Applicant sits at Custer's Last Stand

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Translating your resume: military to civilian

May 20, 2018 - 9:00 am

It’s no secret the military has its own culture and jargon.  We live on bases and installations.  We eat MREs.  We go on missions (instead of jobs) and command (instead of manage) subordinates (instead of employees). 

When you’re looking for a job in the civilian world, you need to learn a new language.

How do you translate your military skills into civilian terms?  You may think you don’t have the skills needed in the corporate world.  You’re wrong.  You just don’t have the proper verbiage.

For example, you probably attended several training programs as a service member.  Basic training, boot camp, non-commissioned officer’s courses and candidate schools all trained you in skills that are necessary for civilian employment.   Basic training, for example, teaches soft skills such as team work, communication, mental toughness and how to prioritize your work and life:  all important skills that employers expect.

Many of the leadership courses cultivate even stronger skills, for example, the Army’s Warrior Leadership Course – a month-long program that teaches you how to lead small teams.  One of the critical management techniques you learn is how to give an effective presentation, a must-know skill in the corporate world. 

These descriptions bridge the gap between military and civilian:

Military Skill:                                                              Civilian Application:

  • Leading, managing subordinates                       Staff supervision, evaluation & task direction
  • Technical writing                                               Written communication skills
  • Drill & ceremony                                              Attention to detail
  • Conducts military briefs                                    Clear & concise communication
  • Tactical leadership                                             Leads diverse environments

Here are specific skills from the Marine Corps Sergeant’s Course and how they translate into the civilian business world:

Military Skill:                                                               Civilian Application:

  • Gives impromptu speeches                                  Oral communication skills
  • Develops plan of action despite uncertainty        Decisive, decision-making skills
  • Gains buy-in from peers                                       Leads, motivates, inspires
  • Debates, considers, reconsiders positions            Critical thinking
  • Writes & revises analytical essays                       Clear written communication
  • Long range, annual and quarterly planning         Experience training others

University of Maryland University College is a proud partner of Connecting Vets.  Learn more on how to write a better resume at UMUC Career Services.