As cybersecurity seeks to close the talent gap, veterans represent a key potential talent pool. Regardless of their military specialties, veterans have an ingrained defensive mindset, which is difficult to teach in academia or the private sector.
As with all cybersecurity applicants, a quality resume often stands between veterans and an opportunity to prove themselves in an interview. Veterans have the additional challenge of representing their military experience in a compelling manner on their resumes. After all, the military doesn’t use resumes. Veterans are left to figure out how to write a quality resume after their military service—whether four years or twenty years—has come to an end.
The cybersecurity community would benefit from having more military veterans in its ranks. So let’s discuss resume advice for veterans. This is useful information for civilians as well. At some point in your career a friend, colleague or mentee with a military background may ask you for advice. Awareness of the challenges which veterans face, will better prepare you to support them.
Read the Civilian Resume Advice
At its core a resume is a simple concept. It’s a short document, which represents your professional and educational experience as it relates to a particular job. Most everyone finds it challenging to write a compelling resume. It’s a challenge you compress years (or decades) of your adult life into one or two pages. Read resume advice intended for civilians. It applies to veterans too. (Check out: Write a Resume That Makes Cybersecurity Recruiters Actually Want to Talk to You.)
Consider a Professional Resume Writer
Transitioning service members are effectively starting with a blank page, when writing their first resume. That can be rather daunting. Veterans just leaving the service, should consider using a professional resume writer who specializes in military-to-civilian resumes. They’ll basically take your military evaluation reports and craft that into a civilian resume. That will give you a good baseline for the iterative resume revisions, which are typical during the course of a private sector career.
Get Support from the Veteran Community
Having the support of one or two veterans with similar backgrounds is invaluable. It helps with two things in particular. First, you can get a copy of their resumes. Getting a feel for how veterans, who are already out of service, represent their military service will give you some perspective, when drafting your own resume.
Second, those veterans can help review iterations of your resume. You’re working based on your perception of how your resume will be received by prospective employers. They’ll be able to help you understand how your resume will actually be received by prospective employers. They can help you translate between the military and private sector.
Use of Military Titles
Some veterans will attempt to civilianize their military job titles. Doing so rarely has the intended effect. Furthermore, it’s a missed opportunity. The cybersecurity community tends to be fond of military veterans. You may have noticed that cybersecurity terminology borrows heavily from the military. Therefore, military titles carry a certain cache. Roles like Infantry Squad Leader and Signal Intelligence Company Commander sound cool. (Never forget the benefit of your military job sounding exciting to civilians.)
When you civilianize your job titles, you forgo the cache that accompanies those military titles. Those civilianized titles often won’t achieve the impact that you were hoping for anyway. Squadron Operations Officer sounds more impressive than “operations manager” or “project manager.” As well, those civilian titles probably don’t give the impression that you’re going for. The recruiter or hiring manager may not know exactly what a Squadron Operations Officer does, but that’s what the bullets are for.
Rank and Units
You never know when your resume is going to end up in the hands of a fellow veteran. The hiring manager could have served or they could simply pass your resume to a colleague who served to get their opinion. People in the know, should be able to make sense of your military career from your resume. It doesn’t take much space to include ranks and units.
You never know when it’ll make a difference and the reader says, “Oh, I know that unit” or “Cool, my parents were that rank.” Furthermore, hiring managers may ask a veteran colleague how impressive your military credentials are. It’s tough for them to give a good answer, you don't provide some actual military nomenclature.
Unfortunately, the military schools and training courses you attended don’t carry as much weight in the private sector as you may have been told. Generally, avoid including schools which don’t convey a degree (i.e., Associates, Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate) in your Education schedule. You can possibly make exceptions for training which overlaps exactly with the roles you’re applying for, but proceed with caution.
Officers and NCOs throughout the military usually have a slew of additional duties. These present resume fodder, which goes beyond your military specialty or primary role. If you have any additional duties, which relate to information technology or security, you can leverage those responsibilities to make your resume more compelling for cybersecurity roles.
So Many Roles, So Many Units
The military rotates people through roles faster than the private sector does. As such, you might find your resume filling up rather quickly. You don’t need to include bullets for every military role you’ve had (especially the older ones). This gives you the opportunity to selectively use resume bullets, which best support your cybersecurity applications. You can list jobs with no resume bullets, especially when you have multiple roles at a given duty station.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were “about 7% of the adult population who were veterans of the U.S. armed forces in 2018.” Despite veterans being a prime target for cybersecurity careers, there’s not necessarily a lot of material out there to help them get into the industry. If you know a veteran could use some help fine tuning their resume, please share this post with them.