Leaving the Forces – Your Guide to Civilian CVs

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Leadership, resilience, adaptability, dependability, a range of interpersonal skills, integrity, teamwork, compassion, the ability to perform under pressure – the list goes on and on.

For many service leavers, a major challenge is being able to write about those skills in a way that links up with job opportunities on civvy street.

Your CV is not a be-all and end-all when it comes to finding work, but it’s still a key to unlocking a wealth of career opportunities. Here are some useful tips to help you showcase your value. 

Watch Your Language

Consider who’s doing the reading. Civilian employers might have a hard time understanding military terminology, so it’s important to translate your skills and experiences into easily accessible language.

This doesn’t just mean dropping your acronyms/jargon – it applies to your role as well. For example, if you were in the Logistics Corps, you may want to say you were responsible for effective supply chain management in dynamic and challenging environments.

If you’re unsure of how to translate specific experience, you can always try using ChatGPT for support. For example, you can provide it with the prompt: ‘Can you translate my experience of performing field surgery under fire into civilian language for my CV,’ and it will translate it into a way that works for your civvy CV.

This may be able to help you form a better understanding of what language to use.

It’s worth remembering that your CV should be tailor-made for the job you’re applying for. The blanket approach to sending out CVs won’t yield the best results, even if you're applying for the same roles. Every company is different, making the research phase of your job hunt essential.

Ask yourself:

·       What experience do I have that’s relevant to the role I’m applying for?

·       Why do I want this role in particular?

·       Do I have any specific qualifications or security clearances that make me a good fit for this position?

·       Are they a military-friendly employer?

·       What initiatives/policies do they have in place (if any) to support veterans in their workforce?

If you’re aware of any veterans who currently work at the company you’re applying for, it’s well worth reaching out.

What to Include

1.An Overview Statement – a summary of your skillset is a superb way to introduce your skills in a way that connects with the role you’re applying for. For example: ‘Highly skilled Royal Engineer with over 10 years of experience in infrastructure, logistics, and construction. A proven leader with a track record of delivering projects under pressure in challenging environments. Committed to safety, superior quality and teamwork.’

2.Your Skills and Traits – this section should spotlight your key skills, so ideally, you’ll want to make sure that they relate to the role you’re targeting. For example, if you’re applying for a customer service role, skills like ‘excellent verbal communication, empathic and approachable, highly skilled in both independent and teamworking situations.’

3.Quantifiable Experience – numbers speak volumes. If you were a squad leader, you should include how many people you managed in your team. Similarly, if you worked on expensive military equipment, you could frame it as ‘Responsible for maintaining and repairing equipment with of over X’

4.Your Education – Any certifications, workshops, courses, or licenses you obtained during your time in the military are essential inclusions. E.g., a heavy goods license, first aid training, weapons certifications, CPR training etc (make sure to list them in a separate section titled certifications).

For those of you struggling to phrase your skills, consider using this formula for each of your points:

1.      Action (e.g. effectively managed critical supply chains)

2.      Purpose (to ensure the timely delivery of materials and equipment)

3.      Result (resulting in a 50% increase in facility productivity)

What Not to Include

It’s best to steer clear of packing every little detail you can think of onto your CV. This will only detract from the good stuff, and it’s not likely to catch a recruiter’s eye. Avoid using a wall of text, and instead, break down the key responsibilities for your role in clear and concise sections.

It’s important to place the focus on you and not your team. If you were part of a team that achieved something incredible, focus on your part in the process.

Speaking of focusing on yourself, there’s no need to include too much personal information – your age, ethnicity, place of birth, marital status, hobbies (save this for your LinkedIn profile) and any protected characteristics can be left off. Likewise, you don’t have to include any sensitive information that you wouldn’t want to put next to your name, including reference details.

Try and keep it to a two-page maximum. Most CVs can fit nicely on one page, and while there’s no definitive rule, a two-page maximum is typically the length to aim for. Any longer, and you risk losing the attention of the reader or obscuring your achievements.

Support from Ex Military Careers

Making the transition from the forces to a civilian career can feel like an impossible journey, but it doesn’t need to be. There is every reason to be proud of your identity as a veteran, and there are countless avenues to explore with the unique traits and experiences you have. Sometimes, you just need someone to show you where to look.

Ex-Military Careers can connect you with an opportunity that suits your goals, and we can help you make the most of it too. If you’re hoping to connect with a supportive, inclusive community, contact us today.