Your Resume: Leverage Your Military Experience

I have several very good friends that manage the Human Resources department in their respective companies. To a person they agree that a well-tuned resume is vital.  Your resume is the first impression you make on a manager and a strong determining factor in whether you receive an interview at all.

Virtually every single veteran will benefit by understanding how to translate military experience and skills into practical qualifications for civilian jobs. Knowing how to package and present yourself to others is a neglected art.

Call to mind what the US Armed Services invests in its members, teaching a wide range of skills and disciplines and spending a fortune on personnel development. I think it is easily demonstrated that anyone who has served in the military comes out with tangible skills and experience. These skills and experience, if favorably presented, can make an attractive case for employment in almost any circumstance.

I recently came across some really good advice when it comes to preparing a resume that will get you hired. The author is Giacomo Giammatteo and he absolutely nails the importance of a resume. More, he tells you exactly what to do and how to do it.  He has a downloadable Kindle version and a PDF version for a very reasonable $7.99.

It Matters How You Communicate

Here’s a sampling of the advice Giammatteo offers:

You don’t say:

    • Increased sales. You don’t even say, increased sales by 20%, even though that’s better.
    • Significantly cut manufacturing costs and improved yields.
    • Number 1 sales rep in region.
    • Brought product in under budget and ahead of schedule.

It’s much better to list it like this:

    • Increased sales by 20%, from $12m to almost $15m in one year.
    • Cut manufacturing costs by 25%, producing a yearly savings of more than $3m, while increasing yields from 92% to 96%.
    • Number 1 sales rep in region (out of 19 reps).
    • Brought product in 10% under budget and 2 months ahead of schedule, saving company $240k.

Giammatteo advocates quantifying your accomplishments, putting things into a perspective that the gatekeeper to your new job finds relevant.  If two nearly equal resumes are on the table, the one that quantifies things (as shown above) is the one that holds the advantage over the other.

When it comes to resumes, remember that less is more. Use simple language, jargon-free, and remove all acronyms and other confusing terms.  Your resume is really translating what you are and what you do to the most simple version possible—understandable to anyone and everyone.

More to Remember

When you apply for that new civilian job, here is some more timely advice:

  • Assume that those you are talking to know nothing about the military. Describe your skills and experience in simple terms, demilitarize everything, and then practice describing your experience and skills in easy-to-understand language.
  • Emphasize your soft skills. Soft skills are the “people skills” that you have learned. These include leadership ability, work ethic, working well under pressure, adaptability, efficiency, self-directedness and a commitment to excellence. Every employer is looking for these skill sets in a potential hire, and nearly every veteran has them. .
  • Remember, after writing your resume, to have at least two people read it to help ensure everything is grammatically correct and the document is easily understood by civilians. There are many online resume builders that can help you. Go to a few different websites and see what is offered. With a little time invested, you will begin to see patterns and consistent messages that will help you hone your resume and refine your presentation.
  • If you earned extra stripes, awards and medals, then show them off. Prestigious awards and commendations are appreciated and respected. In some instances, the topics of your medals or awards may be private. A simple firm “with all respect, I’d prefer not to go into detail about that particular subject” will secure your privacy without harming your chances to get the job.  Listing your awards, from distinguished service to good conduct, can be a great addition to any resume.

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