No Habla Civilian-ese


I understand completely.  You’re highly educated and quite talented. You’ve been places and done things. You’ve got enviable skills.

Any employer in his or her right mind would love to hire you but there’s an extremely good chance they won’t and frankly, it’s your fault.

Why you ask, with a certain amount of warranted indignation?

I’ll tell you why but don’t take this the wrong way. I’m only telling you because I care.

It’s because of your resume.

Many civilian employers don’t understand what you did because you haven’t adequately translated your military skill set for them. Maybe you even use words and job titles in your resume that intimidate or terrify them.

You’re a member of the less than 1% who have served in the military.  It’s unfair to assume that the 99%+ rest of the population will understand what the heck you are trying to say, even if they have a relative who has also served in uniform.

Truly civilian life oriented employers don’t comprehend what you mean when you say that you:

  • were responsible for the morale, welfare and support of 25 soldiers and 14 civilians
  • ensured the smooth operational planning and execution of GWOT missions
  • provided essential training and knowledge to others during OEF
  • led the COMSEC ADVON team for Task Force ODIN
  • screened over 2500 third country nationals and over 1500 vehicles for IEDs

You might as well be speaking ancient Greek. They don’t get it and they won’t take the time to figure it out. Even more tragically, they will make unfair assumptions about you because of this disconnect.

Reality check time, gentle warrior.

It’s your job to explain what you did in the military  on your resume in terms that anyone could understand.

If you don’t know how to do effectively do this, then:

– Get help from someone who knows how to bridge the language barrier. This person could be your Transition Assistance Program (TAP) counselor or your Employment Readiness Program Manager at the military family center. It could be a trusted other who has successfully made the transition before you.

-Use your own impressive superpowers to figure it out. Study job advertisements and become intimately familiar with the language contained in them. Connect the dots from the desired skills to your experience as best you can.

-Begin a self-imposed civilian career immersion program. Sign up for LinkedIn and join groups that focus on your chosen career field. Don’t wuss out and only join the veteran related groups. Live on the edge. Join groups where you don’t know anyone and you can potentially learn some new things.

-Don’t worry about making the perfect military-to-civilian translation. Just do your best to make a genuine effort in the first place. Couple that with an effective networking campaign and the right employer will meet you halfway.

When that happens, everyone wins.


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