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Pinpointing Transferable Skills from the Canadian Armed Forces to the Civilian Work Sector

Canadian Military to Civilian Career Transition TipsA career in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) can be very rewarding. Your specialized skills, training, respect for authority, organizational capabilities, resourcefulness and strong team orientation will surpass almost anything comparable in the civilian sector. After 10, 20, 30 or more years in uniform, naturally, you might be ready for a change. Without a doubt, military to civilian career transition is the toughest of all career transitions. Here are 7 tips to ease your transition into the corporate sector.

  1. Figure out what it is you would like to do. So often, I see people think that they should share every single thing they can do in a resume. This becomes very unfocused and doesn’t generate any interest from potential employers. The other part of this, is that just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it matters to a potential employer. Similarly, just because I also write humorous obituaries, limericks and language-based syllogism brain teasers, doesn’t mean it matters to my military transition clients. Everything written must support your job target.
  2. Once you know your target area, devise a marketing title. Create one indicative of what you want to do, not so much what you did in the military if you don’t want to do it anymore Possible samples include “Logistics Coordinator”, “Aerospace Quality Auditor” and “Bilingual Technical Trainer”.
  3. Everybody needs a keyword section. This gives the reader a quick overview of your areas of expertise. These little gems also form the basis for recruiters and HR staff seeking specialty skills in corporate applicant tracking system (ATS) databases and in online profiles such as www.Linkedin.com.

The more specific the better. Here are some sample keywords for a MWO Supply Tech:

  • Supply Chain & Logistics Coordination
  • Purchasing / Procurement
  • Materials Management
  • Contract Terms, Conditions & Negotiations
  • Distribution Management
  • Inventory Controls / Warehouse Operations
  • Request for Quote & Information (lRFQ / RFI)
  • Supplier / Vendor Sourcing & Management
  • Shipping & Receiving Management
  • Import / Export Operations
  • Transportation Coordination
  • Top Secret Security Clearance
  1. Share your job experience briefly, keeping it on a “need to know basis”. Don’t share every single thing you have ever done. If you are seeking a technical role, focus on that instead of ensuring the cadre, dress and deportment of your section. If administration is your job target, detail all of the types of reports and forms you complete. Instructional roles easily transfer to post-secondary educational facilities. Indicated that you taught several trade qualifications instead of “Weapons Training” or “Conduct after Capture”. (DO NOT USE MILITARY LINGO. SPELL IT OUT. FIGURE IT OUT. OTHER PEOPLE IN OTHER INDUSTRIES DO THIS AND YOU CAN TOO. ENOUGH SAID.)
  2. After the job overview, add a few bullets with achievements. Provide examples of how you improved processes, boosted efficiency, saved money or did a job function better that the last person who held your role. (My next blog post will showcase how to leverage your secondary duties.)
  3. Not a week goes by where a CAF member assures me they lack formal education. “I only have my grade 12”. Uh? Have a look at your MPRR. If your “Military Occupational Qualifications”, “Occupational Specialty Qualifications”, or “Training History” sections are missing, get to the Orderly Room ASAP and tell the RMS Clerk to get it updated. I don’t care if you’ve been told they are “worthless” or “don’t count” by someone of higher rank or title… they absolutely have value. Select the ones that are relevant for your civilian job target. They will not all be pertinent and that’s just fine. If this is the case, writing: “Military trades training and dozens of technical, electronics and leadership courses” is okay. (Unless you have a certification, don’t list technology training in the education section. Put the software programs in the dedicated technology section.)
  4. Please give yourself a dedicated technology section. List the software programs you know. The names are not so foreign that a civilian hiring authority will not be able to understand them. For example, you can list DRIMIS like SAP / Departmental Resource Management Information System (DRMIS). Someone wanting any sort of supervisory role will create value by sharing knowledge of Canadian Forces Personnel Appraisal System (CFPAS).

By applying these tips, you will market yourself in the best possible context to secure a civilian job.

Best of luck.

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