Need a Civilian Resume? Follow These 7 Easy Steps (Examples Included)

Creating a civilian resume can be a difficult challenge but here are some tools you can use to make the experience as easy as possible.

Introduction

When it’s time to transition out of the service, a key issue is converting everything you’ve learned and done into some kind of package a civilian employer finds attractive.  Even federal government jobs, if they’re outside the military, will require civilian wording on the resume and application.  This has historically been a difficult challenge.  

First, the titles of military jobs don’t translate well to the civilian sector.  Saying you’re a “fire detection specialist” will have a recruiter thinking you know how to monitor wildfires and belong in the Forest Service, or that you know how to detect arson, and maybe should become an arson investigator.  

Almost no civilian recruiters will understand what you do, from a military job title alone, so you have to dig deeper to explain yourself.

Fortunately, at the level of individual skills, you can explain yourself to civilian employers and position yourself for a job.  So, make your resume focus on your skills.  Here is how to build a skill-focused resume:

  1. Put your MOS into an automated skills translator
  2. Paste the resulting skill words into the Unmudl.com search bar
  3. Select “experience” sentences from one of the suggested courses
  4. Paste these sentences into your resume
  5. Rinse and repeat for each military job
  6. Finish off the resume by adding a few boilerplate sections
  7. Market and connect via veteran-friendly sites.

I'll go into detail for each of these below.

1) Put your MOS into an automated skills translator

Translate your military MOS/AFSC/Rating into civilian skills, using an automated skills translator like those at military.com or the veterans job matcher at careeronestop.org.  

Example: for MOS Code 13P, Multiple Launch Rocket System Operations/Fire Direction Specialist (MLRS Op/FD Sp) (Army - Enlisted), you’ll get the following skills from military.com:

  • Automotive/Mobile Equipment Preventative Maintenance
  • Blueprints/Technical Diagrams
  • Driving/Maneuvering Skills
  • Electronic Device/System Installation/Repair
  • Message Processing Procedures
  • Process Analysis and Improvement

2) Paste the resulting skill words into the Unmudl.com search bar

Copy and paste each individual skill word/phrase into  Unmudl.com’s search bar, one by one.  In each set of search results, you’ll find courses that are at least somewhat related to the skills you just entered. 

For example:

military skills resume translation


You’ll notice the top search result for “Driving/Maneuvering Skills” is a bit odd. It’s a course that teaches collaboration to professionals and doesn’t have a lot to do with driving vehicles.  

So, hmm...,  Driving/Maneuvering Skills got translated as social maneuvering in the case of one course match.  In this case, it’s useful to pick another course on the list that’s more about driving heavy equipment, the Class A Commercial Driver’s License Course.  

3)  Select “experience” sentences from one of the suggested courses

If you click on a course that’s connected to the skill and get to its detail page, there will be a section entitled, “Experience: Work Activities You Can Put On Your Resume.”  Click on the little plus sign on the left.  When the section expands, it will reveal sentences that are pure gold.  

Not all of them will apply to the military occupation at hand, but enough of them will work that you can assemble a bullet list of things you’ve done, in perfectly correct civilian English. Just lift them out of the course description.  

For example, from the table above, clicking on the course Part 65 Airframe and Powerplant Certification Prep, yields the following sentences:

  • Read technical information needed to perform maintenance or repairs.
  • Read work orders or descriptions of problems to determine repairs or modifications needed.
  • Interpret blueprints, specifications, or diagrams to inform installation, development or operation activities.
  • Test fluids to identify contamination or other problems.
  • Inspect mechanical components of vehicles to identify problems.
  • Inspect structural components of vehicles to identify problems.
  • Inspect completed work to ensure proper functioning.

Of these sentences, only the ones underlined are suitable to a 13P and will go into the resume.  This step needs to be repeated for each course in the list from Step 2.  it’s useful to keep track of steps 1-3 on a spreadsheet, as shown below.  Column 1 is the skill, Column 2 is the corresponding Unmudl course, and Column 3 are the sentences lifted from that course.


4) Paste these sentences into your resume

Taking all the sentences found from all the courses will result in a really long list of bullet points, as shown below. From there, just eliminate the sentences that describe tasks you never want to do again in your new civilian life or that are far away from the job you want.  Seriously,  if you don’t want to do something ever again, don’t advertise that you already know how to do it.  You’ll start with a long list like this:

Fire Direction Specialist, US Army (showing all possible resume bullet points)

