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  August 17, 2009

Translating Military Language into Civilian Terms

by: Michael Neece, CEO,

Today we're discussing how military service members can translate their experience into terminology the civilian sector will understand. Discussion forums and career articles stress the importance of translating military Podcastexperience in to civilian language. This is excellent advice, but very little is written about how to actually accomplish this translation. This segment of Interview Mastery provides guidance on how to solve this problem.

The burden of translating military experience unfairly falls on military members because civilians do not have the experience to understand the military world. Having spent the majority of my career in the civilian sector, I understand this language barrier firsthand. While civilians may have good intentions to consider military job applicants, they generally don't have the time or the motivation to learn the military language in order to evaluate the talents military personnel can deliver.

When a military person and civilian try to discuss career opportunities, it is like two people speaking different languages and attempting to describe the same thing. Each person is describing the similar things, yet it is difficult to understand each other because of the language barrier. This is precisely the challenge military members and civilians have when trying to understand each other. They are simply speaking different languages.

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This language barrier is not limited to the military world. Civilians trying to enter a new industry have a similar barrier. This is one reason civilians have a hard time changing industries. Military-to-civilian industry changers have the same challenge, but the transition to civilian employment from the military is often much more difficult.

Military-to-Civilian Occupation Translators
There are resources on the Internet to help military members identify civilian-equivalent occupations. These military-to-civilian job translators include a general military translator, a Navy specific translator and, an Army translator. The links for each translator is listed below.


When using one of these translators, you start by searching for your military occupation. The system will present a list of civilian occupations that are closely related to the job you had in the military. Clicking on the civilian position presents you with details of that civilian-equivalent job.

For example, let's say you're a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy. Go to the Navy occupation translator found at Click on the "Credential Search" tab and then click on "Enlisted Search" for enlisted service occupations. You'll see different ways to search for your current naval occupation. Under the "Rating" section, use the pull-down menu and find HM-Hospital Corpsman. Click "GO" to initiate the search. The next page will present a list of 41 civilian occupations that are closely related to Hospital Corpsman. Clicking on a civilian title shows you the details for that civilian occupation. The details include the knowledge and skills needed, tools and equipment used, salary information, credentials, and videos describing that job. Use this information on your resume and during your interviews to describe your naval experience in civilian terms.

The hard part, initially, will be replacing the naval terms in your consciousness with the equivalent civilian terms. Speaking this new language may feel difficult in the beginning, but it makes the entire job search much easier when you speak the same language as your potential employer. Speaking in civilian lingo also makes your assimilation into the civilian workforce easier.

Position Titles on Your Résumé
Let's discuss position titles on your résumé. When listing your military position titles on your résumé, do not use the actual military terminology. Use a descriptive title that is familiar to civilians. This will help the résumé reader understand your talents so he/she can more easily decide to invite you in for an interview. Using military titles makes your skills harder to understand. Military members who list their military job titles certainly have the intention to be precisely accurate on their résumé. However, listing your military job titles will make it difficult for civilians to understand your skills.

For example, let's say your military title was LCAC Operator, and you listed this title on your résumé. The civilian reader of your résumé will have no idea what an LCAC is and what skills are involved in operating one of these things. LCAC stands for Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC). It's an amphibious assault hovercraft that flies a few inches above water or land. To operate one of these rare vehicles requires the skills of an aircraft pilot and marine boat captain. Instead of using LCAC Operator as your position title when pursuing a civilian job, use a descriptive civilian title like Water & Aircraft Pilot in the body of your résumé, describe the complex systems encompassed in an LCAC and the skills required to operate on of these impressive vehicles.

Military personnel transitioning to the civilian workforce face the unique challenge of learning or relearning the terminology of perspective employers. I hope this segment supports your efforts to rapidly secure a civilian position.

Remember, the job interview is the most important moment in your job search. The career success you enjoy is directly related to your job interview skills. When you have interview skills, you control your career during the bad economic times as well as the good times.

Good luck on your next interview. You're going to be awesome!

If there is an issue you are struggling with and would like me to create a Podcast to help you, just e-mail me at And you can always find my contact information at under Contact Us. There you will find my e-mail and phone along with links to my blog, twitter posts, and LinkedIn profile.

I'm Michael Neece. Thanks for joining me.

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Michael R. Neece, CEO
508-435-2647 USA


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