"Help! I’m leaving for Civvy Street!"
So you’re ready to cast off the comfort blanket of military life, move back to the civilian world and take the next step in your career.
You’ve probably decided where you and the family want to settle, you may have even bought or rented a house, but when it comes to applying for jobs and writing a CV to get you those all-important interviews, do you know where to start?
How confident are you in selling your skills and abilities to show how you can really add value to a company?
If this isn’t something you’re used to doing and you’re feeling like a fish out of water, here are career expert Sian Richardson's Top 10 Tips:
1. First things first – decide on the type of job you want. There’s no point spending days, weeks, or months desperately trying to write your CV if you haven’t even decided on the type of job you want to target. You’ll just end up with reams of information which may not even be relevant.
2. Generic CVs don’t work! Having assessed and short-listed more CVs than I care to remember during my years as an HR Manager and recruitment specialist, the last thing I would want landing on my desk would be a CV which didn’t very quickly make an impact. It’s critical to get steer away from the usual clichés and get across why you’d be the ideal candidate and how you meet the role requirements, in the first half page of your CV. Fail to do so and you run the risk of your CV coming face to face with the shredder.
3. Presentation, presentation, presentation! Nobody wants to read a poorly presented CV. Imagine reading a book or report with a small, badly chosen font, fancy borders, misaligned text and poor spelling. A concise, well-written, well laid out CV where the information flows well and key details are easy to find and you are more likely to grab attention and get the recruiter on your side.
4. Write for your audience. Tell the reader what they want to know – no waffle and definitely no flowery language. Make sure the CV flows and builds a clear picture of the skills, capabilities and experience you have which is relevant to the role and sector for which you are applying. If it isn’t relevant, leave it out.
5. Mind your language. We’re all familiar with the terminology used in the military to describe certain jobs, levels of authority, departments and equipment. Try not to use these unless you are sure the reader will understand what you mean. Your CV says you have great communication skills – use them! Write about your work in a way which paints a clear picture about what you do, where you work and what type of environment in which you work. Avoid mentioning rank. A civilian wouldn’t put in their CV that their job is a Level 4C Project Manager. They’d call themselves a Senior Project Manager. If you are an SQMS, you are a Warehouse Manager Etc.
6. What makes you so different? I remember once recruiting to fill a part-time Customer Service role. I received 300 CVs. Yes, 300! So, any CVs which were poorly presented, had spelling or grammatical errors, or just didn’t hit the mark in the first 30 seconds went straight in the shredder! Recruiters and HR Managers are busy people. They just won’t have the time or inclination to read the whole CV and hunt for that snippet of information which shows how brilliant you are. They aren’t mind-readers either. It’s your job to make it crystal clear what sets you apart from all the other candidates who want the job
7. Beat the Bots. Many of the larger recruitment companies and employers use ATS software to sift and select CVs. So chances are if you’ve uploaded your CV to a jobs board it will first be scanned, parsed and sifted by ATS. When searching for suitably qualified and experienced applicants to fill a vacancy, or when sifting applications, they’ll use keywords. CVs which have the right keywords in the text are the ones which will usually come to the top of the search results.
8. Content is King! If I had a pound for every CV I’ve read which started with ‘I am a highly motivated…..’. Avoid the usual expressions, never start a bullet point with ‘Responsible for…’ and don’t copy and paste from a job description. Bring your CV to life. Use active language and write about how you used the skills the employer is seeking and how YOU made a difference.
9. Value-added! Think carefully about what the company is really looking for in their ideal applicant and show how you can add real value. Think your achievements and successes are just part of the job? Well, think again. They could just be the very thing that gives you the edge over another candidate with the same qualifications and a similar background and be the deciding factor when it comes to being short-listed for an interview or offered the job.
10. You will survive! There is life outside the military. It may be different and you may take time to settle in, but it will all be ok. It will take a great deal of pre-planning and preparation, but you will find the right job for you. You are employable and you have lots to offer. I work with clients every day who left the military fold years ago and are now enjoying successful careers, and also some who left recently and have just secured their new jobs. When my own husband left the Army years ago, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do so he enrolled for an HND course at the local college. He went on to get a first class honours degree and then a PhD. He is now a senior university lecturer, a job so far removed from his Army career and not bad for someone who left school with 2 CSEs to his name.
Sian Richardson is an ex-military wife and the founder of Forces CV Services which provides CV and Careers help to service leavers and veterans from the military and uniformed emergency services. If you need help to market your skills and abilities, visit www.forces-cvs.co.uk or contact Sian direct: firstname.lastname@example.org