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Resume Tips for Returning Military Members

There are many resume tips and strategies available for returning military members seeking civilian jobs. Many employers do appreciate military veterans as employees and will give you preference above a comparable non-vet competitor. The federal government awards five to ten extra points beyond a passing score to veterans — good news if you’re applying for a government position.

If you’re trading in military life for your first civilian gig, be sure to sign up for the invaluable Transition Assistance Program (TAP), the three-day class that helps active-duty personnel write resumes and prepare for interviews.

Here are some resume pointers for returning military members:

  • Advertise what you’re selling: Avoid building your resume around your military rank or title. Instead, emphasize the qualifications you bring to the employer.

  • Consider your best format: A hybrid resume is a good choice, say many career coaches who work with transitioning military, because it features competencies and skills in professional categories, rather than chronological history by rank or job title. But this doesn’t mean a reverse chronological resume format can’t be used to your advantage.

    If you’re working with a third-party recruiter, do as the recruiter — who is carrying your immediate future in his or her hands — advises.

  • Zero in on job fairs: Job fairs are one of the most potent employment avenues for service members and veterans to distribute resumes, meet potential employers, network and even be interviewed on the spot. The classified pages of your Sunday newspaper may carry big ads announcing fairs; some are aimed at attracting transitioning military, especially individuals who have current top-secret clearances.

  • Protect your identity from theft: Your Social Security number is the key to the vault for identity thieves. Unless you’re applying for a federal job, which does require your Social Security number, keep it off your resume, cover letter, or application form. If you suspect your data has been compromised, ward off identity theft by monitoring your credit reports and putting a fraud alert or a freeze on your credit accounts.

  • Be a resource collector: One great resource for job leads is your own personal network. Put out the word that you're looking. You can also turn to books and the Internet.

    Several books are dedicated to your special needs when transitioning from military to civilian life. Here are five of them:

    • Military Resumes and Cover Letters, by Carl S. Savino and Ronald L. Krannich, Ph.D. (Impact Publications, 2004)

    • Expert Resumes for Military–to-Civilian Transitions, by Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursmark (JIST Publishing, 2006)

    • Military to Federal Career Guide, by Kathryn Kraemer Troutman (The Resume-Place, 2006)

    • Job Search: Marketing Your Military Experience, by David G. Henderson (Stackpole Books, 2004)

    • Military Transition to Civilian Success, by Mary T. Hay, et al. (Impact Publications, 2006)

    Visit key Web sites: Dozens of Web sites offer help for transitioning military personnel. Start with the following resources, which may link to other Web sites you’ll want to know about:

When finished writing your resume, put it through the civilian translation wringer by asking friends and neighbors who know not a whit about things military to read it and see whether they understand what you’re talking about.

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