Advice for Transitioning Vets: Simplify and Clarify

Career Advice

Students by Bigstock

Do you speak civilian?  Your training may be unparalleled and having a security clearance is a definite asset.  But your ability to demonstrate these assets comes down to your ability to communicate them clearly to hiring managers.

“Even some of the most highly trained veterans with security clearances make a few mistakes on their resumes,” said Fran Cohen, business consultant and career mentor. “Some list awards for accomplishments that won’t mean anything to hiring managers.  Or they’ll have too many pages that list every single job they held in their military careers.  That’s too much information for hiring managers.”

Her advice to cleared transitioning veterans: Simplify and clarify.  If you aren’t looking for a military job, think more like the civilians who are going to hire you.


Absolutely, a security clearance should be listed on your resume.  But you can leave out the details. You don’t need to mention the location or the project.  Career consultants accustomed to working with veterans often recommend that security clearances be listed at the top of a resume in a section that highlights what the job seeker brings to the table.  For example, headings that indicate a summary of skills or accomplishments allow hiring managers to see your value immediately.  That’s what will keep them reading beyond the average 20-second scan they tend to give the hundreds of resumes they receive for every job listing.  So get their attention from the start.

Once you’ve showcased your clearance and stand-out qualities, highlight the positions you’ve held and include a clear explanation of your achievements and responsibilities.  When possible, use the same words used in the job description.  Those are the qualities for which the company is looking.  This may mean creating a template resume that can be tailored or tweaked each time you submit it.


Lastly, consider the times.  Right now, there’s a greater push to hire veterans.  In the past, career consultants have stressed the importance of a functional resume.  Their goal was on the right track; they wanted to help you tone down your military experience so civilians could better understand your skill sets.  But as companies become more aware of the value of military experience and security clearances, they will continue to be seen as huge assets.  So stress the responsibilities and jobs in which leadership, teamwork and cross-functional skills had a part in what you did.  Just leave out the acronyms and demilitarize the skills. If you once held the job of ADMSE Repairman in the Army, civilians need to know you are skilled in integrated electronics systems.

If you still aren’t sure about how your resume translates, get some feedback from civilians.  They’ll be the first to question terms with which they’re unfamiliar.


Tranette Ledford is a writer and owner of Ledford, LLC, which provides writing, editorial and public relations consulting for defense, military and private sector businesses. You can contact her at:

More in Career Advice