TAO Self-help

Title:Write Resumes From a Perspective Greater than Yourself

Author:Rachael McDermott

Date:December 2013


I love steak. I've been known to put away a whole porterhouse — and for a 5' 4" petite woman, it's quite the sight. Mr. Civilian Chick gets a huge kick out of it. But it can't be some lame cheap cut of beef that's previously frozen, tough and lacking flavor. I'm talking corn-fed, dry aged prime steakhouse steak that you can sink your teeth into and leaves you wanting more, MORE until you've polished off the whole thing and need to be rolled home to ponder the depth of your gluttony, sloth and whatever other deadly sins you've racked up. But this isn't my point. My point here is to discuss how to give your resume that same bite, that je ne sais quoi, that substance and impact that will pique an employer's interest and leave them wanting more. Ok, no one's resume is really THAT earth shattering. But they can be enhanced and deepened by taking a higher level, bird's eye perspective of yourself. Create depth through new heights if you will. Our individual understandings of ourselves can be so limited that it's useful to seek out greater perspectives for clarity on our significance in a larger scheme. Wow, I just went from gluttony and sin to deep thoughts all at once!

When creating your resume, take some time to step out of yourself and write from an outside perspective. Imagine how a general, your commanding officer or even your team mates view your role. They'd take a bird's eye view perspective and see how you fit into the unit's overall operation and successes. Imagine your commanding officer briefing his commanding officer on what you did. He wouldn't present all the minutia of your day-to-day tasks that are in your official MOS description. Similarly, when my boss briefs her boss on a career fair I organized, she focuses on the overall results and how the event's success fits into the office's goals (e.g. encouraged participation and built relationships with many new employers that are of strategic significance to the university, impacted over 50% of the student body by increasing student participation, etc.).

This isn't to say that you shouldn't also include your duties. Of course you should as they might reflect those keywords, skills and experiences from the job description that are essential to getting your resume past online application systems. But also remember to include achievements and impacts that show the scope and scale of what you did.

In order to help you with this, here's a few key things to remember:

  • Explain what you did simply — I'm sure you understand your military job. But think of how you'd explain it to your grandmother to make sure it is clear and easy enough for civilians to quickly grasp what you did.
  • Explain your role from a bird's eye view — Rather than get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks, think of your entire time in a particular role. What were some key things you did? From the time you started the role to the time you left, what was different/better? What was the scope and scale of your job? Did it impact an entire battalion or brigade? Was it involved in all aspects of your unit?
  • Answer the question "So what?" when describing what you did — I heard this in a recent LinkedIn group discussion and it seemed like such a simple and profound way of thinking of the impact you had. So, you did a particular task...so what? Why was it necessary in your unit? What impact did you have? This can lead you to consider those important achievement statements. Even if you don't have hard numbers to quantify, what was the positive outcome of your work? How did something change for the better? How was it new? How did it show initiative? How did it fit into the unit's overall operations? How many people did it affect? What were you recognized for?
  • Consider your medals and performance evaluations — If you received a medal, what were the circumstances behind it? Just stating you received an Army Achievement Medal won't tell a civilian hiring manager what you are able to do. It just says you were really good at doing something. Also, read your performance evaluations as they are written by officers with that high-level perspective.

Remember, resumes aren't meant to cover every single, solitary thing you've ever done. Just showcase highlights to get an interview, where you can elaborate on details. Cut down on the minutia!

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