Writing a private sector or federal style resume using civilian terminology is an important strategy in the job hunting process, especially for veterans. However, it has received too much emphasis from resume writing gurus who are all over the internet. Job-hunting is not a one-step deal, like writing a resume. It is a process in which you define the objective and then devise strategies to accomplish the mission. It is similar to a military operation that all veterans experienced. Objective + Strategies = Operation.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of resume writing, here are some general rubrics to guide you through the process.
- There is nothing sacred about traditional wisdom, which says limit your private sector resume to two pages. Length depends on the depth and breadth of your experience in the military and civilian life beforehand. If you joined the military after college or after working for a few years, and then spent six years in the Marines with multiple deployments, then your story will probably take more than two pages to tell. It’s important to note that a federal style resume can be from 3 to 10 pages or more in length depending on the extent of your background. You must tailor your federal resume to the Job Announcement describing how you achieved the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the position. If you are applying for a federal job review the sample federal style resume that is posted online.
- Never use military acronyms. Resumes must be written using civilian terminology. No exceptions. Remember that most hiring managers and human resources directors reading your resume have had no military experience. If they see something on your resume like NAVSPECWORCOM (United States Naval Special Warfare Command), they will shake their heads and possibly trash your resume.
- Translate your military jobs into civilian terminology. Veterans may have covered this in their Transition Assistance Program (TAP), but to refresh your memory go to www.military.com and www.va.gov and review the job translator pages.
- Format your resume clearly and precisely. Resist the temptation to get cute and use multiple colors, boxes, charts, etc. Use 12 pt. Times New Roman typeface, the usual format for resumes and other business documents. Place major headings in upper case bold; text in lower case regular type. Under all major headings, list the main points in bullet point format instead of paragraph format. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. For federal job applicants the majority apply online using a resume builder program. It is best to draft your federal resume on your desktop just like you would for a private sector job. This will give you time to thoroughly complete the resume and federal application and cover all of the requirements listed in the job announcement.
- Your resume must be free from spelling and grammatical errors. No exceptions. If you submit a resume with spelling and grammar errors, it will be trashed even if the company is military friendly. To avoid mistakes, always proofread your resume ALOUD, and then have another person do the same. Always run your document through the spell checker, but remember that it is not infallible. Spell checkers make mistakes and usually they do not read words in context. For example, most spell checkers will not distinguish the difference among two, to, and too.
- Avoid using broad generalizations. Quantify your experiences. For example, stating a military work experience in general terms like this conveys little to the reader: “Treated a large number of patients at the emergency facility at McGuire Air Force Base.” Quantifying your experience like this will mean much more to the reader: “Treated an average of thirty patients per day over a twelve month period at McGuire Air Force Base.” This is very important for federal resumes as well as you must describe in detail how you achieved required knowledge, skills, and abilities.
- The resume alone will not get you a job. A common misbelief is that sending a “dynamite” resume to multiple job boards and career pages, will result in job offers floating down to your desk like manna from heaven. The purpose of the resume is to take you to the next step in the job hunting process; a personal interview with the hiring manager or human resources director.
- Submit your resume only to a named person with a job title at a named company. For example, address it to “Mr. James Smith. Sales Manager. Boeing Co.” Send your resume to “Job #23” or “Position 46” or “Employment Manager” and you will get a startling result. Nothing. You might as well send it to the third ring of the planet Saturn. How do you learn the name of the person you want to reach? Call the company customer service representative and ask. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you will get the information you need. Alternatively, go to LinkedIn and enter the position title and company name: Sales Manager, Home Depot. Federal resumes and application are typically submitted online through USAJOBS.gov. Keep a copy of the federal job announcement. If you have any questions about the application process or job requirements contact information is provided.
- Resume format and style change with the times. Here are the major components of today’s resume. Include all of the following components, in the order listed, because Human Resources Directors and Hiring Managers will be looking for them.
- PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION. Begin the resume with your personal identification; name, address, phone number and email address. This goes at the top of the first page with your name in upper case bold. The rest can go in lower case regular type.
