Here’s another article with advice on how to translate your military skills to a civilian resume or curriculum vitae, from one who has made the crossing and learned from her mistakes.  Highlighting key elements of your military experiences on your civilian resume is crucial, but what if you’re unsure about what matters most to civilian employers?  What follows are some skills that you probably already have, waiting to be discovered, reshaped and added to your civilian resume.

1. Collaborating

It might seem as if you spent your military career either following orders or issuing them. But actions that achieve lasting results involve a significant amount of collaboration.  A fresh read of your experience could reveal examples of how you synthesized input from conflicting opinions, and negotiated compromises to steer all stakeholders toward the common goal.  Good leaders and hiring officials will value your ability to broker agreements among stakeholders with competing equities to achieve results.

2. Leading Change

Organizations must evolve with mission or customer demands, and they look for employees who are willing to change and inspire others to do the same. The ability to shed traditional thinking, see potential solutions in innovative ways, and be comfortable working in uncertain conditions is highly valued by team leaders.  If you can revise resume accomplishments that highlight how you led or supported change in your organization, you’ll be speaking to the needs of managers everywhere.

3. Finding Efficiencies

Knowing how to achieve mission outcomes by the most efficient and cost-effective means possible is a skill that seems a no-brainer, but it’s often not fully articulated in resumes drawn from military experience. No organization is immune to the squeeze felt by limited or diminishing resources.  Employers will value your ability to find and leverage efficiencies as a top professional skill.  Here is where you can make your LEAN Six Sigma, project management, or similar experience and certifications truly shine.

4. Advising

Perhaps more important than your experience is your ability to transfer your knowledge to those with a larger (or different) sphere of influence than your own. What moments do you recall in the military when you provided information or recommendations to leadership to inform their decisions? In my active duty days, I often shared meals with junior enlisted members, just to get to know them better and ensure morale was high.  I almost always left those encounters with much more.  I gained new insights that influenced how I viewed a problem, its causes, and potential solutions in ways I’d previously not considered.  Conversations with people willing to share what they know make us smarter.  Your ability to listen to a colleague or leader’s challenge, reflect back an insightful analysis, and make recommendations through the lens of your experience is solid gold to a hiring official.

5. Distilling Versus Diluting Technical Expertise

You believe it’s the best part of your technical expertise, but you know by now that classified information on your resume is a no-no. No matter -the skills hiring officials value most are not usually classified (even if the work is). Do a fresh read over your technical expertise, but not from your lens – the blood, sweat and tears you invested might skew what’s truly important.  Instead, consider what aspects of your expertise run salient and true across a variety of mission sets that an employer will need you to accomplish.  Revise your skills so they are in sharper focus (distilled) as they relate to the mission of your new organization, but avoid generalizing them so much that the reader overlooks them as fluff (diluted).  If you can link outcomes resulting from your skills that track with the outcomes your potential company is trying to achieve, then you’re really cooking.

Good examples:

– An analyst who wrote military plans might translate this skill into “Assists executives in articulating vision and priorities through actionable plans that resonate with subordinate teams and other stakeholders.”

– A logistics or security professional who operated convoys might translate this skill into, “Oversees all aspects of supply chain distribution, including optimum route planning, timely product delivery, security, and sustainment of transportation modes through dynamic and unpredictable landscapes.”

Keep in mind that the most successful and compelling resumes are those that demonstrate how military experience can be replicated in a new organization.  Good luck writing a resume that resonates!

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Melissa Jordan is an Executive Writer at a US Government agency. With more than 20 years in professional communication and over 16 years of experience working in cross-cultural environments, her most valuable lessons have been learned by trial and error.