Never Wrote a Resume in Your Life?

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Maybe you joined the military straight out of high school or college. And  now it's suddenly 10, 20 or 30 years later, you need a résumé to find a new job, start a new career, and start over in a new world.

The civilian world is incredibly different. In the civilian world you have to figure it all out for yourself. No one is there to tell you when to take training classes, where to move to, and what job you will be performing and who you will be supporting.

For federal and civilian jobs, the résumé is a critical document that can make a difference in terms of your earnings, confidence and future for you and your family. The résumé is the most important document you will write after the military service.

Now it’s all up to you. In fact, you have to:

  • Figure out what kind of job is right for you after the military
  • Write down your career history, including dates, locations, bases, missions, duties and even accomplishments
  • Figure out what skills are the best you have developed in your military career
  • Figure out what skills are transferrable or useful in your next career in the civilian life
  • Present your accomplishments so that you can stand out on your resume
  • Package all of this so that it makes sense in your next career, not just a historical document about what you did in the military.

That’s why writing a résumé is challenging. It's more than a  writing project. It’s about documenting your military history, finding the information, and then presenting this information so that it is understandable to someone who has probably not been in the military.

The résumé is CRITICAL to your next career. Here's a few recommendations to get you started:

  • Use sample résumés as you draft your first résumé. Find books and resources that can help you see the latest formats for résumés for the private sector and federal job search.
  • Look for target positions that could be of interest to you and study the duties and qualifications for the next position. Look at the language they are using in their description
  • Make a list of the keywords that you think are important for the next field of work.
  • Add those keywords into your current résumé if possible, so that it is targeted toward the particular position you're interested in.
  • Add an accomplishment from your evaluations. Think about what you did in your military service that was above and beyond, and add this to the résumé so that you are interesting and compelling. You want to stand out for future supervisors.
  • Get an editor or proofreader to review your resume, so that you don’t have errors in the content, or find a resume writer who can help you explain your past military career in terms of your future civilian career. Your first résumé is important -- don’t skimp on time or investment.

Get professional help if you are struggling to write a good resume that spells out your past experience in a way human resources personnel can review.


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Kathryn Troutman is dedicated to helping veterans write great resumes. Kathryn is the President of The Resume Place, Inc. Write your federal resume with Kathryn's 5 steps with the free template sample at Kathryn is also the author of the Military to Federal Career Guide and CD-ROM, filled with successful samples of federal and private industry resumes. The guide is available as a print book and eBook. You can view a federal resume and a private industry resume for six case studies on the eCD-ROM, which costs only $9.95. The samples also include a cover letter for each case, which can help you feature your most marketable skills for the hiring specialist.

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