Resume Writing Tips for Veterans Transitioning To The Private Sector

One of the biggest career changes that people make is moving from the armed forces to civilian life. Veterans spend a varying number of years in the military, but regardless of how much time they served, the transition to getting a job in corporate, government, non-profit, or other sectors can be challenging. Even for those who are already out of the military, it can still be difficult to write resumes if you spent time in the armed forces – what information is relevant, what isn’t, and so on. Here are some resume writing tips for veterans that can hopefully help make that process quite a bit simpler.

Include Relevant Military Experience

If this is your transition from the military and you’ve never held a real job or role outside of it, then of course the bulk of the resume will consist of experience from your time in the armed forces. However, not every single position or role needs to be included (unless you’re going for a job in the government and need a Federal resume, as described below). Let’s say you were in the army for 15 years and had a variety of different deployments that were all relatively similar. You don’t need to include every single one, as they will be repetitive and not make for unique or interesting content.

For those who were maybe in the military a long time ago and are unsure of how to include the older experience, a good rule of thumb is that experience before the year 2000 does not need to be expanded upon, as this can induce ageism. In such cases, if you have been in civilian work for a long time, feel free to focus most on the relevant experience. If you had a role in the military that applies to what you want to do going forward, be sure to include and expand upon that even if it was from 2005 and you’ve had roles outside the armed forces since then.

Focus on Transferable Skills/Achievements

Military and civilian positions are very different in many ways and don’t always possess overlapping skills or duties. However, one of the emphases in the armed forces is a focus on leadership, and leadership is a quality and element that is important in almost any industry or role. Therefore, a good resume writing tip for veterans is to hone in on leadership and other transferrable skills that can be drawn out of military stints as well. These might include process improvements, teamwork, report writing, and critical thinking in high-pressure situations to name a few. Focusing on these abilities and less on the minutiae of missions/responsibilities is important for most resumes, but even more critical for those with a long experience in the military where day-to-day duties might not be as important to next steps outside the military.

However, there are some notable exceptions. Something that comes up frequently when writing resumes for veterans is discussion of supply chain, logistics, and project management. Depending on what field you’re going into later, these could all be highly important and relevant. Again, if information is confidential or just the specifics regarding troop deployments aren’t as relevant, those details are fine to leave off, but including the number of people or dollar amount of equipment you worked with are good figures to mention. Essentially, take what’s relevant, and leave or minimize the rest.

Include Important Training & Continuous Education Courses

One important element to the military is the continuing education and training involved. Therefore, a great resume writing tip for veterans is to include as many (relevant) training and learning courses as possible that you undertook while in the armed forces. Some examples could be leadership courses, human resources training, or even something along the lines of interrogation tactics if you’re going into security or loss prevention. A key is to not add extra information that isn’t relevant, but all pertinent continuous education and training certifications should be included.

Use a Federal Resume Format if Pursuing a Government Position

Finally, many veterans choose to pursue roles in the government upon departure from the military. Usually, such applications require a special kind of resume, a Federal resume. This is largely similar to “regular” resumes, but contains information including pay (or for veterans, grade or rank), supervisor name/information, and hours worked that would not normally be placed on a resume. Federal resumes should not possess any color, graphics, or images, and be black and white documents that are straightforward and easily readable. If you don’t have all of the above specific information, that’s fine – just include as much as possible. These Federal resume documents will give you a leg up on competitors in applications for roles in the government. Resumes are challenging to write for anyone but can be even trickier for veterans. Hopefully, these resume writing tips were helpful, but if you are having trouble compiling your own resume, seeking professional assistance is always an excellent strategy as well!


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