Translating Your Military Career to a Resume

Translating Your Military Career to a Resume

Contributed by: Julia Nex


Okay, you’ve made the decision that it’s time to transition from military service and start a new adventure in the “civilian world,” but how do you translate your military career into a language and skill set that is clear and understandable to prospective employers?


Whether you are exiting military service after your initial service obligation or retiring after 20+ years of dedicated service to the nation, translating your career skills to a resume takes a well thought out approach, but we’ll get you there with some great tips as you move forward.

#1: Gather All Your Personal Items

If you have an “I Love Me” book with all your awards, promotions, training certificates and evaluations, you are off to a great start! You will need these to reflect upon what you have accomplished during your career, as well as build a timeline of assignments and responsibilities to communicate your experiences.

#2: Translate Personal Evaluations and Assignments

Review your personnel records and performance evaluations, as this will help you not only build a timeline but scope the duties you want to highlight on your resume. What was your job title? What level of command did you serve? How many personnel were you responsible for managing? Also, reflect upon your leadership experiences to highlight how you helped others achieve success through training, mentoring and counseling.

While “Squad Leader” or “Shift Leader” doesn’t easily translate into civilian employment, “supervised training and resources to employ a 10-12 person security force” does have application and understanding. There are great tools that can assist veterans with translating their military occupational specialty to civilian jobs. It’s more complicated than this, but you get the gist of it!


#3: Training, Certifications and Education


Today, many of the training courses have civilian equivalents or are actually accredited by professional organizations that are known to civilian employers already. For example, technical skills like communications technician, health care specialist, human resource and financial management, dental hygienist and vehicle mechanic translate into civilian career opportunities. If you have professional certifications, that is a bonus, and one you can highlight for your employer.


Civilian education is straightforward, so if you have a degree or certification from a university, college or professional trade school, it goes on your resume. Include the name and address, degree obtained, major or specific skill, date of completion and if you were recognized for academic performance (i.e., summa cum laude, national honor society, honor graduate, etc.). Employers like to know they are hiring quality people who excel academically.

#4: Honors and Personal Accomplishments


While military awards like the Congressional Medal of Honor, Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart are more recognizable, most American military medals, ribbons and badges don’t easily translate into the civilian sector. But that’s okay because many of your professional and personal recognition–i.e., distinguished honor, honor graduate or performer of the quarter/year–do have an application in business or other civilian sectors. If you and your team received an award from the military or professional association or won a competitive competition, you can highlight this accomplishment. It demonstrates you can be part of a high-performing team.


If you have been published, professionally or personally, highlight this fact as it demonstrates a willingness to advocate for your profession or contribute through writing and research.


Being humble is one thing and a great attribute of our military service members, but remember it ain’t bragging if it’s the truth!


#5: Keep It Simple, Use Plain Language


You are “institutionalized” by your military service from the moment you stepped onto the yellow footprints, and you’ll be challenged to communicate in simple language. A well thought out resume will represent you well and help prospective employers get to know you upfront. Keep it simple, direct and to the point!


As you write your resume, first, lose the acronyms immediately as they don’t always translate across civilian-military communities–let alone across military services. Then review your resume and the job you are applying for to ensure you use “keywords” to communicate you are a match for the job being advertised. And lastly, check and double-check your resume for grammar and spelling errors to present the best “written” persona possible.


#6: Personal Security Clearance


If you have a security clearance, highlight this fact so prospective employers know you are vetted for access to classified materials at the SECRET, TOP SECRET or have had a Counterintelligence Polygraph. These are important and highly marketable certifications, especially if you seek to work in commercial industry, government contracting or government services. Keep it current, which means it must have not exceeded its 10-year expiration past the last single scope background investigation or SSBI. Check with your local unit security manager to confirm the date in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS).

#7: Personal Interests

It’s important to let people get to know you and possibly make a connection with your future employer. While you don’t have to go into details about your family, communicating your genuine interest in academic research, professional organizations, outdoor activities and collectibles can let an employer know you do more than just work. Make a connection, but be honest so you can hold a conversation if during an interview your personal interests come up in conversation.


#8: Security Classification Review…Just in Case

A reminder, and not for everyone, if you were assigned to a national intelligence agency (i.e., National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Agency), you will want to highlight these assignments on your personal resume. Remember you have a lifetime obligation to not share classified information or specific details about these agencies. If you are unsure, it’s a good practice to submit for a pre-publication review and ensure you are safeguarding classified or sensitive information.

Lastly, once you have completed your resume and you have had others review it, you can use LinkedIn, USAJobs and other web-based forums to publish your resume and get the word out you are transitioning and ready for the next adventure in your life.

