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How to Find a Civilian Job After You’ve Served


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You ran patrols on the streets of Fallujah. Came under fire, commanded troops, and even called in air-support. As an infantryman working inside the notorious “Sunni Triangle, ” you consider yourself lucky to have survived. But now, as you find yourself at the end of your tour, be it one stint or 20-plus years, you’ve encountered a daunting obstacle – the current US job market.

It is no secret prospects are bleak in this present climate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll fail. On the contrary, as a service member you possess a unique and invaluable skills set. The predicament lies in how you present yourself to prospective employers. Highlighting and effectively translating your military experience to the civilian job market will give you an edge over other applicants.

Consider your Resume

First and foremost, think about what kind of resume you’re going to send. Resumes range from functional, targeted, combination, and chronological. A functional resume focuses on your skills and experience. Generally, this can be the most frustrating aspect of a resume. As a service member, how do you translate your wholly unique set of skills to civilian employers? An excellent website to utilize and hopefully resolve this predicament can be found at There, you can find an MOS translator.

As an example, if your military occupation specialty is infantry, you can convert that into a civilian friendly summary of qualifications. Instead of simply denoting yourself as an “infantryman who shot machine-guns,” the MOS translator suggests you “operated weapons and equipment in ground combat operations.”

Targeted and Chronological Resumes

Up next – the targeted resume. Consisting primarily of highlights for the job you are applying for, these resumes by and large take more time. Ultimately, they pay off when applying for a job that is a perfect match for your accomplishments. A combination resume is just that – a combination of your skills, experience and job history. Finally, there is the chronological resume. As the term suggests, a chronological resume starts by listing you work history. Beginning with your current or most recent job, employers typically prefer this type of resume because it’s easy to see jobs/responsibilities held.

What’s your Job Objective?

Be it armed security guard, registered nurse, sales representative or logistics manager – a defined goal is an effective way to market yourself. Descriptions that are too broad and far-reaching may suggest to employers that you lack drive and or ambition. If you choose to continue your military specialty, determine the civilian equivalent.

Showcase your Education and Training

Everyone in the military attends some type of training or schooling (education civilians generally tend to pay for out their own pockets). Again, translate these MOS schools and their soldierly jargon into civilian terms. Unless commonly used by civilians, drop the acronyms. The alphabet soup intrinsic to the military is likely to fall short of non-military understanding. Lets face it – sometimes even you forget what they mean. Rephrase or simply spell it out in layman’s terms.


We are fortunate enough to live in a world with spell-check – so use it. There’s nothing like a well-executed resume wrought with spelling errors. If your resume is riddled with errors and inconsistencies, perhaps your work will look the same. Be uniform with abbreviations and use proper grammar. It adds to an over-all professional presentation. Ultimately, there’s nothing like soliciting feedback from friends and colleagues for improving your resume. Adjust it until you’ve generated call-backs and job interviews.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Lastly, a proper resume includes contact information. Tell the prospective employer your name, address, apartment number, city, state, zip code – including the area code. Unfortunately, many active duty military personnel are at a disadvantage when it comes to this. Bases across the globe, deployments, and sea duty can prove problematic. If this is the case, assure you’ve included a cell/work phone number, and an email address.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to market your military experience. Employers seek the dedication, teamwork, leadership, and work ethic inherent to the military mind-set. The only caveat – your presentation.

Chris Mandia is a Southern California-based writer who writes on Military issues. Serving two tours in Iraq as US Marine machine-gunner, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University 2007 and currently attends the University of Southern California’s graduate film program.