To write an empowering resume, the person transitioning from the military, like all other career changers, needs to demonstrate value and transferability of skills.
Aside from some highly specialized functions, most military positions have counterparts in the civilian world. Whatever your job, if you did it well, you can demonstrate skills which are valuable on the outside.
Use Your Strengths
Analyze your background carefully and emphasize those skills and experiences that will sell you into a civilian job. Even the most specialized military jobs are composed of generic processes and procedures. Present those activities in straightforward step-by-step terms.
For the overwhelming majority of military transitioners, your job narratives will be virtually indistinguishable from your civilian competitors. Managers will write about managing. Officers and NCOs supervise people, manage projects, coordinate events, etc. Cooks write about cooking. IT professionals can talk computers and networking. And, of course there are doctors, nurses, lawyers, mechanics, pilots, technicians, clerks…all of who have stories to share.
Things to Avoid
As you write your resume, scrupulously avoid military jargon, also known as militarese. Let a civilian read your resume to determine if your descriptions are understandable.
Using Evaluations and Letters of Commendation
Quoting or paraphrasing your fitness reports, evaluations, and letters of commendation can boost the power of your resume. Praise from superiors is always beneficial. Two such entries are usually sufficient so choose wisely.
If you wish to include additional excerpts from your fitness reports, create an addendum. For a specific example of an addendum on a military resume, see Paul Handle’s. Captain Paul Handle is a retired military person who used extensive quotes from evaluations as an addendum to his resume. After naming him “Captain Paul Handle” at the top of the addendum, and referring to him as Captain Handle on the first line, he was thereafter simply referred to as Handle, even though in the fitness reports he was always identified by rank. These quotes were heavily edited, with only small portions of each evaluation included. When skipping portions of the evaluations there was no attempt to use ellipses (...) to signify a gap. Instead, it was all woven together to make a strong statement about Handle and allowing commanding officers to say things he couldn’t say about himself. Feel free to take a copy of the addendum to interviews and present it to the employer if it seems appropriate.
If a chronological resume does not seem to be working for you, take a good look at the clustered, hybrid, or functional resumes. See Jason Ryerson’s resume for a functional resume which worked well for this officer.
In the first sample military resume Sanders does an excellent job convincing the reader that he is totally dedicated to safety. It is clear that the record he set for the most consecutive months without a major accident was driven by his dedication and development of a comprehensive safety program. In the second and third sample resumes, Tolson and Handle clearly sell their technical abilities.