Transitioning Soldiers should polish their resume writing skills
May 23, 2013
SAN ANTONIO (May 23, 2013) -- One of the most important tasks you will accomplish during your Army Career and Alumni Program counseling is to create a resume that captures who you are in a way that will make prospective employers want to know you better.
It sounds easy, right? But the hardest part about writing a resume is staring at that blank page, knowing in your gut what you want to communicate, but not able to find the words. It happens to everyone, but it doesn't have to. If you do your homework and a lot of soul-searching before you attend your first ACAP counseling, you should have a foundational understanding of what you want to do after you have completed your term of service.
"This is critical. In order to convince employers that you are good at what you do, you have to know, and be able to explain, what you want to do, what you can do, what you have done successfully in the past, and how your efforts will add value to the employer's bottom line," said Mitchell Lee, transition services coordinator for the U.S. Army Installation Management Command Plans Directorate (G3).
Your session with the Department of Labor instructor will go much easier and leave you with a better product if you have addressed these crucial issues by putting your thoughts on paper prior to your first session. The DOL is only responsible for helping you develop a draft resume in a style of your choice. In fact, you will want to take it further than that--probably even creating multiple resumes with different information to target just the kinds of employers you seek.
"As you think about what you want to do, think about what image you wish to project, and how your experiences and talents relate to your current aspirations." Lee said. "Your own situation will shape what information you include and what format you choose to build your resume."
When writing your resume, it's important to remember what a resume is for. It's not an autobiography that details your entire life history. It's not a tell-all. A private-sector resume is no more than two pages long. It includes, in truncated form, only the vital nuggets that will shine in the screener's eyes. The resume is intended to secure the interview, and it could very well be competing with a couple hundred other resumes. That means the selecting official has probably handed this huge stack of paper to a subordinate and told him or her, "reduce this pile to 20," based on factors such as education or very narrow experiences that may or may not help you. The resume is intended to survive that brutal first cut.
Having considered what information you want to include, the next decision is what format to use. This is another important decision because the resume will be your introduction to a prospective employer and, as with all first impressions; there are no second chances.
"If the employer likes what he or she sees on your resume, you might have the opportunity to make a second impression, on a job interview, so the stakes are high," Lee said.
So, how do you choose which resume format is best tailored for your line of work?
The three most commonly used formats are the chronological resume, the functional resume, and the combination resume.
The chronological resume is probably the most familiar one with most military "transitioners" because service records are maintained in a similar manner. This format lists previous jobs or assignments in reverse chronological order (most recent job first). This format is best to use when you are trying to demonstrate a history of steady upward career accession. Its primary objective is to attain access to the next higher rung on the career ladder. If you are changing careers, your experiences might not line up so neatly, and a chronological resume might not be the most effective way to present your professional growth.
A functional resume is a good format to use if you are changing careers. Although you may not have an employment history in the field in which you are seeking a new job, you presumably do have relevant skills you have acquired through other experiences, including Military Occupation Specialty (MOS), on-the-job training and skill identifiers. Transferable skills presented by way of a functional resume allow you to highlight skills and ability over actual jobs.
The potential down side of a functional resume is that it does not provide for your chronological military history. This may arouse the suspicions of the person reviewing your resume who will want to know something about your employment history. A combination resume will solve this problem.
A combination resume is exactly what some transitioning Soldiers need. It is a hybrid of a functional resume and a chronological one, so if you are not sure what path you are going to take you have a combination resume to start with. You can also use the combination format if your military history includes only one place of employment, but you spent a significant amount of time there and your job duties were very diverse, meaning deployment, special duties and on-the-job training. It lets you stress the various skills you attained through that hands-on experience, but still provides for your military record.
There are multitudes of books and other resources about resume development in the context of distilling your career goals and building and maintaining a lasting career network. Your ACAP office should have many of those, or at least be able to provide recommendations.
Ok, now that you have at least 12 months to prepare for transition, let's get started on your resume. Don't forget to include all of your certifications, licenses, awards and honors, leadership schools, and all skill identifiers. Just remember to state all of it in terms that your audience will understand.
For more information contact the IMCOM ACAP coordinator at 210-466-0123.