By Michael NorrisMarch 9, 2012
Even if you've composed a resume for yourself hundreds of times, you could still benefit from the Army Career Alumni Program's resume writing course. Conducted monthly on Joint Base Myer-Henderson as part of ACAP's Transition Assistance Program, the course helps servicemembers transition from a military to civilian career.
The resume is an evolving document and what may have been acceptable in previous years, in terms of format, style and the information that should be included, may no longer meet the needs of current employers.
"The current trend is to put your security clearance [status] below your email address," states Aleshia Thomas-Miller, the Virginia Employment Commission instructor who teaches resume writing to separating servicemembers on JBM-HH. That's one useful tidbit among many Thomas-Miller disseminated March 8 in a class at the installation education center that focused on resume content and how it must be constructed to meet an employer's requirements.
"The resume is a marketing tool and the product is you," Thomas-Miller stated. "It's about how you can contribute to the employer's needs. All employment [listed] has to be relevant."
Thomas-Miller outlined four different types of resumes -- the chronological, functional, combination and targeted -- and explained the advantages and disadvantages of each. The chronological, which is preferred by employers, lists an individual's employment history in descending order, she said, whereas an objective resume prioritizes the individual's goals in securing a job.
The combination, as its name implies, blends these two formats, while the targeted resume is more narrowly focused on securing a specific job with a company.
She recommended itemizing no further back than 10 years in an employment history, adding, "Something from 15 years ago can be incorporated into a combination resume under [the skills heading] 'function.'"
Thomas-Miller warned against mentioning personal goals in the "objectives" section of a functional style resume. "The objective has to say what you can do for the employer," she emphasized.
"Resumes are always a work in progress," Thomas-Miller said. "There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all resume."
The instructor directed students to a website where job seekers could cut and paste verbiage from a job announcement or advertisement to create a word cloud identifying and prioritizing language that should be incorporated into a resume or cover letter submitted for that job.
Thomas-Miller put Soldiers at ease who felt they didn't have relevant skills when changing career paths. One student who had been a military chef didn't feel his background was applicable to other fields he might want to pursue.
"All skills are transferrable skills," Thomas-Miller said, explaining how being a chef was about more than cooking. "Market your administrative duties as a cook," she advised, citing such examples as staff supervisory duties, stockroom inventory and recordkeeping.
She urged the importance of specificity when listing accomplishments, telling students to use numbers -- specific cost savings, percentages, units of production -- when constructing bullet points on a resume.
Thomas-Miller provided information on the appropriate color and font choice for resumes, explaining how text size might vary, particularly if the submitted resume was "scannable" for submission via email. She told students how to convert the document to "plain text" in such instances and to email a copy to themselves as a test to ensure formatting didn't become scrambled in the process.
Make sure the email address provided on a resume is a seriously-minded business one, added William Marquez, a VEC representative assisting the class. He said he recalled seeing one resume with the words "jazzypants" used in the email address, a whimsical formation that could be a red flag to employers.
"You want a professional look and feel in a resume;" Thomas-Miller stressed, "something that's visually appealing."
"It's a very good class," said Maj. Susan Gannon, who works for the joint staff in Crystal City. "The whole job hunt is new to me. I'm out in June. I need a job to hold me over until I finish my degree [in education]."
Spc. Leon D'Souza, who works for the Army Component Accessioning Point, Defense Imagery Management Operations Center at the Pentagon, said one of the things he got out of the class was the importance of tailoring resumes to specific employers. "It seems so intuitive yet it hadn't occurred to before," he said. "Years ago it was sufficient to have one resume. It makes sense to have a number of templates to create targeted resumes."
The resume writing class is one of several monthly TAP classes designed to help military personnel gracefully transition into the civilian sector. For more information, call 703-696-0973.