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A Special Note to Veterans

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Thursday, January 4, 2007; 2:36 PM

Write for readers who have little or no understanding of the military. Use plain English civilian terminology.

As you write, omit/exclude:

Military terminology/jargon

Military acronyms

Military slang

Military abbreviations

Details of combat

Since you are transitioning into a new career, include a Goal section.

Create position descriptions/blurbs containing plenty of action statements (i.e., evidence of transferable skills) and get specific. For example:

Number of people managed

Dollar amounts of budgets managed

Dollar value of assets you managed

"Civilian-transferable" skills training you have given to others

Problems/opportunities successfully identified and acted upon

Security clearances given to you (e.g., high-risk public trust, confidential, secret, or top secret)

You can go to www.google.com or www.alltheweb.com and search for "military to civilian skills" until you find among the search results free translation sites providing military position descriptions and the civilian versions of those descriptions. Do not cut and paste the material from such sites into your resume. Instead, use the information as food for thought as you devise civilian-friendly action statements for your unique document.

In an Education section, include training you have received, but be selective. For example, omit training in marksmanship (unless you seek law enforcement work) and hand-to-hand combat, but include courses in logistics, technology, or the many other areas readily transferable to civilian work.

Find and carefully review any written evaluations you have received; these often contain useful food for thought when writing a resume.

When getting your resume reviewed, be sure to get civilian reviewers. Ex-military people who have successfully transitioned to civilian career paths can make excellent reviewers, too.

Many free career resources for veterans are available on the Web. For example, go to click4careercoaching.com, click on "Use My Great Job Links and Job Hotlines," and see the "Links for Persons Transitioning from the U.S. Military."

If you have less than an honorable discharge (e.g., general, undesirable, bad conduct, or dishonorable), there is a chance you can have your discharge upgraded by the Discharge Review Board or Board of Correction of Military Records of the appropriate branch of service. Contact your local legal service agency (e.g., Legal Aid Society) or Red Cross, Veterans Center, or State Division of Veterans' Affairs for help. Doing so can improve your chances with employers who request your discharge papers.

Before applying for a discharge upgrade, be sure to request, obtain, and carefully save copies of your military records from Military Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-1547. This is important because after you apply for a discharge upgrade, your records are sealed forever; neither you nor your attorney may view them.

Old discharge papers (form DD-214) include "SPN" or "spin" numbers that can identify people with drug or alcohol problems. Many employers can translate the spin numbers, so if these are issues for you, also request from St. Louis copies of the DD-214 with the spin number deleted.

Material excerpted from The Elements of Resume Style (AMACOM Books, 2006) by Scott Bennett. Used with permission. All rights reserved.


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