From boots to cleanroom suits: A guide to succeeding in your civilian job search

Making your military experience accessible for civilian employers ensures you are giving yourself the best chance at succeeding in your job search. So how do you get started?

Lauren Percy · 03 Jul 2019

Sixty-eight percent of veterans say that landing a job that matches their military experience is one of the main challenges in finding a civilian employment opportunity.

However, over 80% of MOs, AFSCs, and NECs closely align to civilian job responsibilities – meaning that part of the problem lies in the connection between military and civilian responsibilities getting lost in translation. In a perfect world, the deciphering of this information would be a two-way street – however, the reality is that it’s not. So that means it’s down to you to bridge the gap and decode the military jargon.

Ultimately, making your military experience accessible for civilian employers ensures you are giving yourself the best chance at succeeding in your job search.


How do you get started?

As a military service member, a large part of your activity is dictated by someone else. Earning a promotion or a rewarding assignment is done through hard work and high performance. You’ll always end up where someone else needs you to be at the time they need you. While you may face unpredictable scenarios in your day-to-day, your progression path is pretty much laid out neatly in front of you.

In the civilian world of job-seeking, the path of opportunity is not always as clear-cut, and you find yourself having to prove your worth to potential employers who don’t have intimate understanding of your previous experience and learned skills. This is where your resume comes in.

In essence, your resume serves as a concise summary of your skills, experience, and career objectives.  It is the first thing that prospective employers will look at and is often the determining factor of whether or not you will progress to an interview stage later on.

If you need a resume to showcase your skills, qualifications, and accomplishments in order to persuade an employer to invite you to an interview – then how do you go about making the most effective impact?


Practical tips

1. Use your VMET as a cheat sheet

Get your VMET (Verification of Military Experience and Training) for a complete overview of your history as a military service member and use this information to compose your work history and achievements.

Your VMET document comprises of a history of your reported military experience and training courses as well as short descriptions of each. The primary purpose of the VMET document is to help you create a resume – so why not use it?


2. Use the job description as another cheat sheet

For the jobs you are applying for, the job description is practically a shopping list describing the ideal qualities in a future employee. Make use of the keywords included in the job description and connect them to your own skills and experiences.


3. Start by writing in the language you know

Unless you are a wizard or an all-knowing entity, you wouldn’t expect to be able to move to a foreign country and automatically know a new language.  You’d have to start with the basics, building out your knowledge over time. The same applies to military lingo and corporate buzzwords.

Write out your service experience and skills as you’ve always known them. Then modify what you have to better align with descriptions of a civilian work history. The next tip is a starter guide to translating specific terms!


4. Translate specific terms

This is the stage where you will have to move from military-speak to plain ol’ English.

While we’re not advocating for the removal of military information on your resume – it’s important to convey your accomplishments in ways that can be easily understood. In this case, that means making your resume civilian-friendly.

The table below includes a few simple terms to get you started:


military occupation specialty/classification

career specialty


hazardous conditions





service members




military personnel office

human resources


data collection and analysis




policy or guidelines



5. Make use of the resources available to you

Although the job search itself poses challenges, there is an inexhaustible number of resources at your fingertips that are readily available to you. Among these are military occupational code translators, professional resume writing services, and career guidance experts:

Check them out for further guidance on crafting the best first impression you can put on paper!


Final checklist

✔    Use your VMET as a cheat sheet.

✔    Write a resume that matches the job requirements.

✔    Translate military jargon into civilian terminology.

✔    Avoid acronyms and abbreviations. Write out the terms and, when necessary, explain them.

✔    Test drive your resume on a civilian friend or mentor.

Are you ready to transition from boots to cleanroom suits? Get in touch with our recruitment team and start the next step in your career.



Share these tips with the vets in your life :)

Making your military experience accessible for civilian employers ensures you are giving yourself the best chance at succeeding in your job search. So how do you get started?
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