Best of luck and happy hunting as you go forward with your life! And, for a grateful nation and the American people, THANK YOU for your dedication and service to the nation!

Julia Nex is the Content Strategist at Medals of America. In her spare time, you can catch her cooking, embroidering, or watching Hell’s Kitchen.

Blended Retirement System, 101


By Debbie Gregory.

As of January, 2018, the military retirement system as we know it will cease to exist. Instead, service members who joined after 2006 but before January 1, 2018 will have to choose whether to stay with the existing system or opt into the new Blended Retirement System (BRS.)

Those who enter military service on or after January 1, 2018, have no choice; the BRS will be their retirement plan. Another group with no choice is members with 12 or more years of service by Dec. 31, 2017. They will be grandfathered under current High-3 retirement.

More than 740,000 currently serving active-duty members and 176,000 drilling Reserve and National Guard personnel are expected to opt in to the new system.

The new system has three elements: a 401(k)-style component with Defense Department matching funds for entry-level and other service members, a mid-career continuity bonus, and a retirement annuity similar to the one now in place for service members that complete twenty or more years of eligible service.

The new plan combines an immediate but also smaller annuity after 20 or more years of service with a Thrift Savings Plan enhanced by government matching of member contributions of up to 4 percent of basic pay, plus an automatic 1 percent government contribution for all BRS participants, whether they contribute or not to a TSP.

This 401(k)-like nest egg toward retirement is a portable benefit on leaving military service. Veterans can roll the account into an employer 401(k) or continue to make contributions regardless of how many years they served in the military. Because this feature will benefit the great majority of members who leave service short of retirement eligibility at 20 years, the blended plan is expected to be a popular option, particularly with younger servicemembers on their first or second enlistment and officers completing initial service obligation.

Committed careerists, however, are likely to stick with High-3 retirement, which will pay 20 percent more in lifetime annuities if full careers are a realistic goal.

The blended plan has two other features High-3 doesn’t.

By current law, BRS participants are to receive a one-time “continuation payment” at the 12-year mark that, at a minimum, must equal 2½ months of basic pay for active-duty members who agree to serve four more years or one-half month of active pay for reserve component personnel who make the same deal.

The other key feature of the BRS allows those who reach retirement to receive in a lump sum 25 percent or 50 percent of their pre-old-age retirement annuities. In other words, here would be cash to help buy a home, start a business or pay off debts in return for reducing military annuities by one-quarter or one-half until age 67.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Lump-sum Military Retirement Benefits: In Whose Best Interest?


By Debbie Gregory.

Career troops who have served for 20 years will have choice to make under a controversial retirement system approved by Congress. Retirees can opt for the traditional pension checks, or alternatively, they can choose to receive up to half the promised pension benefit in the form of a one-time, lump-sum cash payment.

The Defense Department and many veteran advocates are criticizing the option as a bad deal for military families, tempting troops with quick cash and sacrificing tens of thousands of dollars in future long-term payouts.

But nonetheless, lawmakers have included it in their final 2016 defense authorization bill. They believe such payouts would allow more flexibility for separating troops who are starting a business, paying for college or facing other immediate expenses.

Congress is leaving it up to the Defense Department to determine exactly how that lump-sum cash payment is calculated, which will require Pentagon officials to peg a number to the present value of a promised military retirement pension and its annual cost-of-living increases.

The proposed compensation plan features a 401(k)-style investment into individual troops’ Thrift Savings Plans. This gives all troops who serve at least two years some retirement benefits after they leave military service. Under the current system, t is estimated that only about 17% of troops leave service with any retirement payouts.

Some studies show that enlisted troops are far more eager than officers to take lump-sum payouts. That suggests the Pentagon could consider giving officers a better discount rate simply because academic-style studies show they are more skeptical of the lump-sum options.

The new military retirement system would take effect in 2018. All current troops would have a grandfather clause and a choice to remain under the current system or opt into the new one. Future recruits joining the military in 2018 and beyond would have no choice other than the new system.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: Proposed Changes to Military Retirement

military retirement

By Debbie Gregory.

Current service members are well aware that the military has been taking measures to cut its spending, in light of our nation’s current economic state. Every branch has seen noticeable reductions in force size, with tens of thousands of service members encouraged to enter early retirement or into involuntary separation. Now those who fought to remain in the military may see their retirement benefits reduced as proposals to overhaul the military retirement system mill about our nation’s capital. How will the changes affect those who serve twenty years in the military?

Traditionally, only service members who remain in the military for a full twenty years or more get retirement pensions, medical benefits for themselves and their dependents, as well as other benefits. Exceptions to this policy are those who have a service-related disability, those who received a medical retirement, and those who took the offered early, pro-rated retirement to help force reduction efforts. More than eighty percent of service members don’t meet the requirements for military retirement, and therefore, don’t receive pensions or benefits after they complete their tours of duty.

