Complete Transition Guide from Military to Civilian Resume

You received your marching orders from your military superior. Unfortunately, instead of giving you a mission, it's telling you to leave the base and never return.

Now, you need to make the transition from the military to the civilian workforce-instantaneously. What do you do?

Transitioning from military to civilian life can be difficult, especially for veterans who have been in the military for most of their lives.

These are two entirely different worlds and experiencing the different cultural environments firsthand can be quite jarring. Some soldiers even end up believing that the skills they're good at do not apply to the civilian setting, leaving them feeling useless.

Nevertheless, the transition needs to happen, because personal income and financial well-being are at stake.

Applying Military Skills to Civilian Settings

The good news is that even if you've never worked in a modern workplace before, the values that you hold dear in the military-such as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage-are also held in high esteem in whatever setting.

So the problem isn't a lack of qualifications. You just need to learn how to re-interpret your military skills and expertise into something that recruiters and hiring managers recognize and value.

It's all just a matter of perspective, and you can make an employer see things from yours with a well-crafted military transition resume. With this in mind, below are some tips to help you get your military transition resume to fit a civilian career.

Gear up for Battle

It helps to prepare yourself for a civilian career long before being discharged, but if you already are, there are still plenty of immediate steps you can take to make yourself more marketable. Begin by organizing documents concerning your educational and training background.

Be sure to have copies of your Report of Separation (DD Form 214) and Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) to verify your military service, training, and experience.

Likewise, obtain transcripts of any completed military training or coursework that detail your accomplishments, such as a Sailor-Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript (SMART), award narratives, certificates, and evaluation reports.

Let Go of Your Military Self

Employers can't find value what they don't understand. If you are seriously entertaining the idea of using military terms in your military transition resume, drop it.

All it does is tell a recruiter or employer that you continue to cling to your military past and are not ready for the 'real world,' so to speak.

You need to prove to the recruiter-as well as yourself that you are prepared to adapt to the civilian workforce. Therefore, you must use the appropriate language for a resume.

You likely had a lot of opportunities for training, practical experience, and advancement during your military career.

What difference did you make and how can you describe those accomplishments in a way that a civilian can understand? This can be done in one of two ways, by 'demilitarizing' your accomplishment statement, or by describing a military award in a way that civilians can understand it.

Below are examples of each:

A 'demilitarized' accomplishment statement:

  • Averted risks by conducting an in-depth audit and focusing on team building as well as individual training. Set up programs that helped my team become one of the winningest in the Army's IT and communications population.

Military award with a description in layman's terms:

  • Received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for performing high quality technical and military instruction using a wide variety of tools and techniques including training exercises, PowerPoint presentations, seminars, and talks.

If you are having trouble putting military vocabulary into layman's terms, there are a few online resources that may help you, such as's Military Skills Translator or's version of the tool.

Flaunt Your Security Clearances

Letting go of your military self-doesn't mean you should downplay your military experience. Your time in the military is an asset, and it would be unwise not to exploit it.

For instance, do you have Top Security Clearance? Some employers pay millions of dollars to for that, as it can be invaluable in background checks of its workforce.

Any security clearance you may have can be useful to employers, as it helps save them time and money while demonstrating your accountability and responsibility.

Define Your Career Goal as a Civilian

You won't be able to market yourself effectively if your goal is not clearly defined. Fortunately, your military to civilian resume gives you a chance to do so in a prominent fashion.

Right after your personal information - which should be the top section of your resume-you must state your career goal. If you are having trouble identifying one, conduct a self-assessment and analysis until you determine a specific career path. You can approach a professional resume writer if you feel the need for it.

Leave Out Details of Actual Combat

Your defense of your country is something that you should be proud of, but any information on your resume that pertains to violence can make hiring managers feel more than a little uneasy. Limit any reference to the battlefield, if not eliminate them altogether.

Test Your Resume

Creating a resume doesn't necessarily have to be a one-off process. In fact, it would be a mistake. Create a rough draft, tweak it, and show it to employers that you may know.

Ask for feedback and listen to their advice on how you can improve your resume. It can also help reach out and show your resume to your fellow veterans who have made a successful transition. They may be willing to guide or coach you on what you can do to make your resume more effective.

Military to civilian resume is a process that requires you to invest a significant amount of your focus, time, and effort.

With perseverance and due diligence, you can make that transition go smoother and quicker. Don't forget to follow all of the best practices of resume writing, such as using keywords and focusing on what you can do for the company, instead of the other way around.

If you are looking for a Military Transition Resume, book our Professional Resume Writing Package and let one of our professional resume writers re-write and arrange your resume and tell your career story like never before.

Get a free resume review
  • 7 seconds: this is how long your resume has either to impress or be ignored by the recruiter
  • 300+: average number of applications one corporate job opening posted online receives
  • 3%: number of sent resumes that result in interviews

Transform your career
and beat the odds!