Writing Military-to-Civilian Resumes: Write To The Future

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Consider the fact that resume writing is all about the future and not the past. Your challenge is to create a powerful document that clearly and concisely communicates, "This is who I am," based on your current career goals and objectives.

Here's an example:

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

If you've been a foreign language linguist in the U.S. Army and now want to establish a career in marketing communications with a global corporation, write a resume that communicates the message, "I am a well-qualified Marketing Communications Professional" and not a resume that says "I am a well-qualified Foreign Language Linguist who wants to be a Marketing Communications Professional." Many of the skills required for foreign language translation are the same skills required for a marketing communications position (e.g., writing, editing, data interpretation, analysis) and those are the skills this candidate should highlight on his resume in order to "write to the future" and not about the past.

Here's another example:

If you've been a tank mechanic with the U.S. Marine Corps and now want to work as an automotive mechanic, painting the right picture of who you are is even easier. Instead of boasting on your resume that you're a talented tank mechanic, you simply want to "strip away" the vehicle and talk in more general terms about your experience in vehicle maintenance and repair, preventive maintenance, parts inventory and the like.

Companies hire the talent that they need today and often have little time to devote to your personal learning curve. Therefore, you must communicate -- in the right words and language -- the fact that you already have the skills, talents and competencies that they require. Consider the following Career Summary written for a commander in the U.S. Air Force who now wants to transition into a general management position with a well-established corporation.


Distinguished leadership career managing large-dollar operations worldwide. Consistent record of success in increasing productivity, improving performance and reducing annual operating costs. Leadership talents include:

* Strategic Planning * Budgeting & Cost Control * Multi-Site Operations
* Cross-Cultural Relations * Financial Forecasting & Analysis * Training & Development
* Supply Chain Management * Human Capital Management * Technology Leadership

In this example, the candidate understood the concept of "writing to the future." He clearly communicated the future value that he brings to an organization and positioned himself to effectively compete against other candidates with substantial corporate experience. Although the skills listed above may have been referred to by other language in the Air Force, the fact of the matter is that this candidate did all of these functions during his 10-year military career and has simply "civilianized" the language to make it understandable to corporate America and position himself for future opportunities.

Related: To apply for jobs that match your skills, visit the Military Skills Translator.

The resume for (the fictional) Lewis R. Grayson is an excellent example of "writing to the future." Lewis had a number of different technology, administrative support and training positions while in the Army. Now, his future goal is a position as either a Web Developer or a Systems Administrator. When you review his resume, you quickly see a snapshot of an extremely well qualified technology professional. In fact, virtually all of his background in administrative services and training has been eliminated from his resume since those functions are not relevant to his current career objectives. He wants a position where it's just him and his PC. (View sample resume in Microsoft Word format)

Looking closing at this "future" resume, you'll note the following:

1. By using the computer graphic at the top of the page, you immediately know that Lewis is a "technologist," before you ever read a word of this resume.

2. He includes an objective -- Web Developer / Systems Administrator" -- clearly stating his future goals.

3. A short and concise listing of his technical skills immediately communicates that he is already an experienced Web Developer and Systems Administrator.

4. The functional format (versus a chronological listing of his job titles) used to highlight his 10-year military career is excellent; one barely even notices that he was in the Army. What you notice is the wealth of his experience in Web Development and Systems Administration.

5. His achievements in Web Development and Systems Administration are prominently displayed using bold and italics type and then offset with lines.

6. His college degrees are in bold print to draw attention to them and his continuing education -- in both technology and general business -- are included to demonstrate his ongoing commitment to his own professional development.

When a prospective employer finishes reading Lewis' resume, they know that they have found a talented Web Developer and Systems Administrator who can -- today -- make a positive impact on their operations. His future goals are clear, his resume is "written to the future" and he has positioned himself to take advantage of the vast number of technology opportunities today in the civilian workforce.

Related: For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Military.com Job Search section.

The Next Step: Get Your Resume Out There

Get your resume seen by companies that are seeking veterans like you. Post your resume with Monster.com.

Wendy S. Enelow, CCM, MRW, JCTC, CPRW -- Author, "Expert Resumes for Military-to-Civilian Transitions" available at www.wendyenelow.com (Bookstore)

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