En Route: A Career Blog

The Importance of Translating Military Jargon Into Civilian Language

AUTHOR: Darlene Zambruski
CATEGORY: , ,
POSTED: September 9, 2009 at 6:12 am

There is a big difference between, “Provide mission critical technical services to the battalion for the tracking of all cargo material in a combat zone” and “Direct IT services to support a 150-person operation, tracking all cargo materials in a demanding work environment.”

Military Jargon is Often Incomprehensible to Civilians

Job responsibilities in the military can easily translate to corporate positions; you just need to overcome the language barrier and jargon. The process of translating military jargon into civilian language is essentially the same as translating a resume from Spanish into English…it is a different language. For example, common words in military resumes include command, battalion/soldiers, and mission. These can translate into civilian terminology as supervised, team, and organizational goal. Hiring managers may not understand the significance of your experience when they read resumes with military jargon stating leadership of defensive techniques, combat readiness, weapons storage or combat zone operations.

In order to increase your marketability for a civilian job, break down your experiences and re-word the content to match the language of your target position.

Translate the Jargon for Your New Audience

The first step is to break down job duties into individual tasks to identify key strengths. To accomplish this task, read job postings, company job descriptions, and industry resumes located on job boards and industry association websites to match your experiences to civilian jobs. A great resource is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook located online at: www.bls.gov/OCO. This site provides overviews of job positions with detailed information on the nature of the work, language used, and education needed. The second step is to go through your experience and transition your resume using civilian language found in the job postings and company descriptions. Some responsibilities could relate to equipment maintenance, international relations, budget management, team training and leadership, personnel management, and logistics management.

Accomplishments are critical to the resume whether they are for the military or corporate/civilian positions. Be sure to highlight your accomplishments in the resume and quantify the results based on impact to the organization.

In the end, one easy way to test your resume is to have a non-military person review the resume and let you know the verbiage or wording they do not understand.