(If you haven’t seen the earlier entries in this series you can find them here: Part I, Part II)
Explain What You Will Bring to the Table
It sounds redundant, doesn’t it? After all, in theory your resume should be entirely about what your past experiences indicate you will bring to the table. Unfortunately, many people – particularly veterans – do a poor job of translating their experiences into a document that captures who they are and what they’ve done. It’s far too easy for transitioning vets to simply list out lines directly from their evaluation reports without pausing to consider how specialized those documents are. Military evaluation reports are designed to distinguish active service members in terms that matter to the military, not to a civilian organization. Moreover, they hand wave away much of the diversity of the individual, as admin offices have access to information about the demographics of their population that would be illegal for a civilian organization to know when making hiring decisions. In other words, you should use the best accomplishments from your evaluation reports, as those will form the basis of the stories you tell during interviews, but you should entirely discard the language involved. Rewriting your accomplishments from scratch in language that makes sense to the average civilian is an excellent first step toward both crafting an outstanding resume and collecting your thoughts for those interview stories.
Quantify your Achievements
The number one goal of your resume should be to tell a story of accomplishing difficult tasks in adverse conditions. The best way to do this is to quantify your achievements. For instance, in an interview you should tell every story in a STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, Result.
In other words, frame the issue, specify what you were tasked with, explain what you did to accomplish that directive, and then tell the story of what happened as a result. In your resume you have at most two lines per achievement, so you’re limited to sharing the Result and – at best – a bit of context for what that achievement means. The best way to make this sort of bullet point stand out is to use hard numbers and statistics. After all, a typical evaluation report statement such as “increased readiness of the unit” means far less than, “Singlehandedly increased the ability of the organization to accomplish its mission by 10%.” Putting that in terms such as, “while working in an adverse environment” isn’t as clear as, “with a unit understaffed by 20% during the same time frame.” Keep this in mind – your resume bullets mean very little until they’re put in statistics that an everyday admissions committee member can understand.
Dejargon your TLAs
In order to help that admissions committee member’s understanding, you need to frame your terms in their civilian equivalents. You didn’t have subordinate Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen, you had “direct reports.” You weren’t responsible for 8 M2A2 Abrams worth $16 million, you “maintained control and mission-ready maintenance of eight tanks, which was necessary for the unit to achieve its primary directive.” And for goodness’ sake people, you need to use fewer TLAs! (That’s “Three Letter Acronyms,” if you’re not “tracking.”)