Skills Lost in Translation: From Military to Civilian


Being a part of the military is not just a career, it is a lifestyle. The culture, duties, skills, and language are all very different from those of a civilian lifestyle. This is why it can seem daunting to a veteran re-entering civilian life, seeking work. As of 2014, there are 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces, according to the Census Bureau. How does these veterans translate their military skills to civilian skills on a resume? There are many resources and tools to help a new military vet obtain a civilian job. The invaluable experience and skills military veterans develop during their time serving the country can be easily translated into a resume by following the tips below. 


Translate Military Jargon


In can be easy to forget that you are using military jargon and language that a civilian employer might not understand. After spending time in the military, certain terms and jargon become second nature. Now that you are rejoining civilian life, it is time to modify your language to fit your new lifestyle. In your resume, avoid using technical terms or acronyms that might confuse a potential employer. Some common examples include translating “1A2X1” to “Cargo Manager” or “NCO” to “Non-Commissioned Officer”. Simple adjustments such as these will greatly booster your resume. Have a non-military friend or family member read your resume over to insure that you have successfully translated military language in to civilian terms.


Showcase Accomplishments


Chances are you have some great achievements under your belt as a military vet, so showcase them. Be sure to quantify your accomplishments. For example, if you were a supervisor, include the amount of people you supervised along with the accomplishments achieved as a team during this supervision. Give employers and recruiters’ solid numbers and facts to grasp on to when reading your resume.


Technical and Intangible Skills


Intangible skills are shown through accomplishments due to the fact that they are typically skills such as leadership, discipline, work ethic, and teamwork. Due to the fact that they are intangible, they are best proved through describing accomplishments and how you displayed the skills. Technical skills translate most easily and are tangible. Some examples include experience in computer tech, mechanics, engineering, and other hard skills.


Utilize Resources


There are many resources provided to veterans in transition to help throughout the process. It is recommended that veterans obtain their Verification of Military Experience and Training Document. This legal document provides your military job experience and training history. Along with this document, there are military to civilian occupation translator sites that allow veterans to get a better sense of what civilian jobs match their military experience and skillset.


            Overall, transitioning from a military lifestyle to a civilian lifestyle can be exciting, relieving, daunting, saddening, or a combination of all. It is a big step in one’s life, but with the resources and tools provided by the military, support from family and friends, and advice from other military vets, the transition can be a whole lot smoother.


Written By: O. Greendyk