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Translating Military Experience to the Civilian Job Market

When you leave the military, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out how the experiences that you had during your service relate to the civilian job market. It’s tough to explain to someone that retiring as a Master Sergeant in the Army you have proved that you had the work ethic, the ability to lead, and the intelligence to manage a large group of enlisted men and women.

How to Explain Your Military Experience on Resumes

When you’re creating your resume, it’s tempting to write down that you spent three years as an XO in the military personnel office, or that you were an Operations NCO with seven subordinates, but not many civilians know what that translates into.

Your resume is your first impression. You need to make sure that it conveys a message that the person reading will understand or you’ll never get called in for an interview.

Job Roles to Translate

One of the toughest things to correlate into civilian life is what role is equivalent to the experience that you received in the military. has a really good comparison list here, but we’ll list it below too.

Commander = Director or Senior Manager
Executive Officer = Deputy Director
Field Grade Officer = Executive or Manager
Company Grade Officer = Operations Manager or Section Manager
Warrant Officer = Technical Specialist or Department Manager
Senior NCOs = First-Line Supervisor
Infantry = Security Force
First Sergeant = Personnel Manager
Squad Leader = Team Leader or Team Chief
Supply Sergeant = Supply Manager or Logistics Manager
Operations NCO = Operations Supervisor

By changing the terms, you’re letting hiring managers know the civilian skills that you acquired during your time in the military.

Other Resume Tips

When it comes to listing your skills and attributes, make sure that you stay away from abbreviations. What’s common speak in the military isn’t so obvious to civilians and so saying that you were on a TAD/TDY doesn’t make sense to a civilian. In fact, saying Temporary Additional Duty probably doesn’t make sense either so call it a business trip.

If you managed a group of soldiers, make sure you quantify that group. Say that you managed a team of five or oversaw a battalion of 250 soldiers. Numbers let people know what kind of groups you led throughout your career. They also help people better understand your overall ability to lead.

How to Explain Your Military Experience in Interviews

If you get the call to come in for an interview, it’s okay to prepare with stories from your time in the military. After all, that’s when you acquired all those great skills that are going to help the company you’re interviewing with. What you want to change is the way you talk about those experiences.

The site Real Warriors has some great tips.

When it comes to talking about your technical skills, talk about the IT equipment that you used if you’re interviewing for an IT job, or talk about the communications gear you used. If you worked in an office setting, talk about the computer programs that you used or your daily duties.

When it comes to working as a team, few people understand that better than military veterans. Be sure to have a few examples of how your group faced a challenge and how you worked to unite the group to accomplish a task. This is your chance to shine.

Looking for Work Based on the Skills You Acquired in the Military

The site has a great tool for veterans looking to enter the civilian workforce. The Military Skills Translator will look at the branch of the military you were in, your job title and then search for jobs that will best suit the skills that you acquired during your military service. The Skills Translator is designed to translate your military expertise with the current job market.

Lockheed Martin also has a military skills translator for jobs at Lockheed Martin.

Top Employers of Military Veterans

According to the site, the top employers of veterans include:

  1. Booz Allen Hamilton
  2. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)
  3. Northrop Grumman
  4. L-3 Communications
  5. Lockheed Martin
  6. S. Department of Defense
  7. BAE Systems
  8. DXC Technology
  9. CACI International
  10. The Boeing Company

Other companies known for hiring veterans include Home Depot, Walgreens, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Southwest Airlines.

Be sure to check the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website for more help in joining the civilian workforce. Among other things, that’s what the VA is there for.

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