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Where do I start?


Mario Lopez Sanchez Bakersfield, CA

Retiring in 20 months and have no idea how to describe my experience and place it in civilian terms. I'm a senior NCO and held different titles and job descriptions. Your guidance would be appreciated.

14 September 2019 13 replies Military to Civilian Transition



Jacqueline Contreras, CPRW San Antonio, TX

All due respect to military translators out there, but they work under the assumption that you want to continue in the same career post-retirement. If you're an IT guy trying to go into HR, they won't work for you.

First of all, don't start by trying to describe all of your experience. You've likely had a large array of responsibilities, including training, management, employee relations, inventory, project management, etc. Writing a resume as an employment history is truly daunting and often results in a poorly targeted, cramped, ineffective resume that won't land the interview.

One of the hardest parts of your transition will be having the option to decide what you want to do next. You are likely qualified for many jobs and narrowing it down can be tough, but once you do that, the resume writes itself. Consider your resume a justification letter to employers and ONLY add the content that is relevant to the industry, company, and position for which you are applying. Anything else is wasting the limited space you have to highlight your skills and accomplishments that the employer will find valuable.

Start by looking for jobs. Even though you are not applying yet, you'll need to start familiarizing yourself with the industry terminology and requirements (be it experience, training, certifications, or degrees) to be competitive in those positions. Don't stop at the job postings. Google the companies, follow them on LI and connect with people who work there. Ask them if they have time for an informational interview. Prepare questions regarding their culture, work environment, and requirements. Don't ask for a job, just information. This will help you narrow down where you want to work and what you want to do. They can also help you determine the company structure (differences between manager, supervisor, director, VP, etc.) and where your experience might land you on that totem pole.

Keep in mind that more than 80% of jobs are found through networking and only 3% of online applications will get an interview. Focus more time on your career exploration and networking than on the perfect resume. There is no such thing. You will rewrite it several times to fit the employer and position of choice. Job postings are like having a copy of the test before the exam. Use it to write your resume and you'll do just fine.

Message me if you have any questions. I'm happy to help.

10 October 2019 Helpful answer


Steven Mathews Spring, TX

I have a proven process to help you reach your goal. It requires a lot of effort on your part and free coaching on my part.

15 September 2019 Helpful answer


Venkat Narayanan San Jose, CA

Hi Mario,

There is some great advice here! While I've not been in the military, I've faced a similar situation. I found this book to be very helpful:

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Thank you for your service! I hope you find your passion and a place to fulfill it.



13 October 2019 Helpful answer


Michael Stehn Alexandria, VA


First Thank you for your service to the nation. I think the biggest advice I can provide is take some time to really reflect on what is you want to do post-military, then if you have not I would start with building a LinkedIn profile. I would follow Michael Quinn on LinkedIn, he has a lot of useful advise.

The next thing I would focus on is building or expanding your network in the areas that interest you for employment in the next career. This will be key, as most jobs are somehow connected to the network you build and not necessarily a open job search and apply method.

Third, if you have not already signed up to get a mentor through ACP, do so.

Best of luck


8 October 2019 Helpful answer


Johnny Opdenbosch Jacksonville, FL

Mario, I just transitioned after 21 years. The best advice I can give you is :
1- Ensure you have a complete LinkedIn profile; you will use this platform to network
2- While you Network and read others profiles, post, and articles start figuring out who you are/want to be
3- Tweak your LI profile
4- Connect with people on the field you have interest in, establish a rapport, interact, and request informational interviews
5- Tweak your LI profile
6- Search for jobs within the field you really have interest in and with their help and your experience already talking the language every time you network, translate your military experience to private sector experience.
7- Tweak your LI profile some more; hopefully by this time your LI profile complements your resume, each is an extension of the other.

Last but not least, you can reach out to me on LI. I worked really hard to make my transition effective and had great results that I am willing to share with fellow veterans

8 October 2019 Helpful answer


Jay Anderson Herndon, VA

Hello. I would first start with Verification of military experience and training (VMET). This document that you can download translates military experience in civilian language. Also, resume workshops can assist with that after you find a job you would like to have. I usually look at job announcements (3) and then take them to a resume counselor who can help. I hope this helps.

