Leaving the forces can be daunting – after all, you’ve been working in a unique environment and the civilian sector seems to have no direct correlation to your current role.
However, your skills and experience will be desirable on the outside if you market yourself well to recruiters. That means developing a CV that immediately shows your value, in terms that a recruiter can understand.
Here are some essential tips to help you write an impressive forces-to-civilian CV.
When you leave the military or the emergency services you may not have a specific career path in mind. That’s fine, but do remember that the CV will need to be tailored to the type of role you’re applying for.
If you’re not quite decided yet, create a master CV containing all of your skills and achievements and then delete irrelevant information every time you make a new application.
If you’re applying for a close protection role, for example, you will need to highlight your defensive driving skills, your experience in risk management and your knowledge of security.
If, however, you’re wanting to work in project management, your experience in risk management will still be valid but you can remove the defensive driving and security in favour of your skill in meeting deadlines and managing a budget.
Although your job title may not equate directly to a corporate position, you will have gained many transferable skills that are highly sought after in both the public and private sectors.
Try to provide concrete examples of when you have used each skill, so that an employer can see immediately how you can contribute to their business. Instead of saying you’re ‘calm under pressure’, say that you ‘made sound decisions in a hostile environment, resulting in successful project delivery with zero loss of assets’.
Don’t forget the additional experience you’ve gained that is not necessarily in your job description – international work, physical fitness and diplomacy are all desirable in the civilian sector.
Acronyms that come as second nature to you can leave civilian recruiters baffled.
Things like 2IC, MISPER, SQN and IED mean little unless you’re in the know, so always either spell out the meaning in full or, even better, find a civilian equivalent term. For example, instead of using ‘2IC’, write ‘Second in Command’ or ‘Deputy Team Leader’.
Recruiters with no knowledge of the structure of the armed forces or emergency services may struggle to equate your rank with a civilian job title.
Converting ‘Lieutenant’, ‘Lance Corporal’, ‘Sergeant’ or ‘Chief Inspector’ to a civilian equivalent which better describes your actual role can help recruiters to understand the level you were working at.
Armed forces and emergency service personnel have frequently completed extensive training.
When deciding which courses to include on a CV, firstly remove any that will be irrelevant outside the forces (bespoke IT applications, specific military equipment and so on). Also remove any that will be of no use in your next position so that the CV is tailored to your target job.
Some training is desirable in any workplace – for example, First Aid or soft skills – just remember that your experience should dominate your CV rather than your training.
If the list is getting out of control, simply stating ‘Full list of courses available on request’ is sufficient, but try to be ruthless in selecting key courses before you resort to this.
Awards will always be viewed positively, just be careful about which awards you include and how much detail you add. The awards you get just for turning up (Queen’s Jubilee Medal, anyone?) need not be included.
Others can add a valuable insight into your achievements and work ethic, but try not to devote more than one line to each medal. The title of the medal, date and reason for award (‘For good conduct’, ‘For professionalism and tenacity’, etc.) is sufficient.
When you’re happy that you’ve transformed your forces CV into a civilian CV, give it to an actual civilian – preferably one working in the sector you’re trying to access – to check for you.
They will be able to point out anything that’s too forces-focused and maybe even suggest some industry keywords to include. Finally, don’t mention live combat situations directly – that’s too much information.