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Converting Your Military Experience for the Civilian World

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice

Smoothly transitioning from active-duty service to seeking a civilian job requires having a plan and utilizing all available resources. Throughout my military career, I saw a lot of servicemembers who left the military without any real non-military goals, while I observed others who developed a comprehensive plan to prepare themselves for the civilian workforce.

Seeking a Civilian Job Requires Effective Communication about Your Military Experience

When you seek employment after military service, it is essential to communicate your military experience. Military experience often provides both technical skills and practical work experience, but it is also important to relay to prospective employers the discipline, ethical standards, and strong work ethic typically developed during military service.

One strategy is to translate common military terms into phrases that may be more clearly understood by people at civilian organizations. Oftentimes, human resources employees have never served in the military so they’re not familiar with its jargon.

CareerOneStop offers a useful list of military terms and jargon that can be translated into civilian terms. Here are some examples:

Military TermNon-Military Equivalent
Officer Evaluation Report (OER) or Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation Report (NCOER)Performance appraisal
MissionResponsibility, task, objective or job
ReconnaissanceData collection, survey or analysis
Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC), Watch Captain or Petty Officer of the WatchSupervisor, manager or coordinator
Basic trainingBasic skills course
Action OfficerAnalyst

Show How Your Military Experience Could Be Useful for a Non-Military Organization

During the job search, it is especially useful to describe how your military skills can be useful for a civilian organization. One quality that the military and civilian workforce have in common is their focus on efficiency and being results-driven. A resume or a job interview offers you the opportunity to show how your technical expertise in a specific skill, developed during your military experience, fosters efficiency and delivers results.

Writing a Non-Military Resume

On your resume, you can list any credentials and certificates earned in the military that would fit a civilian job for which you’re applying. For example, if you have a welding certification as the result of your military experience, use that credential in your resume.

When you’re writing a resume, avoid common military acronyms and technical terms that a non-military hiring manager wouldn’t understand. Your resume should focus on the specific skills required for a job, clearly show how your military experience has prepared you for that job and work well with applicant tracking systems. The resume can also explain what sets you apart from the competition.

Consider Seeking a Position with Companies That Specialize in Hiring Veterans

As you seek employment after military service, consider focusing on organizations that specialize in hiring veterans. The people at these companies are more likely to be familiar with the process of transitioning out of the military to the civilian job market.

Be Properly Prepared for Interviews at Civilian Companies

Civilian interviews are much different than the oral boards and interviews used in the military. It is essential to be fully prepared for the civilian interview by reviewing a company’s website, social media sites, press releases and other informational material. Hiring managers typically examine job candidates to determine if they are a good cultural fit for the company, in addition to ensuring that those candidates have the right experience.

In interviews, strive to be comfortable, relaxed and professional. Maintain good eye contact and display enthusiasm about the job for which you’re interviewing. For current AMU/APU students and alumni, the University offers many free services that include resume reviews and mock interviews.

Transitioning Out of the Military Offers Many Challenges

Transitioning out of the military offers many challenges, so have a plan well in advance of your end-of-service date. Ensure you have adequate time to research current job market trends and be fully prepared to leverage your training and experience for interviews with civilian organizations.

Jarrod Sadulski

Dr. Sadulski is an Associate Professor within our School of Security and Global Studies. He has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. Jarrod can be reached through his website at for more information.

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