CW3 Jay Anderson, US, (Retired)

25 September 2019 Helpful answer


MUrat Dorkan Pikesville, MD

Happy to help you. Pls email me and we can discuss and I can help direct you and answer questions

25 September 2019 Helpful answer


Denise Kalm Walnut Creek, CA

Each situation is unique, so work with a coach who can help you make that translation and see beyond how you see yourself. We're often too hesitant to own our value and having an outsider look at what you did and what you want to do can really help you see how to demonstrate value and own it. That helps a ton when you go to interview.

24 September 2019 Helpful answer


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

Greetings, fellow Vet!

I have a rather different take on your situation . . . . Instead of trying to translate your military experiences, education, and skills, take a few steps back and answer this question, "WHAT ARE THE TALENTS THAT I POSSESS?" Once you have defined those TALENTS, identify employment opportunities that will play to those strengths.

For but one example: Introversion and extraversion are talents. They cannot be taught. If you were to hire a customer-facing employee, would you think it better to hire an introvert or extravert?

So Mario, regardless of your experience and education, just what are YOUR talents?

Here is a link to a free talent assessment site. There is a vocational assessment tool associated with this test. It is quite good BUT, if you would ALSO like to have my two cents about the results (also free), please share the 4 letters and % given for each of the attributes. Feel free to communicate with me off-channel at - or not!

Let me know how you make out . . . .

Dr. Hank

21 September 2019 Helpful answer


Kevin Hicks Freehold, NY

SFC Sanchez, welcome to the other side, brother! Your installation Soldier For Life Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) (formerly ACAP) has the tools you need. As a retiree you’re eligible to start using the SFL assets 24 months from separation. Translating military experience to civilian terms is a core part of SFL-TAP. There are many “elective” transition courses you can use, and taking some now will ease the stress as you get closer to retirement. Good luck!
Kevin (retired 4 years)

18 September 2019 Helpful answer


Barron Evans Ann Arbor, MI

Mario...foremost, thank you for your service.

And while I can't disagree with Steven's "proven" and "free" selling points, my 30 years of robust corporate, agency, consultancy, and 501c3 experience has taught me a few things about 'translating talent.' As a baseline, my masters degree is in public administration, yet I never spent a day working in the federal sector … instead choosing to 'translate' my academic experience, and years of professional experience since then … into value-based roles, whether working in telecom, global advertising, retail, or healthcare. EX: my focus in grad school was organizational development, so throughout my career, I've described my value around how I 'Determine/design/develop/deliver change management capabilities for organizations…helping them build competency + capacity to achieve desired outcomes.'

When asked how does that 'translate' into a unique industry, I base my response on the SKILLS that accomplish the above … vs. … using the industry jargon, or even necessarily the role description. And no surprise: that applies to public, private, and governmental sectors (e.g., two of my former clients are the EPA and DOD).

And to share a specific military-->civilian transition ex.: a very close friend of mine left the Navy as a Commanding Officer, her last role being at the Lackland Naval Technical Training Center. But how does she 'market' herself on LinkedIn today: 'Independent Education Management Professional.'

I think the best way to start is to write a simple paragraph about what you're doing today...not overthinking WHAT you're saying, or HOW you're saying it...but as if you were describing it to someone sitting with you. Then go back, look at the paragraph, and extract just the SKILL words (e.g., wrote, analyzed, evaluated, data-entry, negotiated, etc.), set that list aside, then take each word and look for additional language to describe it on

Finally, using the new action word groupings, write your fantasy job description that leverages that set of skills … but NOT in an industry context … but through a 'this is how I want to live my best life' lens. Ultimately, that will set you up with a behavioral profile that can be applicable to any civilian role … and be used in both written and spoken situations.

Hope this helps; best wishes for success!

16 September 2019 Helpful answer


John Parker, MBA, MSIS Vacaville, CA

Use the link I've posted below. Enter your military job title in the Occupation Quick Search bar and the website will give you civilian terms and skills that match your MOS.

24 September 2019 Helpful answer


Mario Lopez Sanchez Bakersfield, CA

Thank you all for taking the time. I will definetly take your advice and look forward to further discussions, Thank you for your time.


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