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Military to Civilian Resume: Part 1, Get Started!

by Peter Marx

When you leave military service and begin your job search, the first thing you must do is create a marketing tool to sell yourself to civilian industries. That tool is your resume. It's the foundation on which you will build your search for that next job.

Your resume should reflect the following:

  • Experience
  • Style of work, referred to these days as "branding"
  • Formal education
  • Related military training
  • Professional accomplishments
  • Personal achievements

Begin by gathering up your experience or transferable skills
As a veteran, you may have a hard time writing a civilian or functional style resume because you're so used to writing a chronological history of your career. There are new trends in resume writing style, but for now, that chronological history is the gold mine from which to extract some of the transferable skills that will go into your civilian style resume. Remember, civilian hiring managers really don't want to read just what you have done; they want to know what you can, and will, do for them. That's the difference between chronological and functional styles.

So, get started on writing a chronological resume right now. You can probably do it right off the top of your head!

First, make a list of your job titles, locations, and the inclusive dates for your jobs, starting with your current or last job and work backwards. For example:

Commander, Mission Support Squadron, Travis AFB, CA. 11/06 to Present, or Medical Corpsman, Naval Hospital, Newport, RI. 02/04 to 07/08

You only need to go back as far as you have work history that will be useful on your resume.

Next, under each title, create a list of what you did every day while you were on that job. These lists are eventually going to be combined to form the body of the "Experience" section of your resume. That sounds easy, but it might take a bit of reflection and research. How do you come up with these lists?

Start with the list you just created. Then, consult your DD2586, the Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET).

Your DD2586 is created from your automated records on file at Defense Manpower Data Center. It lists your military job experience, (also your training history and civilian equivalent job titles, which we'll deal with later) While the VMET is not a resume, it contains lots of information that you can transfer to your new resume.

As you recognize a transferable skill from the VMET, or remember another one from that job which could be included on this growing list of skills, copy it (you can cut and paste from your VMET) and add it to the appropriate time frame on your chronological title list.

Don't worry about civilian language at this point. You've been talking military for years, so just relax and list your transferable skills in the language you know. We'll deal with translating later.

Make each list as complete as possible. Try to write in one-liners or bullet style. Avoid repetition. Try to put each list in priority order, with the most important skills at the top of each list.

Aim for something like this:

Emergency Medical Technician, U.S.S. Dallas, 2005-Present

Provide first-line emergency medical care to Sailors and Marines onboard ship.
Take patients' vital signs, including temperature, pulse, and blood pressure.
Prepare patients for follow-up treatment by registered nurses or medical doctors.
Update patients' medical records.

Medical Service Technician, Bethesda Naval Hospital, MD, 2001-2004

Responsible for ensuring 500 patients' records were properly filed.
Responded to record requests by nurses and doctors.
Performed quality assurance checks of medical records.
Identified missing documents and persevered until records were properly completed.
Recommended an innovative color-coding scheme that reduced confusion and saved health care professionals' time.

Medical Service Technician, Newport Navy Hospital, Newport, RI, 1998-2000

Drew patients' blood for analysis by laboratory technicians.
Resuscitated those patients who fainted during the procedure.
Explained the importance of wellness programs that emphasize proper diet and exercise.

See how your lists are growing?

Next time, find out how to expand these lists by adding skills to your resume that you never thought you had!