If you are transitioning out of the military, you are most concerned with getting a resume and online profile together that translate effectively to the civilian or private sector. This is hard enough in and of itself (primarily keeping your resume to only two pages), but what many do not realize is the challenge that follows.
When you begin reaching out to companies, you will likely be speaking with veteran- or diversity-focused recruiters (if they have them). If not, you’ll be talking with general recruiters. In either case, while the recruiter may understand the experience you present in your resume, more often than not she will not understand the level that this experience translates to in her world.
The shocking part? This is happening quite often, and it doesn’t matter whether a recruiter is a veteran herself or not. With many years of leadership experience in the military behind you, how can you ensure your materials properly reflect the level at which you should be hired?
Bolster your resume’s career profile.
As a service member, you go through a great deal of leadership training. Unfortunately, in the private and civilian sector it is not usually the case that managers have been given such training. The profile should be a summary of you as a leader. It is not an exhaustive list of your accomplishments and skills, as it should be several lines or bullets at the most. Even if you have a long and successful career history, you’re expected to summarize it concisely.
Common areas that translate well to match leadership expectations in the private sector are: your ability to develop strategy, direct operations, lead people and teams, innovate, build relationships, and/or manage change.
Feature key accomplishments.
This is a key section for an executive resume, and it should go immediately below your career profile. Think quality over quantity. After you’ve compiled your job description bullets (see below), select three to five that you are most proud of and put them up there.
Get specific in your job descriptions.
Many executive resumes sound the same because they include vague information about big picture responsibilities. In order to stand out, think about what you’ve done on a daily basis and the specific result each of those activities has produced. Think about:
- What types and levels of talent have I hired and developed over the years?
- What teams or departments do I lead, and how many people?
- Who do I report to, in what way do we interact, and how frequent is it?
- Have I led major changes, and if so, what did I do and how did it change the organization?
Use job titles that make sense to the private sector.
If you haven’t been able to receive personal advice on what you might do with your experience in the private sector, you should search online for job descriptions. Using ClearanceJobs.com, you can search for the types of work you’ve done and see what titles pop up. For example, “logistics and supply chain.” Read a few job descriptions to decide what your years of experience and skills translate to in terms of job titles (e.g., senior manager, director, or VP). Keep in mind that every company uses different titles for different numbers of years of experience so you’ll have to look at a handful to get a good idea where you align. When you find good matches, use similar ones for your own job titles.
Summarize roles over 10 years old.
It’s likely you won’t have space for bullet descriptions of jobs over 10 years old, and the truth is, most employers will not take the time to read that anyway. You only need to include your past titles, organizations, locations and years held. If there is anything from that period that you feel is important to expand on, you can do that in your online profile and/or an interview.
Include awards, presentations, and media.
Awards and select media publications, interviews, or any other major presentations warrant separate sections. Awards should be listed with titles, organizations, and years received. If you have written publications or been interviewed, call the section “Select Media” or “Select Publications” and choose five or less from the past few years, and include a hyperlink on the titles. If you’ve given major presentations, call it “Select Presentations” and list the details.
This is a lot to accomplish in two pages, but it will serve you well in your search for a job at the right level. Beyond your materials, you’ll need to be ready to explain in a phone screen and interview what level you believe your experience fits into the best. If you let them know you are basing your claim off of primary and/or secondary research, you’ll have a higher chance of getting plugged in at the right levels. If you find you’re not being presented with the right opportunities, you will need to continue to advocate for your experience and skills and how they translate to the level you should be at.