How veterans should translate their military skills for a post-military career

One of the biggest résumé challenges veterans transitioning to a post-military career face is translating military skills into language civilian employers can understand. You might think the breadth and scope of authority and responsibility required to command a Navy ship or lead an Army brigade is similar to the skill sets of a chief executive officer (CEO). Well, not so fast. Before adopting the title of CEO for comparison purposes on a résumé, know that leading large and often complex military organizations certainly demonstrates marketable skill sets, but they are not necessarily equivalent to those of a CEO.

So what's the difference? Duties of a CEO include but are not limited to:

  • generating revenue and business development;
  • reporting to a board of directors and stakeholders;
  • identifying quarterly profits and losses;
  • leading marketing and sales; and
  • formulating and implementing a company's strategic vision.

The use of the CEO title on a résumé as a substitute for a commanding officer could do more harm than good. Corporate recruiters and hiring managers without a good understanding of military organizations might interpret this as embellishing your experience level; conversely, use of the CEO title could suggest you are over-qualified for a position.

With careful research on military-to-civilian job translation, you should be able to articulate clearly your duties and responsibilities to an employer. Remember, when highlighting your experience on a résumé, it's not so much what you did but rather how well you did it that's important to an employer. Include significant accomplishments and results achieved in the position under your watch. A great way to help potential employers understand your level in the military is to list the number of people you supervised and the size of the budget for which you were responsible. These indicators require little translation and readily convey the scope of your authority and the type of supervisory functions you performed.