With the average military family moving approximately every 36 months, for spouses, managing a resume can be a difficult proposition. Military spouses bring a lot to the table, but how do we communicate that to potential employers or admissions committees?
1. Make a master resume.
A master resume is a single document and organizational tool that serves as a source for the resume you will send to potential employers or schools. The trick to master resumes is to keep them up to date and to update information while your responsibilities and your organization’s contact information is still fresh in your mind. Making a note of each potential future recommender on your master resume and keeping in contact with them is also a good idea. A master resume makes constructing a tailor-made resume with relevant experience for each later submission much easier.
2. Fill in employment gaps with volunteer work.
Be a joiner—admissions committees and employers want to see what you did with your time. Volunteer work is a great way to show your commitment to your community, your willingness to take initiative, and it can be extremely rewarding. Even better, if you have a passion but are not in a position to work in that field yet, volunteer work is way to show continuity of interest, gain relevance, and stay involved. Additionally, volunteering is a great way to network, which is a much more streamlined path to employment. Those with minimal work experience can emphasize volunteer work as a central part of a resume. If you’re already in a career track, a separate section is appropriate.
3. Consider using a functional or combined format resume.
If you have gaps in your resume, using a chronological resume format can make those gaps stand out. Functional resumes allow you to highlight transferrable skills while deemphasizing gaps. Make sure that you include dates—you do not want to leave the impression that you have something to hide. Regardless of the format you choose, always submit it in PDF form to minimize formatting errors and, when you have the choice to upload a resume or fill in an online form, always fill in the form. The formatting of online forms is easier for potential employers to search and process, which increases your chances of having your resume read.
4. Know your audience and don’t get stuck on rules.
Every resume you submit should be tailored to the recipient with only relevant experience or transferrable skills included. The resume you give to veterinary school admissions, for example, should highlight volunteer work at the local shelter as well as your great undergrad GPA and the office you held as president of the campus animal welfare league. This is obviously different than a resume you would submit to a potential employer at a PR firm. That employer will not be as impressed by your GPA as they are by the successful media campaign you spearheaded to raise funds for your local shelter. The general rule is stick to a one page resume unless you have a master’s level education or equivalent work experience, but getting stuck on rules can limit your ability to effectively tell your story. Make every entry thoughtful, purposeful, and true to the bigger theme you want to present and breaking those rules can be a calculated risk that pays off. Your resume is your story. How do you want to be read?
5. Seek help.
It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a cadre of friends and relatives to craft a good resume. This is true for admissions essays as well. Edit, edit, edit and then ask trusted people to do the same. Seek those successful, smart people in your life and ask for help. Most successful people know that success isn’t a zero sum game and they want to you to do well. If this isn’t an option for you, use your available resources. Military OneSource, base transition assistance office (many offer resume writing classes!), or a hired resume expert are all options you should consider. You only get one shot to impress people so think of it as an investment in your future.
Lisa Rich, an S2S ambassador, is pursuing her master’s in Nurse Midwifery and Women’s Health at Yale School of Nursing. She is a mother of four and wife to a recently retired enlisted Marine. Lisa is a proud Tillman Military Scholar and she believes veterans and military families are uniquely poised to make a difference in the world. Following graduation she hopes to open a freestanding birth center serving at-risk populations and participate in international birth work.