- SUMMARY OR OBJECTIVE. This is a brief statement of your skills and how they can help the company going forward. It should run no more than ten lines and be written in paragraph format. Think of it as an advertisement for you. When submitting your resume for a specific job use OBJECTIVE. State that you are seeking the job referenced for a specific company as stated on a job description, an internet job board or on a career page. Couch your language in terms that relate to the job requirements. Use SUMMARY if you are submitting your resume to a human resources director for a non-specific job.
- MILITARY WORK EXPERIENCE. State your military jobs in civilian terms along with the job location and time period. Itemize your specific responsibilities in bullet point format and quantify as much as possible.
- CIVILIAN WORK EXPERIENCE. Use this major heading for any pre or post military civilian job experience. Use the same rubrics you used for Military Work Experience.
- AWARDS, RECOGNITION, COMMUNITY SERVICE. List all awards and citations you received for performance or honors going back to high school. List all charitable work you have done in both civilian life and the military.
- TECHNOLOGY SKILLS. List all of your technology skills including personal productivity, business and social apps.
- TECHNOLOGY AND BUSINESS CERTIFICATIONS. In this section, list in bullet point format all military and civilian online or resident certifications. Include apprenticeship programs, too. Job candidates frequently forget that certifications are an important part of their education history. Potential employers will give you positive marks for earning certifications in areas like web design, accounting, truck and driving and for working in a trade like carpentry.
- EDUCATION. Use one line for each school experience dating back to high school. After listing your high school and college experiences, list all professional development courses. Include bricks-and-mortar education and online education as well. And, be sure to include any bilingual training you might have had
These are the components of a clean, succinct resume that will make the hiring manager stop and take a good look at your candidacy. You need not add other major headings like “Hobbies” or “References.” You can work these items into the personal interview.
CRAFTING YOUR DIGITAL PROFILE
A digital profile is an outline of your experiences posted online. There will be online resources that require writing a digital profile. One that comes to mind is LinkedIn, which all job hunters should use. LinkedIn will ask you to provide a digital profile, which is nothing more than an abbreviated resume. Have your resume handy when you write your digital profile and follow it closely. The digital profile should be a reflection of your resume. Both must work in harmony because hiring managers and human resources directors will review both. If there is a discrepancy, they might ask, “Will the real Mike Jones please stand up?”
When seeking a civilian job, we frequently limit our horizon to the private sector. There is an alternate job market to explore that is so huge that we refer to it as an industry unto itself.
The Federal, State, Local Government Workplace
There are approximately 22,000,000 (read, 22 million) workers employed by federal, state and local governments, making it the largest “industry” in the USA. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the federal government employs approximately 2.5 million workers in a variety of jobs at multiple locations throughout the USA and abroad. State governments employ approximately 5,500,000 workers, and local governments employ 14,500,000 workers. Federal government workers make the highest annual average salary, $81,000. The job hunting rubrics are the same for seeking government jobs. However, there are usually strict application procedures that you must follow or risk elimination. These requirements are clearly stated in the application instructions for each government jobs. Follow them to the letter.
Your most valuable guide for job hunting at the federal government level is unquestionably this website, www.federaljobs.net and the book titled “The Book of U.S. Government Jobs: Where They Are, What’s Available and How To Complete a Federal Resume.” This book is in its 11th edition and was authored by Dennis Damp a former federal government employee, Air Force veteran and founder of this website.
Your resume will act as a door opener if you follow our directions carefully. Our advice is based on our experience as an executive recruiter working with hiring managers and human resources directors. For details about writing your resume, an important strategy in the job hunting process, please refer to Chapters 23, 24, 25 in my book, OPERATION JOB SEARCH, A Guide for Military Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Careers. In addition, we suggest that you go to www.military.com to view sample resumes written for military veterans. When you go to the site, click on Veteran Jobs and then click on Transition Center. Next click on Get an Expert Resume. Then click on Sample Resumes, where you will find several well-crafted resumes that will serve as a model for your own resume. While you are on the Sample Resume section, review the samples for cover letters as well.
In our September blog, we will discuss these job hunting skills; how and where to find potential employers. Our Industry Spotlight will focus on the Medical and Education Industries.
- Crafting a resume is just one step in the job hunting process.
- Submit a resume only to a named person with a job title in a named company.
- Your resume must be free from spelling and grammatical mistakes.
- Write your resume in civilian language.
- The purpose of a resume is to advance your candidacy to the next step, a personal interview.
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