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Advice on transitioning from a military life to civilian life, how to get an employer to recognize I do have experience and above entry level?


Melissa Herron Brandon, MS

I have applied to multiple positions to get myself into organizations, I never make it to an interview. I feel as though my resume/experience lack the "civilian/private" sector skill. I have an abundance of education, leadership certifications, 10+ years as a supervisor and manager with experience in many fields. I understand it can seem like a jack of all trades but I know what I can bring to an employer if I could get them to see past what is submitted in a database- what is the trick?

16 January 2021 13 replies Career Exploration



Stephanie Marano Staten Island, NY

Hi Melissa,
Thank you for your service!! I would tailor your resumes to the specific job posting. Highlight your vast transferrable skills, and leadership. And use the words "transferrable skills" in your resume. Write a cover letter asking for consideration to interview for the position, and why you would make a great fit. Get familiar with the Company you are interviewing with, and ask for "Bio's" of who you are meeting with. Create a profile on LinkedIn, and reach out to Headhunters in the Industries you are interested by "connecting" with them. I would also apply every day to job postings even on "some" you may not be interested in (just for practice on interviews). Research the best Q&A's on interviews, and try "mock interviewing" with a friend. Stay positive, something will come through. Good Luck!!


Nate Bryan Fort Wayne, IN

Thank you for your service Melissa! First, I understand your frustration. I was in the same place you were three years ago. As previously mentioned, the TAPs, or GPS as it's now known, is a great transition tool that the military is required to provide for all service members transitioning out to the armed forces. Trying to take all the years of experience from your service and translating them into a resume is challenging, but it is possible. I am willing to assist you, if needed, in helping to take those military skills and translate them into specific industry skills/experience. You are smart for starting this process a couple years out!

Good luck and let me know if I can help.


John Dyck Spring, TX

You say you have a lot of experience; experience in what, doing what?

As a potential employer how can you:
1. Save me money
2. Save me time
3. Reduce my stress
4, And most important, help me grow the company.
Answer these questions and I will hire you.

Good luck.


Scott Gagnon Winthrop, MA

Hi Melissa, Thank you for your service and dedication. All of the comments above are excellent. I would like to also add something. Your resume and LinkedIn profile should also tell a story about you and not just list the "what" you have done. It should also tell a little about the "how" you accomplished your successes. This is especially true when it comes to your LinkedIn profile. Avoid just a cut and paste of your resume on LinkedIn. I believe LinkedIn should be your brief, personal narrative of your military career journey and the position, promotions and successes you have achieved from your personal perspective. Civilian companies place value on who you are as a person equally to what you've done. Use words that will hit on LinkedIn searches by recruiters. Words like "Director" "Manager" "Leader" work well. As an example, here is mine: Good luck.


Doug Bohrer Northbrook, IL

I am good with resumes. I will work with you personally over the phone on fixing yours. I've done this for lots of vets here. My email is For other vets reading this, my offer isn't limited to Melissa Herron.


Mary M. Burns Chicago, IL

Dear Melissa,
Thank you for your long tenure serving our country and now considering how this important experience can evolve to a civilian career.

As many responses above demonstrate, there is much you can do with your marketing materials - resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter to clearly demonstrate key skills, competencies and experiences that align with the positions you're after. As you review every posting, be sure to do so side by side with your resume, then ask: 1) what are the key points of alignment with the role? These can be skills, competencies, relevant experiences. 2) these points often become the basis for a thoughtful and strategically developed cover letter as well as smart points you make in the interview.

Yet, I hear your point - you're not getting to the interview. When HR automated recruiting and hiring 20+ years ago, it led to much higher volumes of applications from candidates. To best manage the volume, resume software (for keywords) were developed and implemented. Also due to the volume, recruiters and hiring managers had little insight about candidate A or B -- who was the better candidate among the batch of resumes?

Today, companies are after referrals, recommendations and "proof of work" -- as part of key their hiring steps. They offer current employees meaningful fees for referrals to the firm. When an applicant takes some time to network with internal employees at their target firms - and apply for role simultaneously, there is a greater chance to land the interview. The internal contacts become advocates and supporters, can endorse you. HR and other hiring managers value this level of company engagement and will meet with the referrals as a priority. This is often the case of medium to large size firms. These same firms may have Vet Groups who could be good contacts for you. If I can be of further help, please feel free to reach me at

Best of luck.


Joshua King Clinton, PA

Hello Melissa,

I just wanted to give my 2 cents here and I’ll be brief.

- make sure your resume is free of military jargon
- tailor your resume to the job posting, that typically means making one resume per job posting
- KEYWORDS are extremely important. Look for specific items in the job posting and make sure your resume has those words. Same with experience levels.
- Be patient, it takes time. Especially with federal positions.

If you have anymore questions feel free to message me!

Good luck!



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!


Pamela Roux Cortlandt Manor, NY

Hi Melissa,

I agree with everyone's answers above that you need to re-do your resume and also weave in specific skillsets that are in the various job descriptions you are interested in. I would have a resume tailored for a specific job because in most cases it's software that scans the resume not a human so you need to have all the key words in there for the machine to read it.

LinkedIn is also a great resource. You could message some people at firms you are interested in and ask to have an informal chat with someone in HR, for example. Show them your resume and ask for feedback.

