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Tips for Servicemembers Transitioning to an Accounting Career

The following tips focus on veterans who are interested in an accounting career, but can also be applied to many other occupations.

Servicemembers with financial management training typically have strong knowledge and in-demand skills that transition well into civilian accounting careers. The need for such expertise is expected to grow in the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2012-2013 Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow by 16% nationwide through 2020.

The increasingly complex and global business world will require top-notch skills, and the job market for accounting professionals will be competitive. Transitioning servicemembers need to prepare as strong a resume as possible in order to land the interview that can lead to a job. Making a resume stand out from the crowd takes time and effort, but it can really pay off.

Step One: Research the Company
Landing an interview starts with preparation, so think twice before sending a generic cover letter and resume. Interviewers want to know that applicants have prepared by doing their homework. Learning as much as possible about the hiring company can provide an edge over the competition. Here's a three-part strategy:

  • Review the Company's Website: Become familiar with a company's products and services, where it does business, and its typical clients, customers and competitors. Go to the "Team" and "About Us" pages to get insight on management, staff and the company culture.
  • Check the Annual Report: This report typically contains financials from the previous year, along with accomplishments and goals. Many firms use the annual report to communicate to stockholders and the public, as well as to reinforce their brand and culture.
  • Do a LinkedIn Search: This professional networking site may offer a wealth of company information, as well as the names and titles of employees. It's a great tool to learn about positions and make contacts.

Applicants should review the company's mission and values statements, and be prepared to include similar language in their resumes and cover letters. Writing an effective resume is the next step in the process of landing an interview.

Tips on Preparing a Resume That Counts
Human resources (HR) managers and recruiters receive hundreds of resumes. Without time to read them all, a common approach is to quickly scan them. So, what makes a resume stand out?

  • A focus on the company's needs. The job listing may explain why the company is hiring for an accounting position. An effective resume conveys an understanding of those needs.
  • Brief, concise statements of qualifications. Answer the question, "Why should we consider this applicant?"
  • Action words that convey abilities and accomplishments. Use terms like "enhanced," "sustained," "exceeded," "innovated," "projected," and "balanced." Be sure skills and abilities match with the prospective employer's needs.
  • Easy-to-understand language. Skip the military jargon and acronyms. While it's appropriate to include military service, it's also important to realize that a civilian may simply gloss over unfamiliar terms.
  • Strong, up-to-date skills. Military personnel generally have strong leadership skills, are accustomed to working on teams and are disciplined workers. Plus, they usually undergo continuous training. All of these attributes are attractive to employers.

Concise, easy-to-read resumes that convey what the applicant can do for the company will be more closely reviewed. Using keywords is a good way to accomplish this.

Keywords That Apply to Accounting Positions
Including applicable accounting keywords can make a resume stand out from the rest:

Accounts Payable
Accounts Receivable
Balance Sheet
Billing
Cash Management
Contract Management
Financial Statements
Forecasting
Foreign Exchange
GAAP
General Accounting
General Ledger
Internal Controls
Inventory Management
Job Costing
Payroll Administration
Policies and Procedures
Quarterly Reports
Reconciliation
Risk Management

Of course, accuracy and integrity are vital. An applicant should not include areas of responsibility unless he or she has training or experience in them.

Develop a Strategy for Transitioning From the Military to a Civilian Accounting Career
Servicemembers such as Navy finance and accounting personnel, Army financial management technicians, Air Force financial management comptrollers and Marine Corps finance technicians possess valuable skills and knowledge that transition well into civilian accounting jobs. By developing a strategy, researching the company, writing an effective resume and using proper accounting keywords, it is possible to gain an edge in a crowded job market and land an interview that can lead to a new career.

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