How to make the most of your military experience on your law enforcement resume
Learn how to translate your military experience into law enforcement credentials
By Megan Wells, PoliceOne Contributor
Transitioning from military to civilian life marks the end of one chapter in your life and the start of another, which isn’t always an easy adjustment. One of the biggest hardships we hear about is resume writing. How do you translate the skills you’ve learned in the military to satisfy law enforcement job descriptions?
The deeper you dig into your military experience, the more parallels you’ll see between your military skills and what’s needed for a career in law enforcement. We turned to the professionals to speak more deeply about exactly what skills you might want to highlight.
Focus on discipline, leadership
“Leverage your leadership experience and talk about your ability to make decisions under pressure,” said Jon Tasch, a naval officer turned FBI special agent (turned entrepreneur). “The FBI and law enforcement in general are looking for leaders. This is what sets you apart from most other applicants. … These skills are vital to being a law enforcement officer.”
When he made the transition from Navy to FBI, Tasch used these niche experiences on his resume:
- The ability to multitask and set priorities.
- The ability to remain calm under pressure.
- Leading an aircrew of 10 individuals [leadership].
- Strategic planning, specifically combat and surveillance flights.
He also prepared several anecdotes about situations where he demonstrated these skills to share during interviews.
“Not only was my military background on display on my resume,” Tasch said, “but I used numerous stories in my oral interview to make myself an appealing candidate for hire.”
Also, beware of jargon and acronyms, warns Tasch, because it can be difficult for outsiders to understand. He recommends asking a non-military professional to review your resume to see it if is understandable.
Denise Womer, retired Marine, former law enforcement officer and current faculty member at Kaplan University’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, says that law enforcement agencies are looking for candidates with many of the skills honed during military service.
“Military discipline, weapons training and physical fitness prepare members to transition into law enforcement much easier than those without prior military service,” said Womer. “Emphasize the training received in the military: boot camp, weapons, defense tactics, promotions and any awards of recognition.”
Womer suggests that service members obtain letters of recommendation from their supervisors to attach to their resumes, along with copies of all training, awards and courses of instruction. Providing a copy of your resume can help your supervisor write such a letter.
Consider some general resume writing tips
Need to brush up on some resume formatting rules? There are plenty of resources online, like Resume-Help.Org and Tulane University, but here are a few basics:
- Lead with your most recent rank in eye-catching bold print.
- Use bullet points to provide details about your experience. Bullet points are more aesthetically appealing and more concise than writing in paragraph form.
- If you’re lacking job experience, draw from other skills you have. Do you participate in volunteer work? Do you speak another language? Give a case study about when you’ve showed leadership. Showing these skills can be as equally impressive as work accomplishments.
- Keep your resume to one page if you’re less than three years into a career, two pages if you’ve worked longer than three years.
- Use a professional font for your resume: Calibri, Times New Roman and Arial are good options. Do NOT use all caps.
- Can you include metrics? For example: Talk about how many people you’ve managed in the past, how many reports you’re able to handle monthly, or detail your physical abilities through numbers.
- Personalize your resume for each position you’re applying for. It takes a little extra grunt work, but it shows you care about the position you’re applying for.
- If you include your contact information, be conscious of your email address. Is it professional?
- Above all, be sure to proofread your resume to avoid embarrassing errors and ensure that your contact information is accurate.
Finding a job in law enforcement after serving in the military is definitely possible. Law enforcement agencies are looking for many of the same skills and attitudes you’ve developed in the military.
“The importance of discipline and punctuality, being physically fit, understanding the chain of command and the necessity of adhering to rules, regulations, procedures and the law – all skills I learned in the military – served me well,” said Joe Gandurski, an Army veteran and former deputy chief of the Chicago Police Department.
Showcasing these skills and attitudes effectively on your resume can help you land a police job and make the transition to a career in law enforcement.