One of the proposed changes could benefit those who serve and don’t qualify for military retirement, as a proposed new model would offer service members a personal retirement savings account benefit, wherein the government would make annual contributions of up to six percent of their basic pay.

However, this proposed system complicates matters for service members who plan to make a career out of the military and retire with twenty years in. The new system calls for cutting the size of the current pension by twenty percent, an average of over $4,000 per year. To make up for that, the Department of Defense would open 401(k)-style retirement accounts. Funds placed into these accounts will not be available for withdrawal without a tax penalty before the service member reaches age sixty.

The proposed changes to military retirement also effect on when the service member can begin receiving their retirement pension. Under current policy, an individual who enlists at eighteen years old and retires after twenty years can begin collecting their retirement checks as soon as they retire at age thirty-eight. Under the new system, military retirees would have to wait until they are sixty to start receiving retirement pay.

The proposed changes to the retirement system are included in the 2016 defense authorization bill that is moving through Congress. Under that legislation, today’s troops would have about 18 months to make a decision, by 2017, on whether to stick with the old benefit or sign up for the new plan. Let us hope that our elected leaders do what is right when making decisions for our service members. Be sure to contact your representative and senators to make sure that they know how you want them to represent you.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit, the go to site.

Military Connection: Proposed Changes to Military Retirement: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: States With Highest Life Expectancy


Volunteering for America’s military provides service members with the opportunity to travel around the world, starting with our own great and beautiful country. When military members separate from active duty, often times they settle down in entirely different locations from where they originated or were stationed.

This is especially true for military retirees. With fifty states to choose from, there are so many factors that can be used to determine where Veterans will want to liveout their civilian years. Perhaps this compilation of states,listing the highest life expectancy, can be used to determine where you’ll want to settle down and collect your military retirement checks:

Utah has a life expectancy of 80.2 years. Its poverty rate of 12.7% is the fourteenth lowest in the country, and its obesity rate of 24.1% is fourth lowest. Utah is also home to world famous national parks, ski resorts and golf courses, so it can accommodate nearly every outdoorsman, no matter what their sport or hobby is.

New Jersey is tied for the eighth highest life expectancy at 80.3 years. Its poverty rate of 11.4% is the eighth lowest in the country and its obesity rate is twelfth lowest, at 26.3%.New Jersey has a large number of medical professionals living in the state, with 83 dentists and 143 general practitioners for every 100,000 residents. Whether your preference is historical sites, outdoor recreation or city living, the Garden State has it all.

New Hampshire also has a life expectancy of 80.3 years. The “Granite State” has the lowest poverty rate in the nation, at 8.7%, and its obesity rate is at 26.7% (16th lowest). The state’s motto of “Live Free or Die” is in line with many military Veterans’ way of thinking. The heavily forested lands make for a beautiful and peaceful location to “live free.”

Vermont was tied for the fifth highest life expectancy rate at 80.5 years. Its obesity rate was seventh lowest at 24.7%, and its poverty rate of 12.3% was thirteenth lowest in the nation. The “Green Mountain State” offers plenty of outdoor activities, yearround, and is a renowned ski and snowboard destination.

New York is also tied for the fifth highest life expectancy rate at 80.5 years. Whether you “want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep,” or are looking for more rural country in the eastern part of the state, New York, truly, has the best of both worlds.

Massachusetts is also tied for the fifth highest life expectancy rate at 80.5 years. The state’s obesity rate was the third lowest in the country at 23.6%, and its poverty rate was eleventh lowest at 11.9%. The “Bay State” had the nation’s highest concentration of general practitioners and dentists of any state, with 200.8 MD’s and 85.6 dentists for every 100,000 people.

California had the third highest life expectancy of any state at 80.8 years. Whether you’re wanting to live near beaches, mountains, deserts, forests or farmland, big cities, suburbs or rural areas, California has got it all.

Minnesota has the second highest life expectancy in the nation at 81.1 years. Plus the obesity rate is the tenth lowest at 25.5%, and the poverty rate is seventh lowest at 11.2%. There is year-round adventure to be had in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” including hunting, fishing, hiking, boating and many more outdoor activities.

Hawaii had the highest life expectancy in the country at 81.3 years. It also had the fifth lowest poverty rate at 10.8% and the second lowest obesity rate at 21.8%. Plain and simple Hawaii is paradise. There is plenty of beautiful scenery, with beaches, waterfalls, mountains and tropical plant life. The only problem with living in paradise is not having as equally beautiful places to vacation to.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit, the go to site.

Military Connection: States With Highest Life Expectancy: By Debbie Gregory