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How can I make my military experience and education look more competitive when compared to civiliand who have years of work experience that I do not possess


Initra Williams Newberry, SC

I have military experience and education as well as volunteer experience but that has not helped in my job search as my experience doesn't compare to those who have years of on the job experience. I always get the response that my credentials are impressive but they went with someone with more experience. How can I get the experience if I cannot get my foot in the door.

16 November 2020 11 replies Resumes & Cover Letters



Sharon Rau Bronx, NY

Hi Initra,

Nice to meet you, my name is Shae and I work in IT Security in the civilian sector, as well as with the Army Guard. I only had a degree and one IT Security certification when I moved into the civilian sector. My MOS (25B) correlated to the jobs I was applying for but my degree was unrelated. What was most beneficial for me was to put everything into numbers. Instead of saying I was the project manager for x y z, I wrote the number of people I managed, the approximate amount of equipment I was responsible for, and the estimated value of all that equipment or the value of completing the project. For example, Instead of saying I was the NCOIC for brigade automations, I said I was the lead manager of 7 people - responsible for 1000+ network equipment valued at over 1 million dollars. Always try to add a numerical value to everything you've done to really put into perspective just how much you did. Hope this helps!

16 November 2020 Helpful answer


Jeff Martin Ashburn, VA

I’d suggest that you network at the target company or industry. Use LinkedIn to find people already working there and reach out to them. Ask them the process they used to get hired and ask them to help you navigate the hiring process and if they are willing, ask them to submit you as a referral. These activities require much more time on your part but in my opinion would greatly increase your chances for success. Good luck!


Wayne Peck Austin, TX

One tip to help you better communicate your skills is to use the language in the job applications that you are applying for. They give you the cheat sheet..... if you can write your resume in their terms, you should be a good fit for the position. That is how they will be screening the resumes.



Kang Bae Ridgefield, NJ

Hey Initra,

There are some great answers here and I'll just add my two cents of what I've learned in my job search

1. Turn your resume into civilian lingo friendly version. The main way of doing this is to get rid of the abbreviations from the army and turn it into its civilian counterpart. Because the recruiters will not understand these and it will be hard to sell your skills to people who doesn't really understand what you've done.
2. quantify your impact to the organization. recruiters like to see numbers, write down your contribution and your impact in numbers where the recruiters can understand: i.e - as a manager(sergeant) in a department(platoon) consisting of x number of soldiers, I managed and oversaw oversaw daily duties of x number of soldiers or "improved the process of (something) by x percent"
3. ask for referrals - reach out to fellow veterans on linkedin for referral in a company that you're applying to instead of applying for the job on their website without a referral. your chance of being interviewed will be way higher than not having a referral.


Tom Crawford Columbus, OH

Hi Initra, after my four-year enlistment in the Navy I started as a contractor for a technical help desk and worked my way up into consultant, system administrator and architect roles. I also crossed over to the Navy reserve which I found was a great way to network with many other folks.


Angelo Fazio Asbury Park, NJ

Initra - leverage your alum network and find connections that are at IBM or were at IBM. Your skills should be the focus and with 9 years of service your learning agility is one of the strongest assets. Not having industry experience is not as important as being able to learn the industry and new skills. Regards, Angelo


Jessica French Atlanta, GA

Hello Initra, I recommend taking a look at your bullets from EPR's (Enlisted Performance Report) over the years--or the equivalent for the Army. That way you not only have robust bullets to include from your experience, you also have a reference to back it up (your rater/reviewer/supervisor). There is usually some impressive content within those reports over the years. Additionally, the numbers & figures as the first post here mentions will help to add value as well.


Frank Cristinzio Washington, DC

Hi Initra - I would echo previous comments. It is really important to keep sharpening your resume and LinkedIn profile until they get you job interview opportunities. A few rules of thumb 1) eliminate all the jargon and acronyms and military specific references for sure - empower yourself to identify and use civilian equivalents 2) whenever you can, focus on outcomes not activity - try to end resume bullets with "as a result..." and then describe accomplishments in clear terms with number or outcomes 3) talk about how you changed something of simplified a process.

ALSO - spend a lot of time on LinkedIn looking at peers and people who are a few years ahead of you and see how they frame similar accomplishments. Developing a really compelling digital identify on LinkedIn and similar platforms is critical. Don't be shy about shamelessly learning lessons from others that are a few years ahead of you in their journey.

Thanks for serving and hope this is helpful.


Anthony Nelson Saline, MI

Hi Initra,

Please reach out to me - I also have a BS in Biology and an MBA, and I served 10 years in the Army. I think I may be able to provide a few pointers on how to tailor your resume that will highlight your military experience. A lot of the stuff you do in the military DOES translate, and frankly, that experience is probably more important than the formal background. Hope to hear from you soon.


Donna Saia Davis Greenwich, CT

I think the best way to demonstrate your experience is to tie your experience to the roles you are applying for. You need to show that your military and volunteer experience make you a candidate for these jobs. For instance, organization, management, communication skills are needed for any role. You need to mention those skills in your experience. It is also good if you can demonstrate results. Were you able to influence improved results or performance?


Cortney Jarrett Hendersonville, TN

Hi Initra!

In my experience, it seemed that the best thing for me to get my foot in the door was to be willing to work as a contractor or full time employee. If I was able to be a contractor for a little while, it opened up companies that needed entry level experience in the areas I wanted to be in. Also, working for corporations like Xerox and IBM, we would hire entry level contractors when we were under a tight schedule and only needed the people for a short time. Contracting can be scary because it may not be long term and not guaranteed for a lengthy period of time (6-9 month average), however it can also provide you with the experience you need. Companies like TEK Systems, DCS Consulting, IDR, etc. specialize in contract work.


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