Writing an exceptional résumé can be challenging and does take effort to become comfortable with the process. Military spouses face additional hurdles when crafting a résumé due to constant relocations and potential lengthy gaps in employment. However, with a little creativity and exploration it is possible for military spouses to highlight their education, employment history, and life experience by creating a strong and competitive resume.
Choose the Correct Résumé Format for You
Different resume styles are targeted to different career paths. For instance, if you are in a creative field, your resume can also be creative. If you are going after a government job, a more structured, “no frills” approach is more appropriate.
There are several résumé styles to choose from, including the following templates: chronological, functional, combination, and targeted. It is important to choose the right résumé style that best reflects your skills. For example, if you have large employment gaps or numerous short-term positions, perhaps you should consider using a non-traditional “functional” résumé or a “combination” résumé. A functional résumé is geared toward those individuals who want to highlight their skills and abilities rather than focusing on the time frame of each job they’ve held.
A combination resume also highlights skills and is great to consider for recent graduates and those with gaps in employment. It provides both a list of skills, as well as a chronological list of relevant employment history. This kind of resume can be easily altered for different applications to include keywords and phrases.
Finally, start each descriptive line of your resume with “strong action verbs,” to help highlight your experience and provide a list of descriptive terms so your future employer can understand exactly what you did. Below is a line from a military spouse resume:
Example: Bookseller at Bookstore X
Line 1: Provided excellent customer service by understanding store policies and search techniques
Line 1: Helped customers find books by searching the system and knowing the store’s layout
Although these two descriptions say similar things, the top is more direct and uses stronger verbs. Make your goal three descriptive lines for each job listing. More than that can lead to a very long resume. Ideally, unless it is a DoD-based resume, your document should be no more than two pages. Focus on capturing the employer’s attention and highlighting the most important aspects of your education and work experience. It can be a daunting task to start a resume, but once you create a comprehensive version, customize copies for each employment opportunity and simply remove the least relevant information for each job you are applying for.
Example: if you are applying for a service industry position, include other former service industry jobs. If you are applying for a Project Coordinator position, leave off your service industry positions, keeping the experience relative to your targeted job.
Example: if you are applying for a government position, most likely they will require a certain format and even a certain font. Look over the application requirements and prepare your documents accordingly. Often on-base employment services can help advise with government geared resumes in particular.
Include a Captivating Cover Letter
A cover letter is a must in today’s job market. You can have a remarkable résumé but if it doesn’t accompany a high-quality cover letter, it will most likely end up in the “NO” pile. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself and to highlight your skills relevant to the position. If you do a good job of relaying this information, hiring managers will more than likely take the time to review your résumé, giving you the chance to stand out among the applicants. The following tips are helpful to remember when crafting your stand-out cover letter:
- Keep your cover letter to one page.
- Address the cover letter to the organization you are applying to and modify the letter to reflect the position you are applying for.
- Nothing gets your resume in the “no” pile faster than a generalized cover letter.
Be approachable but professional (i.e. tell them why you are excited to work for their company. Do not write about this one time in high school…)
Include Volunteer Experience and Trainings
To be a military spouse you often have to sacrifice your career goals, networking opportunities, or advanced education to support your service member. It is easy to focus on your employment gaps or compare yourself to other applicants with different circumstances. However, you may have much more in your application arsenal than you realize.
Community service, continuing education classes online, and even membership to groups can be attractive items on a resume or cover letter. For example, are you a member of the spouse’s club? Do you volunteer at the base’s thrift store? Did you attend a networking seminar or take an online excel class? Focus on the relevant skills you obtained and use them on your résumé.
Communication skills, leadership roles, and supervision experience are all examples of ideal traits that can be useful to any job regardless of where you obtained them. If you don’t want to list every position, you can make a separate section for skills, as in the combination resume.
Send Your Résumé to Military Friendly Organizations and Businesses
With a quick Google search, or through perusing other articles on this site, it’s easy to find an extensive list of businesses that value the dexterity and expertise that a military spouse can bring to their company. MetLife, US Bank, Starbucks, and Goodwill Industries are among the numerous companies that have pledged to hire military spouses. It’s always a good idea to send your résumé to employers that value your skill sets and who are willing to aid with the hurdles military spouses are likely to face.
Are You Prior Service?
Many military couples meet while serving together and one ends up getting out for a variety of reasons. If you are a spouse with prior service, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you in preparing your resume. You may already have a government resume- if you are applying for a civilian government job, there could be very little you need to change. However, let’s say you were an MP and now you want to be an assistant event planner- you will need to rework your resume to target this new field and the next chapter of your life. Remember that your service, awards, and experience are important. Feature your awards or commendations on your resume. If you have certifications relevant to the position, list those in the education section. Even if it has been awhile since you put on that uniform, don’t sell yourself short.
Utilize the Career Office/Spouse Services
Although each installation varies, military bases offer many services to spouses including career exploration, available job listings and résumé help. Often underutilized, their supportive and free services are sure to benefit military spouses who seek their assistance. Not only can they help you create an outstanding résumé, but they also have a vast amount of experience working with the many résumé writing obstacles that military spouses face.
Yes, finding a job while being a military spouse can be daunting. However, with preparation, assistance, and endurance, you are sure to find the perfect job for you.
Tia Christopher is a proud US Navy Veteran. Christopher’s writing has focused on explaining military benefits in plain language and helping fellow service members transition from the military. Christopher was recognized in 2013 by the White House as a Woman Veteran Champion of Change.