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How Do I Write a Military Résumé to Find a Job in a Hurry?

Paul A. Freiberger -- You may have earned some awards for heroism, but you'll need more than courage to transition to the civilian sector. Here are some of the key success factors that you need to be aware of as you prepare your resume.

Jump starting the next phase of your career after you leave the military means finding the right words to share with civilians all of the skills, strengths, and qualifications that you acquired during your time in the military. What does a military resume look like? Will it help me find a job? Regardless of which branch of the armed services you served in, you have gained valuable experience that will help you to move into the civilian world. You may have earned some awards for heroism, but you'll need more than courage to transition to the civilian sector. Here are some of the key success factors that you need to be aware of as you prepare your resume:

Paint the right picture

When you write your military resume, you can portray a person who worked in a communications hub in a makeshift building in Afghanistan, or a savvy communications professional ready to take on the corporate world. To get there, take away the specific terms that are unique to the military and portray your experience as well as your skills as more universal.

Take advantage of the positive reputation that former military members have, including discipline skills that are highly valued by potential employers outside of the military. When drafting your military resume or veterans resume, make the most of any leadership experience that you have gained as well, as the ability to lead effectively is also prized by civilian employers.

Show your talents at the top

Add a summary of your key skills at the top of your resume. If you were in a management position during your time in the military and now want to transition those skills and experiences to a career in managing finance, then you should list skills that a corporation will value. Use current buzz words and key terms that will resonate with the hiring manager.

Since many corporations use either software programs to sift through resumes before people view them or use human resources personnel to screen for the best resumes, it is important to use the exact right terms. Not sure? Try to work in a few different versions of the same key term, if possible, in your resume to help increase your resume's odds of making it into the hands of the hiring manager who will ultimately decide whether to have you come in for an interview.

Re-order jobs on your resume

Many professionals list their career events in chronological order, going from most recent to oldest. Instead, try out a functional format that highlights the most relevant positions to the job you are aiming for. It could be that your decade in the Navy has little to do with your desire to become an adjunct professor at a local community college. If this is the case, then, for example, it would be more appropriate to highlight past experience teaching, even if it was before you entered the military.

Format your resume for today

Look online for samples of resumes or templates that you can use to format your resume. Try to consult the website of an award-winning writer with several years of experience. Expertise in cover-letter writing and job interview counseling is also helpful.

It is important to portray yourself as a professional who is in tune with current trends, including the current format for resumes in your industry. Like it or not, appearances matter, which means that a resume whose format is incomprehensible or hopelessly old fashioned is much more likely to be tossed than looked at.

Customize your resume for the job you want

While it is undeniably tempting to blitz every job listing that you locate online with the same generic resume, if you take the time to customize your resume for each job listing you are much more likely to be asked in for an interview. Start by making sure that your resume reflects a professional in the field that you are applying for. A job as a computer programmer will require different skill sets and experiences than a systems administrator position. You may be qualified for both, but the employer looking for a systems administrator will not be wowed by your computer programming skills and vice versa.

More than the obvious job title, however, it is important that you scan the job listing for key terms that you an incorporate into your resume. Those key terms are likely to be the ones that the software program or human resources worker is looking for when screening new resumes. This could mean changing "maintained budgets and accounts" to "performed account reconciliations and managed budget" in your key skills section.

Paul Freiberger is President of Shimmering Resumes, a resume-writing, interview preparation, and career counseling service based in San Mateo, California. Paul is the author of several books and the winner of the Los Angeles Times book award. He offers resume writing services (including military and career transition resumes), job interview and job search campaign coaching nationwide. He can be reached at: Paul@shimmeringresumes.com. Don't be reluctant to hire a professional resume writer with experience in career transition to help develop your professional military resume. Remember sometimes it's important to know when to delegate.

© 2015 Paul A. Freiberger

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