retired from the military, looking to transition, military resume, military service, getting out, transition out

I remember several years ago, when I delivered workshops for transitioning military professionals, that they all had the same challenges with developing an effective resume. Consistently, I found that they were often overwhelmed at the concept of getting more than 20 years of experience and expertise into a concise, 2-page document.

So if you have recently retired from the military or looking to transition in the next few months, here are five tried-and-true strategies that can transform your daunting piles of paper into an achievement-driven resume.

1) Be clear on your ultimate job target or profession

It’s easy to get fooled by the idea that having wide or flexible options lead to more job opportunities. While your military experience will effectively position you for a variety of careers, conduct research, talk to former military professionals and attending networking events to help you decide on a primary job target.

This step is an essential first step in developing your resume; furthermore, avoid using generic career objectives like these: “Seeking a challenging position with a large company that will provide an opportunity for growth and advancement”

2) Develop a strong, keyword-driven section for your qualifications and areas of expertise

I usually recommend using either a paragraph (my preferred format) or a bulleted list to highlight key skills and qualifications that make you valuable to employers. Remember to include distinctive qualifications and certifications like Secret Clearance.

In addition, consider using online tools like the skills translator and military skills translator to help you identify your transferable skills and determine the correct civilian and non-military terminology for your skills and qualifications.

3) Include relevant keywords and related career language

It is critical that you convert military “speak” to recognizable, relevant keywords, acronyms and jargon that are specific to your target field or profession. To get a better handle on some translation of military job descriptions, check out, and

Also spend at least an hour or so scouring job advertisements, online listings and company websites to identify keywords for your resume.

4) Never underestimate your career accomplishments

Don’t be discouraged into thinking that your military accomplishments do not fit in or are not related to your career transition. Instead of listing every medal and merit award that you received, focus on key areas where you delivered significant impact in military operations.

Review your annual performance reviews and evaluation reports to help jog your memory; use numbers, percentages, statistics, and examples to support and illustrate your career accomplishments. For example, consider your contributions in terms of

  • improving safety
  • increasing performance
  • accelerating processing time
  • enhancing service delivery
  • streamlining administration
  • developing new programs/services
  • re-engineering equipment or machinery

5) Streamline your education, training and certification elements

As a military professional, you have no doubt completed hundreds of courses, training assignments, certifications and some of you may even have more than one degree. To make an immediate connection with employers and recruiters, include the following in your resume.

  • include certifications, degrees and training coursework that are relevant to your job target.
  • highlight any special honors or recognitions you earned, add your GPA if it is 3.7 or higher, and indicate if you graduated with high distinctions.

Thanks Maryland National Guard for the photo via Flickr