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Resume Help for Veterans: Translating Your Military Experience into Valuable Civilian Skills

On May 31 the nation will celebrate Memorial Day, and while we join America in honoring the military men and women who have fallen, we also wanted to commemorate the day by leaving noble veterans with more than just our gratitude.

If you're a military veteran searching for a place in the civilian workforce, explaining your skills and translating your experience may not be easy. Employers may not be able to relate to an office in the belly of a submarine, duties that put you in real danger, and a culture that doesn't revolve around the individual. Luckily though, there are a few simple adjustments you can make to your resume that make your abilities more transferrable.

Here are a few moves that can set you on the right track.

Get help.

Veterans, first recognize that you don't need to face this obstacle alone. Every industry operates with a distinct set of internal rules and a jargon of its own, and as an outsider, you can't be expected to understand these conventions without some specific support and guidance. If you're entering the manufacturing field, for example, consult with a career counselor or job placement expert who holds specific experience in your target area. The same applies if you'd like to work in retail, healthcare, education, sales, materials handling or any other civilian field that may feel new to you. These people can help you identify crossover skills you may hold.

Consider your reviewer's perspective.

As you draft your resume and cover letter, consider your target audience and their needs. Your employers will be looking for specific skills and traits that will likely be clearly outlined in the job post, and some of these may hold more weight than others. Take a careful look at the job description and then sift through your background for anything you can offer that may be valuable to your specific reader, even if your other skill sets may be stronger. Focus on these core abilities and find a way to make them stand out in your resume.

Focus on presentation.

No matter what message you're trying to convey, do so with neatness, precision, and professionalism. Proofread your resume and cover letter more than once, and if possible, have it reviewed and edited by at least one other person—preferably someone with editing or career counseling experience.

Word choice matters.

Again, the words you choose should align with your reader's expectations and the lexicon of your target industry. Make sure your verbs are strong and specific, and remove terms and descriptions that apply to everyone in the world. For example, delete phrases like, "I'm a hard worker", and replace them with phrases like, "I've worked 12 hour shifts six days per week for six months at a time". Replace "I'm a strong leader" with a clear description of your specific leadership accomplishments.

Stay in motion.

The job search can be frustrating, and the road ahead may be long, but you — and all veterans — can and will eventually find the job you're looking for. Just stay resilient. If the strategy you're using isn't working, make changes and keep moving forward until you get where you need to go.

In the meantime, rely on the resume and cover letter building tools available on MyPerfectResume.

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