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Military Career Transition Success Story: Cathy Segal, APR

Strategic Communications Consultant
Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

MY TRANSITION FROM THE MILITARY

I tried to “demilitarize” my résumé by translating military jargon into terms applicable to the corporate world. For example, “downsizing” translates to “workforce cuts,” “major command” translates to “regional” or “functional headquarters,” “subordinate bases” are “field units,” “coworkers” are “colleagues.” I also attended an on-base résumé writing course to help get me started. The instructor had sample résumés and cover letters, and offered to review résumés before we submitted them.

I also generalized or eliminated events that were too far in the past. Being “retired” makes someone sound old right off the bat, so I stayed away from that term and structured my résumé to reveal my skills and experience while trying to make them sound fresh. I did this by eliminating any reference to time in my résumé’s summary, both directly (XX years of experience) or indirectly (“seasoned professional”).

I limited my résumé details to events of the most recent 10 years, and indicated earlier experience by combining everything prior to the 10-year point and summarizing it like this: Previous to 2003: Held various positions in internal information, media relations and community relations divisions at the Pentagon and several Air Force bases in the United States and overseas. Internal information included publication of a weekly base newspaper as a staff writer, editor or manager; developing local topics of interest for leaders to discuss at unit assemblies; and implementation of other tools to inform internal audiences. Media relations included all aspects of proactive and reactive involvement with the press.

The most transferrable skills were the ones that the hiring company wanted in an applicant! I was seeking a position in internal or corporate communications and kept my résumé relatable to the job for which I was applying. If I was applying for an internal communications position, I made brief mention of media or community relations experience if they were part of the job description; otherwise they were irrelevant and took up valuable room in the short space I had to attract their attention.

I kept a master résumé that I would alter for each application so that the basic information would remain the same but the focus would mirror the company’s desires. Experience needs to be relevant to them, so no matter how well I managed unit deployments, training or office equipment, those skills didn’t belong in my résumé unless the prospective position required them. I also saved my résumé under the name of the company or position for which I was applying so I could easily find it if I needed it for an interview.