Fine tuning your military CV for transitioning
If you're leaving the military and getting ready to look for a job on civvy street, you may need some basic training on how to present your CV and military skills in a way that will connect with civilian employers.
The overwhelming majority of those transitioning out of the armed forces are highly skilled, highly motivated, highly trained and highly disciplined. The trick then is to demonstrate this to a recruiter, while overcoming a prevailing view that you’re stuck in your ways, and only able to operate effectively within a regimented military environment. So how can you structure your CV to show just how amazingly employable you are?
1. Firstly, it’s easy to overlook just how transferable a lot of the skills that you acquire are. Whilst some of the situations that you face may be very specific to life in HM Forces, the capabilities and competencies that you use will be very relevant to many different industries, in particular those roles where project management is a key skill. Notable transferable skills for this are:
- Strong managerial skills and ability
- Proven team leader
- Exceptional ability to delegate, motivate and communicate
- Problem solving
- Great organisational skills
- Attention to detail
- Work well under pressure
- Strong work ethic
- Ability to meet objectives set by a client
- Cross-functional skillsets
- Ability to work as a team
- Dedication to getting the job done
2. Once you’ve established your transferable skills it’s key that you detail them properly on your CV. While you may be used to using specific terms, acronyms and “jargon” in the military, this will seem almost unintelligible to civilian hiring managers. For most civilian employers, military language conveys little to no information. That is why you need to translate military terminology into civilian terms and equivalents. While translating "militarese" is not an exact science, it is important to become familiar with the terminology.
3. Unless you are targeting positions with the government, change military titles to civilian equivalents (i.e., functional titles). If you work in administration, administrative titles will be appropriate. If your position has a military focus (e.g. Logistics Specialist), you want to concentrate on the functional aspects of the title — specialist, manager, coordinator, etc. Consider the following:
- Field Artillery Battalion Operations Officer can be Operations Manager or Operations Supervisor
- Accounting Officer can be Financial Manager or Financial Supervisor
- Propulsion Officer can be Systems Manager (Propulsion)
- Intelligence Officer can be Research and Analysis Manager
- Air Traffic Controller can remain if the candidate is looking to move into civilian air-traffic control. If not, seek a functional title
- Sergeant can be Team Leader
4. As you develop your CV, highlight skills, experience, and accomplishments that match your goals. Avoid references to weapons, combat, and other military-related content that will distract from your job target. Consider the following strategies:
- Soldiers and sailors become "staff" or "employees"
- Weapons become "mechanical (or electronic) equipment"
- Tanks become "heavy equipment"
- Radar and sonar become "sophisticated electronic communications systems"
- Fighter-jet maintenance becomes "maintenance of cutting-edge engines / mechanics / electronics systems"
- Hangars, weapons dumps, etc. become "facilities"
- Uniforms, weapons, ammunition become "supplies"
5. Sometimes, doing all this will result in a CV that can feel soft, even though the document is strongly focused. Try to provide numbers (of people supervised or budget amounts, for instance), percentages and other quantitative information that help "firm" it up. Recruiters love hard numbers and achievements…..an “achiever” rather than a “do-er”, so don’t let your job descriptions become bogged down in detail. If you’ve done something you’re proud of, brag about it!
6. It’s always vital to play up your achievements. Typically, performance evaluations can be a great source because these are usually specific to you. Military evaluations usually provide concrete examples; however, these need to be translated, as well. If you have a medal or commendation, you need to communicate what that was for — exemplary performance, leadership, initiative, good judgment, for example — and focus on that rather than the medal or ribbon itself. Often, developing accomplishments that do not specifically name the ribbon or award can be a great strategy.
7. Of course, the training you’ve received is vital to job hunting in the civilian world. Military schools and training courses tend to have complicated names. Use functional equivalents for the courses and training. This will emphasise what you have learned rather than the school name or place.
While transitioning back to civilian life can be daunting in itself, transitioning back to the workforce need not be as long as you get your CVsquared away.