Translate Military Experience to Benefit the Company

Susan Hall
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Five Tips for a Well-Done Tech Resume

A tech pro's resume has to match the speed of this fast-changing industry

Last week I wrote that employers want to see on your resume the impact you've made-not just that you held a job. And even college students can draw from their school projects or volunteer service to show their impact. Then tell how that experience can be just what the company needs to solve its current problems. In other words, don't just talk about the past, talk about the future.


This article at USA Today says that the unemployment rate for female veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is 13.5 percent. (For all veterans of those wars, it's 15.2 percent, according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.) Further, according to one survey, it takes an average of eight months for a female veteran to find a civilian job. And that women who served in the military are twice as likely to become homeless as those who did not.


It quotes Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans group, saying:

Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans leave the active-duty military only to find that their skills are not understood by civilian employers. The challenges that women face are even greater.

But the part that really made me stop was this quote by Maria Canales, a former Army financial management specialist, who spent most of 2006 in Iraq, but who has yet to find a full-time job:

I still feel insecure about whether a civilian employer is going to believe I can do it when on my resume all it says is Army.

So I asked Alesia Benedict, president and CEO of to comment. She previously offered advice about tailoring your resume if you feel you're overqualified. In this case, she agreed with me that the resume should go way beyond just saying "Army."

The problem is not in the experience itself, but in documenting it on the resume so that the reader clearly understands what the person did while in the military, and also how that experience will benefit the new corporation/company.
One of the problems we often see with former military resumes is that they are written in "military-speak" meaning terms and buzzwords not applicable to civilian positions. Unless the reader can understand the experience gained while the job seeker was serving in the military, it won't be seen as valuable to many hiring managers. It's not a matter of the experience itself not being valuable; the problem lies in the job seeker not "building a bridge" from the experience gained while in the Armed Forces to how a company will profit from that experience.
The job seeker needs to really step back and pick apart her/his military career and think of the relevancy of that experience to civilian positions. Most of the human resource screeners and hiring managers will not be familiar with the depth of experience that serving in the military entails, so they must be "shown" how that experience would be beneficial to their company.
Since the job seeker is not applying for another position in the military but rather a civilian one, they need to start re-thinking the way they describe their experience, because that has to not only come through clearly on the resume, but also in the interview.

This is a case where you really need to get outside your own head and get some non-military feedback on your resume. How about asking someone in your field who has not been in the military to read it?

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