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Use "Keywords" on your Resume and Stand Out


Transitioning from a military career to civilian life sometimes feels like you are entering another universe. Your resume needs to be current, modern and tailored to today’s civilian job market.

Today’s civilian world is “keyword” heavy. What is a keyword? A keyword is a word that search engines or people look for when they are skimming a document to decide if you are the right applicant for a job. It would be terrible to spend hours and hours on your resume and receive only a fraction of the interviews you deserve because your resume has been cut to the reject pile because you haven’t used the correct keywords. This happens every day and it’s important that you don’t let it happen to you.

Coming out of the military, you have a lot of experience that many employers find desirable. Today’s soldiers are smart, tech savvy, courageous team players that are good at getting things done. Use the right keywords to highlight your training, education, skills and career experience. The correct keywords are not military acronyms and you will probably have to spend some time to determine how to correctly translate your military titles and skills into civilian English.

Start with a copy of your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) and use it as the basis for your resume. Get help from your Transition Assistance Center’s counselors and civilian friends and family. Use all of these people to help you translate your military titles and duties and make sure that you have cleansed your resume of military jargon that doesn’t make sense in a civilian environment. You want to use words that command authority and sound knowledgeable. Use keywords that are specific and direct. Here are some examples of words to include:

For titles: Manager, supervisor, assistant supervisor, coordinator, facilitator, team leader, technician, advanced technician, programmer, program leader, analyst, trainer, developer.

Words to use when describing your general skills: Advanced, troubleshooting, problem solving, problem management, implemented, coordinated, facilitated, led, oversaw, developed, managed, taught, supervised, technical training, built, broadened, changed, centralized.

When using your keywords, you will want to individualize them for the jobs you want the most. In the military it is very common to do many different kinds of jobs so that you can understand how a whole division works. The military does this on purpose so that it can advance the best and brightest into supervisory posts, and they will have a very broad idea of how an entire unit is suppose to operate. When you sit down to write your resume, you will want to write several different versions emphasizing different keywords around a set of skills in each resume. Maximizing your keywords in addition to tailoring your multiple resumes and individualizing your cover letters should get you noticed and get you an interview.

Often keywords are industry and knowledge specific. You will have to do some research on current job posts to determine exactly which keywords fit the jobs you are looking for. There are many books and web resources to help you choose the right keywords for your resume and help you to stand out in a crowd and get noticed.

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