Transition Guidance

Success during your transition is the result of an honest self-assessment, developing sound financial and career planning objectives, aggressively pursuing your job search strategies and a little hard work!

Title:New Career, New Resume

Author:Chris Lawson. Copyright, permission Army Times. All rights reserved.

On paper, retired Navy Master Chief Carlos DelCastillo looked like he walked on water. With 20 years in the Navy's nuclear energy field, DelCastillo considered himself a shoo-in for a comparable civilian position.

His resume reflected his extensive qualifications and experiences. That didn't help, however, when DelCastillo learned that the demand for civilian nuclear technicians was virtually nil.

"I did not know how to sell myself in any other light, except as a nuclear operator," the retired E-9 says.

But with a dedicated effort to revamp his resume so it would reflect his other professional qualifications — seasoned in 20 years of leadership, management and supervision — DelCastillo eventually landed a job as a supervisor at a steel plant.

He had to abandon the technical jargon of nuclear power in favor of generic terms describing his skills and experiences. "It was difficult work, revamping my resume, but it eventually paid off," he says.

Substance First:

While there are as many styles of resumes as people writing them, any successful job candidate must master some golden rules and objectives.

Layout, type fonts, margins and the other physical aspects of a good-looking resume are important. But to get that first job interview, your resume should show:

  • The kinds and degrees of responsibilities you have handled.
  • The results you have achieved.
  • The relevance of your past experience to the position you are applying for.

For the retiring or separating service member, an effective resume is as important as Form DD-214, the "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty".

But far too many military folks sell themselves short in the resume race, says Rodney A. Voelker, a retired Navy chief petty officer and owner of Nationwide Resumes of America, in Virginia Beach, Va.

"Military people have as much, or more, to offer employers than their civilian counterparts," Voelker says. "But in most cases — most cases — they don't realize their own strengths and experiences and therefore sell themselves short."

With only a lazy effort or a resume full of military acronyms no civilian employer can decipher, a retiring military person might just stay that way. Retired.

Think of the resume as "your sales brochure," says Voelker, a professional employment recruiter who works with service members through transition assistance programs in Virginia.

Form Meets Flair:

Whether you hire a professional resume-writing service or draft your own resume using the plethora of reference books and computer programs on the subject, the basics are the same.

Good resumes all have the following: a heading, giving your name, address and phone numbers; a professional objective; your education; and your work experience and qualifications.

Constructing a resume is an art, Voelker says. "There's no such thing as a standard resume. Let the writer rule."

Some people prefer what's known as a "functional" resume," he says. It groups a person's skills and responsibilities under headings describing job duties. But most military people use a "chronological" resume, showing career growth through a series of job titles. This type shows stability with one company or branch of military service.

There are many hybrids, combinations and variations of those two basic types.

Now for the content. Voelker offers the following tips to service members writing resumes for civilian consumption.

The three C's. Be clear, concise and consistent. While the military thrives on acronyms, civilian employers usually don't know what they mean. The end result, Voelker says, is that acronyms sell you short.

"Military people talk in the terminology of the language they are accustomed to and expect civilians to understand it," he says. "They don't. Get rid of it." He suggests finding out the civilian equivalent of your military job and using that title instead.

In his book, Voelker offers the following example:

"If you wanted to mention that you were responsible for the installation of JOTS [Joint Operational Tactical System] systems on board ships and in shore stations ... it would be better to state that you were responsible for the installation on board ships and in shore stations of highly specialized surface and air tracking operations within a computer and computer-assisted environment, including computer consoles, radars (air, surface search, in-close 3D) and real-time communications systems."

However, if you want to impress a defense contractor, you might want to preserve some acronyms. In that case, Voelker says, you should have two resumes: one for civilians and one for defense contractors.

Show, Don't Tell:

Military people need to list their achievements and how they solve problems, not simply their responsibilities, Voelker says.

"In other words, explain how you increased operational efficiency, the amount of money you saved or safeguarded, the number of people you supervised, how you were able to do more with less people, the action that came about as a result of your efforts, et cetera," Voelker writes. "Write these items in phrases that identify the problem, the action you took and the results."

Use the employer's language — words and phrases the company uses in its own ads and organizational literature.

Be specific about your jobs and accomplishments. Leave nothing to the employer's imagination.

Be selective in the information you include. Use only material related to the jobs you are seeking. Remember, your resume is not a biography.

Include volunteer experience relevant to the position you want. Don't forget to mention your proficiency in a foreign language, hobbies and certificates - if they are relevant to the job.

Emphasize the special advantages you bring by having a military background. Those advantages include the ability to conform to rules and hierarchies, to benefit from advanced training, to give and follow direction, to work as a team leader as well as a team member, and to work with all types of people and under deadline pressure.

Other selling points from your military experience include leadership training, security clearance, systematic planning and attention to safety.

In the end, Voelker says, military people should remember that their military experience offers a lot of variety and potential to a prospective employer.

An infantry platoon leader, for instance, is indeed a leader, someone who has management experience, not simply a rifle-toting grunt. And you don't have to be an expert in a particular skill to have substantial experience.

Voelker likes to remind military people that they are not retiring. They are completing their military obligation. The difference is significant in crafting an image that will appeal to prospective employers.

"If you are retiring, you don't need a resume," Voelker writes. "You need a fishing pole."

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