5 Tips for Writing a Successful Guard / Reservist Federal Resume

Servicemembers in the Guard and Reserves have military careers that are the most complex career when it comes to translating experience into a resume for a federal job. With the Iraq war, the typical Guard Member and Reservist was deployed 3 to 5 times. Post deployment, the Guard or Reserve member’s former civilian career may have changed dramatically. And now two careers must be blended into one resume.

Reserves and Guard part-time:  Pre 9/11, the typical Reserve or Guard service hours were designated for weekend and summer active duty.

Active Duty Deployment: For the past 3 to 5 years, the Reserves and Guard have been activated and trained for readiness and deployments  as long as 9 months to a year.  The Active duty deployments must be included in the resume, federal compliance requires  that the resume is complete in the chronology. 

Rethinking the former civilian career: The former civilian career went on hold to meet the military active duty objectives.  Now it’s time to re-examine  the past civilian career, but also incorporate the new military skills and experiences for a successful job search with Federal agencies or defense contractors.

What career or job will you be targeting now?
– Your former civilian career, which may or may not be available*
A new civilian career in private industry

– Or a public service career based on your new military experience, training, knowledge, skills and abilities with the federal government

There are five basic steps to writing a new federal resume covering both your past civilian career and your Guard or Reservist Active Duty and Reserves experience and training.

1. MAKE TWO LISTS OF YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY – One civilian, one  military

Write a chronological work history for each of your careers. Two separate lists. Make sure each period of reserves and active duty deployment is listed separately. Each deployment needs the specific locations, dates and your MOS.  This is complicated information, but it must be clear for the Federal Human Resources Specialist to understand your specialized experience and how long you performed certain skills.

Civilian Chronology: Dates, job title, name of organization, city, state, salary; duties

Reserves/ Guard Chronology: Dates, job title, rank, name of organization, city, sate, salary


What are you top three skills for each of your careers?  Write at least three for each. Here are a few career and MOS scenarios and top three transferrable skills:

Truck driver as a civilian: Your best skills would be: safe driving, scheduling and safety. If you are in a transportation battalion, your best skills will be:  transportation logistics, supply management, and teamwork.

Mortgage broker: Your best skills would be: communications, documentation, analysis. If your military MOS was readiness, your new skills would be: instructor, curriculum development, and planner.

Sales Representative: Communications, negotiations, customer services; military skills if you are an Intelligence Analyst, might be:  analytical, investigative, and research.

Teacher:  Communications, curriculum design, instructor; military skills if you were an Executive Officer: leader, strategic planner, and readiness planner.


The hardest part of all of this is not the resume writing, it’s deciding what career, job, or industry you will be seeking post-war, post-deployment, and after all the new training you have received. Corporate America and the U.S. Government have shown serious interest and support for hiring veterans into numerous positions and agencies. You have a lot of choices. But even though they are offering jobs to you, the resume must still show qualifications, knowledge, skills and abilities that will support a certain next career. This is why it is important to have a combination of both your civilian career and military career in ONE RESUME. The HR specialists and supervisor will look at the total of your career and see the skills and abilities that you bring to your new career.


Now it’s time to blend the civilian career and the military career into a coherent (albeit complex) set of dates, places, duties, skills and accomplishments.  If you need help with the resume, GET HELP. VA for Vets has Vet Coaches for free to help you with targeting your resume. There are career coaches who would help you with blending your experiences and determining your next realistic career objectives based on the new world (since you were active duty).


If you are applying for federal positions, test your resume. Your resume might need tweaking for each announcement to pick up different skills and keywords. In order to get the best score, and match the One Year specialized experience, the resume might need to be tweaked a little for each announcement. This is a little time-consumer, but this is a strategy to hit the mark of 70 or more points for each application.  Give your resume 30 days, and watch your results. Change the resume slightly for each job application or type of position. Make this a game. Watch number of applications submitted (civilian or federal). Watch the results: qualified, referred, interviewed. If you are not getting interviews or referred to supervisors, the resume isn’t working. Get help. Rewrite the resume. Rethink the direction.


Confidence comes with practice, information, knowledge, and the ability to ask for help when you need it.  If you need help with a career counselor, job coach, vet rep, Voc Rehab counselor, résumé writer, GET IT. DO NOT HESITATE. Your next career and life will depend on it. 

* The Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), is a non-profit that advocates for veterans rights while they are mobilized for federal service. They ensure that the positions are held for deployed reservists, and provide legal counsel as well. But, with the economic downturn since November of 2008, many companies, industries and jobs have simply ended.