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How do you best translate leadership from military to resume?


Tessa Raybuck Stafford, VA

Taking years of leadership training and experience seems to be hard to capture on a resume.

1 May 2019 9 replies Leadership & Management



Deborah Carter Owens Cross Roads, AL

Hi Tessa,

Thomas hit the nail on the head when he said "accomplishments." For instance, it's great if as an example you supervised 100+ people and managed a huge budget - but what were your accomplishments...did you improve anything, and by how much (percent, dollars) etc.

I'm happy to review your resume if you'd like.

Take care,

2 May 2019 Helpful answer


Jose Roman Norfolk, VA

Good Morning Tessa,

Most importantly to capture on your resume is leadership accomplishments. Having rank is not enough in a market saturated with senior enlisted service-members and officers. Let the resume read what you accomplished in those leadership opportunities. Demonstrated bullets of results, missions accomplished, money saved, people led and where your leadership was pivotal is important.

Jose R


Denise Kalm Walnut Creek, CA

Steven had a great answer and this is true for almost anyone. What tasks you performed may be specific to the military, but the results matter to almost any company. Although the best ones are ways to save or make money or save time, a lot of other factors are important. Can you build cohesive teams? Work across teams to achieve great results? Are your people inspired to do more than they believe they can do? And to pitch it right, read the job descriptions carefully, using the words they use to describe your success. They're looking for them and more importantly, since you can lose a job without ever having a person meet you, the computer is looking for those words. The automated systems are designed for the boss, not for the applicant, so you want to network around this as much as possible.


cathy salerno Skillman, NJ

Hi Tessa, you ask a great question and one that I think a number of people face when shifting from military to public sector. As a leader in the public sector, the characteristics I look for in my leaders include: ability to deliver, ability to collaborate, ability to negotiate and influence and ability to adapt to changing priorities and react to unforeseen situations. All of these characteristics are typical of military leaders. My suggestion is to illustrate how you have demonstrated these characteristics with examples from your military career. (As a caution...try to translate military language to more everyday language. Sometimes military leadership examples sound scary/intense for outsiders in public sector!)


Steven Mathews Spring, TX

The suggestions provided previously are a good start.

A good manager is expected to produce results. A great manager can produce results in just about any situation. The President of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company was very good at producing models of the world's best commercial passenger and transport aircraft. He became President of the Ford Motor Company producing fine cars and trucks, a totally different regulatory environment. All the major auto companies took bailout money from the Government, and they still struggled to remain viable. Ford took no bailout money and prospered.

You can describe the results you produced in just about any military activity, and it will become evident that you can produce similar results in a functionally related commercial environment. For example, if you streamlined a training course that improved average test scores and reduced class time, a commercial company will project that you could do the same for their situation. Taking control over a group of people with frequent staff changes and improving the section's quality and productivity is a skill that few have mastered. A company will call you in for an interview to find out your secret. The position will be yours to lose at that point.
Send me your email, and I will send you some examples as to how military functions can easily be translated into terms a commercial company will comprehend and call you in for an interview.


Henry ("Dr. Hank") Stevens Fort Lauderdale, FL

VERY short answer to your question: Blow your TALENT horn loudly.

That is, as a Vocational Counselor I fine employers and those seeking employment too often focus on experience and education. In my experience, these two are nowhere near as valuable as an individual's talents. Be about the business of identifying those talents of yours, celebrate them, and tout that loudly as part of your credentials.

Don't know what your talents are? Start here. This is a free assessment with a fairly good tool for identifying same:

If you need help interpreting the results, feel free to contact me for my thinking on your results (free). You may contact me off channel at

Regards, Dr. Hank


Paul Trejo Austin, TX

Hi Tessa,

Thanks for your years of service.

In my opinion, your experience in leadership is sought after in the field of Management.

I imagine that you don't have business experience, as such. That would relegate you to Middle Management at best, and Supervision to start.

You should take any job in Supervision. That can lead to quick promotions to Middle Management, and then to Executive Management, if you move quickly.

Take courses in business management. Learn something about all the seven basic departments in any company: (i) stockholding; (ii) HR; (iii) sales; (iv) accounting; (v) production; (vi) marketing; and (vii) advertising. Managers prefer generalization rather than specialization.

With your years of experience in Leadership (Supervision) you won't need an MBA, but you will need to know the principles of how to run a small grocery store (as an example). ANY experience that you have in business is GREAT. Put that up front in big letters. Did your family own a small business in which you helped during high school? That COUNTS.

Seek a job in Supervision. Your current experience (I am guessing) is already a match for Office Manager. Remember -- these jobs offer quick promotions to Middle Management. Only Middle Managers (and manager's relatives with MBA's) are invited into Executive Management.

Best wishes,


Lex Levin Ellicott City, MD

Tessa, I specialize in writing resumes for transitioning service members (since 2009). Send me yours and I'll review and advise. Here's how to get in touch:


Thomas Kidd Dallas, TX

Hi, Tessa.

You aren't alone. Most of us have problems not knowing where to start, as we not only have trouble translating our experience into what we believe recruiters will key in on, but also having so many different experiences that the sheer volume of "stuff" you could reasonably include on a resume is overwhelming.

Seeing that you are a Master Sergeant and have 18 years, the good news is that your rank and tenure alone will indicate to most recruiters that you have extensive leadership experience - likely much more so than your non-veteran peers. Now the hard part: what to include from your military career...

Haven't found the single best way to approach this, as everyone is different and all jobs will differ in what they are looking for. What I've done is within each role/duty station pick the 2-3 accomplishments that I'm most proud of, and modify from there based on what I'm applying for. It helps me focus on what's really important, versus the window dressing of random tasks.

Once you have something you feel comfortable with, I recommend you have a civilian friend of a friend take a look to see if they are able to understand your leadership story. This gives you an unbiased opinion, and you can re-tool from their feedback.

Hope that helps,

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