Your objective in translating your military experience to civilian language is to accurately and honestly portray your military experience using expressions that civilian hiring managers will understand. You need to restate military-unique terminology and acronyms in a more industry-relevant way without losing the meaning or impact of your experience. By using the research you did in Part 1 – Research Civilian Occupations, you can now follow this 6-Step Translation Process to make your military work history clear and appealing to civilian employers.
Step 1: Write down your military assignments in reverse chronological order. Use this Work-Content Skills List worksheet from the Corporate Gray Online Transition Guide to describe each assignment in detail. For each skill, describe how you applied the skill (Activities Performed) to accomplish a given task or project (Accomplishments). Where possible, accentuate the content-specific (as opposed to transferrable) skills or knowledge you applied in the performance of your military duties. Don’t worry about using military terms or acronyms at this point. Use your Verification of Military Experience and Training form (VMET, DD Form 2586) to help list your military experience and training, as well as your evaluation reports, training certificates, awards, transcripts, etc.
Step 2: Based on your research of the civilian occupations you are targeting (Part 1 – Research Civilian Occupations), make a list of the required skills, knowledge, and experience that hiring managers seek.
Step 3: On a new page, list your military skills in the left column and the needed civilian skills in the right. Now compare the items on these two lists. Can you connect any of the items on the left to those on the right? If not, is it a problem of semantics (different words but similar meanings) or is it the case that you simply do not currently have the skills required? If the latter, you might consider obtaining additional training or schooling either on a part or full time basis (be sure to use the education benefits you may have earned from your military service).
Step 4: Once you’ve matched the skills in each column, return to the list of detailed military experience you created in Step 1. For those military skills that relate to your targeted civilian occupations, carefully revise your documented skills and experience by incorporating the appropriate civilian language that relates to what you did in the military. Remember, your objective is to accurately and honestly restate your military experience using language that civilian hiring managers will understand. Replace the military-unique expressions and acronyms with more industry-relevant terms without losing the meaning or impact of your experience.
Step 5: Show this revised write-up to civilian friends and colleagues who are currently working in your employment field(s) of interest. Ask them to objectively critique and evaluate whether it conveys your qualifications in terms relevant to their industry. When they are done, remember to send them a thank you note expressing your appreciation for the time and effort they’ve expended on your behalf.
Step 6: Refine this document by incorporating the comments received in the previous step. The finished document should clearly and accurately portray your qualifications in terms appropriate to the industry in which you desire employment. This document is the Work History of your resume.
If you follow these six steps, you will have succeeded in translating your military experience into civilian terms. It is important to express your qualifications in words that match the needs of civilian employers and in terms that they can easily understand.
The 6-Step Translation Process is detailed in the handbook “Military Resumes and Cover Letters.”