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