Writing a civilian resume after the ADF

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If you are leaving the Australian Defence Force, writing a civilian resume to apply for non-Defence jobs will be one of the first steps in your job search. But how can you make your ADF background relevant to the civilian employment market, in terms that a recruiter or employer can recognise and value?

A resume (or CV) is a short statement and history of your training, qualifications, skills and experiences. It enables you to communicate your skills and achievements to potential employers, showing them what it is you can do for them that no one else can do. The following tips will help you to write a powerful and relevant civilian resume.

Be clear about your target job

To effectively market yourself for a civilian job after you’ve left the ADF, you need a clearly defined goal – your ideal role. Research occupations to identify the right career path for you. Consider talking to a Defence career transition coach if you’re not sure what you want to do.

Make your civlian resume relevant

A resume’s purpose is to answer the employer’s question, “What can this person do for me?” To do this effectively, research your target role and ask yourself what skills, experiences and aspects of your Defence background are the most relevant. Read job advertisements to identify the types of skills and experience required.

Identify your key skills

Most employers will recognise that former Defence members have very useful skills, honed during their time in service. But if you are uncertain what these skills are, you risk failing to sell them to potential employers. 

Remembering what you did on a daily basis can help pinpoint the key skills you used regularly. This could have involved:

  • Planning
  • Risk analysis
  • Resource management
  • Information processing
  • Decision-making 
  • Reporting or briefing seniors
  • Stakeholder communication
  • Negotiation.

Demonstrate how you can transfer these skills

It is important to demonstrate how the skills picked up during your military career can make a smooth transition into civilian life. Some military jobs, such as mechanics and engineers, have elements that can be easily converted to civilian jobs.

But if your role doesn’t readily convert, there will likely still be many skills directly transferable from your Defence background. Budgeting, for example, is a critical skill for managers in most civilian companies.

It’s also worth emphasising practical, intangible or soft skills that resonate in the civilian workplace, such as leadership, discipline, use of IT and communications equipment, safety compliance and teamwork. Incorporating these skills into your civilian resume will showcase them to potential employers. Use strong action words to make a positive impression.

Remember your duties

Use job descriptions to map your specific role responsibilities. Sites like Defencejobs.gov.au have comprehensive overviews of roles.

Examples could include:

  • Led a 20-strong infantry team, providing tactical and technical guidance. 
  • Communicated urgent orders and directions effectively to a team of 150 cross-disciplinary personnel.
  • Assisted in the performance of reconnaissance operations.
  • Operated and maintained equipment worth $1.5m.
  • Forecasted and adjusted decisions in a high-pressure environment.
  • Supervised receipt, storage, and issue of ammunition.
  • Supervised construction projects over five sites.

If you’ve held numerous ranks and duties, choose the ones within the last 10 years with the most responsibilities relevant to the position for which you are applying.

Showcase your accomplishments

Your resume should be more than a list of your job duties. Highlight your achievements. No doubt these will be varied but use this to your advantage. Your PAR documentation will give you an overview of what you were doing and your key accomplishments.

Try to use measurable outcomes to demonstrate the importance of your achievements, for example:

  • Reduced training time from 26 weeks to 24 weeks.
  • Increased retention rate by 12% by focusing on training, team building and recognition programs.
  • Developed a patient database that tracked records, medication, appointments and status. This enabled the completion of 300+ medical evaluations within a reduced timeframe.

Highlight desirable training and qualifications

Military training in Australia is some of the finest in the world. Qualifications and training in occupational health and safety, equal employment opportunity, equity and diversity and quality assurance are often transferable to the job market. This knowledge is highly desirable to civilian employers and will set you apart from other candidates.

Although it is likely employers will not understand the relevance of some of your training, often it can be fitted to different scenarios with outcomes that can be measured. However, only include technical training and qualifications if relevant to the position your applying for, such as in the transport or mining industries.

Discard irrelevant information

Your resume should be kept to a maximum of four pages. Discard any information that will not be of interest to the employer. As you decide which information to include, ask yourself: “Will a potential employer care about this experience?” Only include content that will help you secure an interview.

Certain things do not belong on a civilian resume. This includes any unrelated military awards, training and qualifications.

If there are a number of job options you could apply for, create a different resume for each role. Don’t make the mistake of creating one that is too general to be effective.

Avoid military jargon – use plain English

Most HR managers and recruiters don’t have a services background so won’t understand the language used by ADF personnel. Describe your job titles, duties, achievements and training in a way that makes sense to them. So, instead of saying you’re a ‘Platoon Sergeant’, say you’re a ‘Team Leader’. HR people know what a Team Leader does in an organisation, so you’re speaking the same language.

List your ‘military promotion courses’ as ‘management courses’ with a brief explanation of the topics covered. For example, ‘Corporal Promotion Course’ becomes ‘Middle Management Course’ and the topics include: ‘Leadership; Delegation; Motivation of Personnel’.

Refer back to job advertisements for help substituting civilian keywords for military terms. Show your resume to a friend who has no military background and ask them to point out terms they don’t understand.

Be proud of your Defence background

Your military experience is an asset and should be marketed as such in your civilian resume. Many employers realise the value of employing former Defence members. Attributes honed in the military include dedication, leadership, teamwork, positive work ethic and cross-functional skills are highly desirable.

Be clear about the value you bring to an organisation as a result of your time with the ADF. That said, it’s a good idea to leave out the details of any actual live combat as this experience might not relate to your ideal role.

Select a resume style

Choose a style of resume that works best for you, that highlights your skills and experience and emphasises your strengths.

Need further help with writing a defence to civilian resume? We have a team of professional resume writers based across Australia, including Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth, who are skilled at developing CVs for former Defence members.

Call Glide Outplacement on 07 3162 2976 or use our online contact form and ask about our resume writing services.