I agree that you shouldn't use military acronyms because the private sector folks won't understand that. Stick to the skills you have developed and why you are a valuable asset for any company to hire. Including leadership which is a key skill that people develop in the military.

Good luck!


Jerry Welsh Middleville, MI

A lot of good feedback, biggest message so far is what is your career? Your search line or tag line, reads Operations Superintendent at Air National Guard. I know after conducting many 3 day TAP workshops your are at least and E-8 or E-9 in the air force, as superintendents in the non military world run schools and require typically a Ph D in education. You have a broad base of education, keep in mind your military training is not understood in a non military company. You might want to focus on the VA, depending upon where you are at they hire prior military and a change someone might understand your background.
Bottom line you need to come up with a career. You are searched by career and then the "about" section that needs to be filled with descriptive examples of your quantifiable success in the non military version of your new career. I can hear your question, "how the hec do I know what career fits my experience"? It takes career research and networking. You have already found out people will reach out, ACP will mentor you, but will probably ask you to provide a career. If you are staying in healthcare, look at joining career groups on LinkedIn or Facebook and interact with these people to learn about the career. Follow Michael Quinn who runs free workshops on networking. Information Interviews with people in a career field you are interested is great research. Look up the rules on informational interviewing, be sure you open with "you are a transitioning military service member looking for some career assistance in healthcare management". Speak to healthcare managers if that is your field. The non military world does not have Aeromedical Evacuation. Again, the VA has a lot of positions open in many fields, but not the above career. I hope you understand this information is pulled from thousands of service members I have worked with in person or via e-communication. Again, TAG line concise to a career field, short summary of your qualifications, and accomplishments with #$% to accent value will keep recruiters reading. Remember that you are part of the 0.5% of Americans who serve their country. You are very well respected, but the chance civilians have been part of the 0.5% simply means they will not understand your language or experiences-without translation. Thank you for your support and sacrifices. God Bless
Hope some of this helps.


Deanna Corbett Winter Garden, FL

Hi Melissa,
In addition to the other advice, I'd like to suggest that you identify the actual job role and industry you want to work in as your target position. You can have multiple targets.

Tailor your resume to be a fit for each of these target roles - and then before you apply for a position, be sure to further customize your resume to better match the key words in the job description (in case they are using resume scanning software to do the "first pass screen" of applications).

Wherever possible quantify your experience. Think about the number of people you have led, any outcomes produced - spelled out in terms of cost savings, time savings, improvement of team performance, etc. - having metrics that demonstrate what you have achieved will catch the eye of a recruiter or hiring manager.

It can help to think about a few key results you have delivered, and to use those to build stories about yourself and your work history. Those stories will not only be part of your resume, but should serve you as the main stories you talk about during the interview process once you get that going.

Finally, be sure in your job search that you are looking for companies that have Veteran Hiring Programs. Do a search for the company name + "veteran program" to check if they have one - and if they do, make use of that process as an entryway.

Hope some of this is helpful. Let me know if you'd like another set of eyes on your resume.



John Volpe Seaford, NY

Hi Melissa:

Looks like Joe will help you revise your resume. I completely agree with the need to translate military experience and skills into “civilian language”. You have to remember not everyone has served in the military. A well written resume is is of course critical but it’s only “half the battle”. It is absolutely essential to network with as many professionals and organizations within your geographic and electronic reach. I suggest you take the time to review various responses to other veterans’ questions, particularly those addressing networking .

If you haven’t already done so, you should also establish a LinkedIn presence which is an excellent site to advertise your presence and network with other professionals. It will also be helpful to connect with other veteran organizations . Do a Google search on veterans’ organizations . There are a number out there which should be of interest to you. Also, I suggest subscribing to’s newsletter ( free). In addition to having excellent articles on military issues, they also highlight companies that have active programs to hire veterans.

Lastly, try to be patient. As Joe reiterated, we’re in the middle of a pandemic which clearly makes transitioning more difficult particularly when so many Americans are out of work. Hopefully, this situation should be under control in the next several months. Lastly, you mentioned that you had a broad range of experience and would consider yourself a “ jack of all trades”. While revising your resume you need to highlight the scope of your experience, emphasizing the broad range of projects you have managed or contributed to and of course the results you helped deliver.

Good luck



Joe Engle Indianapolis, IN

Hello Melissa. Currently, we are living in a time of reduced hiring because of covid19, though hiring should pick up moving forward. Your resume is your 'self advertisement', whether it is on Linkedin or paper. Your resume is what usually determines whether you get the first interview. So spend time to make it effective. It should be short, 1-2 pages, and highlight your talents, that will be valuable to the company. Typically commercial resumes should highlight skills and accomplishments in categories like: Delivering on schedule, operating within or below budget, meeting goals, increasing productivity, increasing revenue or profit, professional achievements, etc. Avoid military acronyms that a civilian would not understand(CINCRAC, SOPCOM, etc). Reword military terminology to civilian wording. For example, replace "Led squads on many LRP missions" with "Repeatedly demonstrated ability to lead a goal oriented team".

Best of luck. (I put together a more detailed resume building document that may help. Just message me and I will be glad to send it to you.)

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