Tips and tricks for veteran students: creating a ‘civilian-friendly’ resume

Cierra Bussard joined the Office of Career Development in July 2017 as a Career Advisor and is pursuing her master’s degree  in College Student Affairs at NSU. She loves working with all populations of students but has a particular focus on helping veteran students meet their career goals.  

Writing a resume for the first time can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. As a veteran, your military experience provides many transferable skills that make you a competitive candidate; it’s all about writing your resume in a way that is understandable to an employer and shows your professional value. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind when writing your resume:

Focus on transferable skills

Your past military experience may seem drastically different from a civilian career, but these experiences give you valuable skills that can transfer over to any career. These transferable skills can manifest in the form of communication, leadership, analytical, organizational, technical, interpersonal and personal skills, examples of which can be found at For every past position held, brainstorm what transferable skills you gained from each one.

Avoid military jargon

It’s important to be as specific as possible on your resume because an employer might not understand military jargon such as unit, squad, or acronyms like EAS, which stands for “end of active service.” Just as everything in life is situationally dependent, so is the way in which you structure your resume for each particular audience.

For example, detailing your experience as a platoon sergeant is important, but an employer may not necessarily know what that position entails. One trick is to compare  your past experience to a position that has similar responsibilities. Explaining  your past position in civilian terms will help the employer not only understand your role in the military, but also see how it makes you qualified for the position you are currently applying for.

Military terms like “squad” or “unit” can in turn be changed to “team.” A rule of thumb is to have non-military friends and family members read over your resume and circle anything they are unsure of. Also, take advantage of your resources that can help match your military experience to civilian skills and occupations like, which serves as a convenient website for military translations.

Only highlight relevant experiences

You may have held many positions while in the military, but it might not be necessary to list every single experience. It’s important to always cater your resume toward the job or internship you are applying for. If you have four pages of military experience, an employer will not take the time to read through each position to see if it fits what they are looking for. Employers don’t want to take extra time to find out if you are qualified; they want to know right away.

For example, if you are looking for a career within finance or human resources your experience as a personnel specialist might be more relevant than your combat experience. But, if you are looking for a job within criminal justice or cyber security, combat experience may be more relevant.

Sell yourself

While it’s important to focus on your responsibilities and duties, make sure you are still highlighting your achievements. Don’t sell yourself short. Your accomplishments within the military are extremely important. If you were awarded a medal or increased retention rates, mention it. Listing measurable results is crucial; just always make sure it’s understandable to an employer and relevant to the job you are applying for.

Get involved

If your resume only has military experience, think about joining a club or organization on campus that you can add to your resume. It’s a great way to make connections, and having experience within the university shows you are well rounded and have put in effort to adjust to civilian life. There are over 100 clubs and organizations on campus. Find one that interests you the most or one that complements your degree. A lot of clubs and organizations even have positions open, like as a vice president, secretary or treasurer, that would help you continue to develop your leadership skills in a different way. You can even join the NSU’s Student Veteran organization or stop by the Student Veteran Resource Center to learn more.

Make an appointment with a career advisor

One of the first steps in creating your resume is to make an appointment with a career advisor at the respective Horvitz or DeSantis offices.

Drop-in appointments with career advisors will also be available in the Student Veteran Resource Center located in Rosenthal Building in room 218 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Thursday starting on Jan. 18.


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