  • Read technical information needed to perform maintenance or repairs.
  • Test fluids to identify contamination or other problems.
  • Inspect mechanical components of vehicles to identify problems.
  • Inspect structural components of vehicles to identify problems.
  • Inspect completed work to ensure proper functioning.
  • Review details of technical drawings or specifications.
  • Compile technical information or documentation.
  • Monitor performance of organizational members or partners.
  • Analyze data to inform operational decisions or activities.
  • Provide basic information to guests, visitors, or clients.
  • Inspect cargo to ensure it is properly loaded or secured.
  • Inspect motor vehicles.
  • Monitor cargo area conditions.
  • Secure cargo.
  • Follow safety procedures for vehicle operation.
  • Operate vehicles or material-moving equipment.
  • Record operational or production data.
  • Monitor work areas or procedures to ensure compliance with safety procedures.
  • Dig holes or trenches.
  • Climb equipment or structures to access work areas.
  • Control power supply connections.
  • Monitor organizational procedures to ensure proper functioning.
  • Monitor performance of organizational members or partners.
  • Develop operating strategies, plans, or procedures.
  • Develop detailed project plans.

But you’ll end up with a much shorter list of bullet points that make sense for the kind of job you actually want.  For a Fire Detection Specialist, the full list of sentences could land you in a warehouse job, a truck driving job, or an office job.  Let’s say you want the office job, because you never want to drive a heavy vehicle again.  Then the list shortens down to:

Fire Direction Specialist, US Army (showing only bullet points related to office work)

  • Read technical information needed to perform maintenance or repairs.
  • Review details of technical drawings or specifications.
  • Compile technical information or documentation.
  • Monitor performance of organizational members or partners.
  • Analyze data to inform operational decisions or activities.
  • Provide basic information to guests, visitors, or clients.
  • Record operational or production data.
  • Monitor work areas or procedures to ensure compliance with safety procedures.
  • Monitor organizational procedures to ensure proper functioning.
  • Monitor performance of organizational members or partners.
  • Develop operating strategies, plans, or procedures.
  • Develop detailed project plans.

Cutting this list down further to 5 or 6 bullet points will make sense if you have other military jobs to add to your resume.  Overall, you are shooting for a maximum of two pages.

5) Rinse and repeat for each military job

Repeat steps 1-4 for each military job you’ve had.  This will quickly fill up most of the resume with solid, meaty phrases.  Then it’s on to adding the mandatory sections at the top and bottom.

A word on federal resumes. Typically, you will apply to a federal job via usajobs.gov.  This site is the online clearinghouse for federal civilian jobs.  It does have a resume builder, where you can just enter the information that is required, but be aware that a resume for a federal position is much longer than a civilian resume .

6) Finish off the resume by adding a few boilerplate sections

To finish the resume, you’ll need to 

  • Add your name and contact information at the top
  • Right underneath, add a section, “Education,” that lists your educational achievements with  date, school, and degree title(s).
  • Put all the military job titles and their corresponding civilian skills descriptions - the stuff from steps 1-5 -  in the next section.  List the jobs in reverse chronological order - newest to oldest.
  • At the very bottom, list any special Awards, Certificates, or Clearances.  

Google “Civilian Resume Template” to get ideas on how to format all this.

7) Market and connect via veteran-friendly sites.

Now that you have a strong summary of civilian skills, you have the starting ingredient for a job search.  Use these organizations’ help in getting the word out.

Polish your resume with help from Hire Heroes USA

Take your draft civilian resume to Hire Heroes USA.  They will review your resume and also give you practice in interviewing techniques for civilian jobs. 

Also, use Veterans Ascend to apply using skills

Veterans Ascend will automatically dice your resume into skills and feed it to employers who are predisposed to hire vets off their site.  A key benefit of Veterans Ascend is that if you apply for a job and don’t get it, it will tell you exactly which skill you are missing that prevented you from getting the job.

Supplement missing skills

If you’re told you need to fill in missing skills, take advantage of military education benefits and grab a relevant course from a community college.  Sites like Unmudl.com will allow you to filter courses by whether they offer GI bill benefits, for example.

Get Connected on LinkedIn

Once you are happy with your resume – or, really, before – sign up for a LinkedIn.com account, ask every civilian professional acquaintance you have to “friend” you on that account, post your resume, set your profile to “open to finding a new job” and keep putting out daily posts talking about projects and activities related to your skills and job search.  You have skills.  Now that you can describe them, employers will find you.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do you add military experience into a civilian resume?

It's a good idea to include it in your resume's summary statement. It should be included in your job experience section. Include it in your list of accomplishments or honors. Include it in your section on talents and certifications. Get a second opinion on your decision.

What do we mean by a civilian resume?

A civilian resume is a summary of qualifications and experience, and it's likely to be the first piece of information an employer sees about you. If you already have remarkable abilities and expertise as a result of your military experience. These tips can assist you in creating a CV that will stand out.

What MOS can transfer to civilian jobs?

Some of the most rewarding military careers that can transfer to civilian life are: Specialist in operating rooms,specialist in dentistry,technical engineer in the Army, operator of a motor vehicle etc

More Articles