Should a Female Veteran Hide Her Military Service from a Civilian Employer?

Female veteran in front of an American flag.

Q: I am a female veteran retired from the Navy. I don't put "veteran" on my resume anymore -- too many questions and strange looks in interviews. Am I hurting my career by hiding my military service?

A: First off, thank you for your service. I hear more and more from women who served in the military that they are not promoting themselves as veterans and, like you, are removing their military career from their resume.

I understand many civilian hiring managers imagine the "veteran" to be a male, and the percentages of women serving in our armed forces is not as high as for men, but women are serving and they are leaving the military as veterans.

That said, in evaluating your options, consider:

  1. How you explain your military service is more important to the hiring manager than where and how you served. Did you hold a leadership position? Did you supervise others? Do you have experience managing budgets and projects?
  2. What did you learn in your military career that is relevant and valuable to the hiring manager? If you worked as a head cook in the Navy, for instance, you might have been responsible for budgeting costs, allocating resources and managing shifts of multiple employees. That would be interesting and important to someone hiring for a project management position where financial and employee costs had to be monitored and measured.
  3. What is it about you that made you successful in your military career? I often find that veterans are hesitant to talk about their specific accomplishments and successes. The hiring manager needs to hear what you did that stands out. Your civilian competitors do this. Instead of saying "we" for every success or achievement you attained, try inserting "I" to highlight your role and participation in the effort. Explain what made you successful and how that accomplishment is tied to your personal values and goals.

Your personal brand -- what makes you unique, compelling and relevant -- comes to life in your actions and behavior, tied closely to your values. As you promote and "market" yourself in a civilian career, you need to explain and prove that your actions were tied to your values in order to earn credibility.

Instead of hiding your military service, use that experience to make the case that you are the ideal candidate for the civilian opportunity. Your service to this country is something to be proud of, and hiring managers sometimes just need to understand the significance of your time in the military in order to relate your background to the needs of the job for which they are hiring.

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