Translating Military Experience into Civilian Language: Part 1 – Research Civilian Occupations

A difficult hurdle for military job seekers to overcome in their civilian job search is translating their military experience into civilian language. It is the job seeker’s responsibility to convey their qualifications in terms that prospective employers will understand. It starts with researching civilian occupations to understand the language and skills relevant to your chosen career field.

The military skills translator  will help you identify civilian jobs that are similar to your military occupation. Note the civilian training required to perform them.  also helps you identify civilian occupations requiring the same or similar skills as your previous job in the military.

Once you have identified the civilian jobs you are targeting, start researching the skills, training, and experience requirements for these jobs. There are numerous sources of job information:

– Job listings (newspaper, job websites, Linkedin) – Use job listing websites to research what hiring managers are looking for in the job descriptions. Note specifically the skills and experience required.
– Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook  – Use this handbook to gain insight into the educational, training, or work experience required for thousands of civilian jobs.
– O*NET Online – Use the O*NET Online Crosswalks site  to see the job titles, tasks, skills, and more, that match your military job.
– Informational interviews – call or write those friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc., who are currently employed in a civilian occupation in which you are interested. See if they will spend some time talking with you about the nature of their responsibilities. Your focus for these interviews should be on learning what it takes to be successful at the type of job they hold. Most people, especially those with former military experience, will be helpful and offer you a wealth of information.
– Professional Associations – Visit and/or join an association in your desired field of employment. There are thousands of civilian associations, as well as many that bridge the gap between the military and civilian worlds. For example, the International Society of Logistics, or SOLE, is a network of logistics professionals in the public and private sector. By participating in selected association events, you will make new acquaintances who will likely be willing to spend time talking with you about their job or industry.
Linkedin – Use Linkedin to research your career field and its skill requirements. With Linkedin’s skills section (under the ‘More’ menu tab) you can search for skills and expertise. It gives you related terms, people and groups who best match the skill, and related companies and jobs. Also search for people on Linkedin who have the same type of job you’re hoping to land. Study their profiles to see what education, certification, training, and skills they possess. This will give you a good indication of what is required for that position. Also, when studying these profiles, take note of what keywords they use to describe their skills and accomplishments.

After you’ve researched your targeted civilian occupations and skills, you can begin the process of matching your military skills and experience with the equivalent or similar civilian skills. In Part 2: The 6-Step Translation Process, it walks you through the progression of taking your military experience and putting it into civilian terms appropriate to your chosen occupation.

This article was written in part by information found in the handbook “Military Resumes and Cover Letters.”


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