Translate Your Military Skills for a Civilian Career

Congratulations! You’ve decided to pursue a career in project management. This likely includes pursuing a Project Management Institute (PMI) certification such as the Project Management Professional (PMP)®, the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® or the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®. With your certification and career goals in mind, you will need to spend some time preparing your resume and also filling out your exam application on the PMI website.

If you are a servicemember, veteran, or military spouse, the transition from your military career to a civilian career can be challenging. Some of the projects you’ve worked on as a leader or individual contributor are difficult to translate into the “civilian” world. There is a key piece of advice to translate your military skills for a resume or PMI application.

Write for your audience!

Two PMI publications, the PMBOK ® Guide and Choose Your WoW! A Disciplined Agile Approach to Optimizing Your Way of Working (WoW) offer several frameworks to approach your work. Roles and responsibilities, principles, and performance domains are just some examples. These concepts will be covered in detail during any PMI certification exam prep training. Let’s make sure that job recruiters and anyone reading your resume or application sees globally recognized project management vocabulary in your work experience. A few examples:

Young US Army Service member using laptop at home

Roles and responsibilities

  • Project Example: “I helped my unit certify on a readiness or training task.”  Great!  Describe your Role and Responsibilities during the project.  Did you provide oversight, or did you facilitate or support? What was the length of time of the project? What expertise did you provide? Did you supervise any resources (material, people, or money) for the project? What regulations or processes did you follow? Using project management vocabulary, this is referred to as “governance”.


  • Project Example: “I planned and led a vehicle movement.” Awesome! Describe the Principles used during the project. You had to execute the movement in ‘compliance’ with military and civilian rules and regulations. Write how you learned about these rules and how you planned and executed them with your unit.  How did you ‘collaborate’ with your team? When did the planning start? Was the movement a part of a larger organizational movement plan? Were you part of a larger team? What authority was given to you for the project? How did you account for negative risks (threats)? Who signed off or owned each risk? What stakeholder (leader, commander) did you brief? Did you tailor your risk categories based upon unit experience or the environment?

Performance domains

  • Project Example: “I wrote a guidance plan for my area of expertise.” Amazing! Describe the Performance Domain used when you wrote and implemented this project. You probably looked at higher level (stakeholder) guidance to understand their priorities. Maybe you looked or asked for some documentation (stakeholder engagement)? Was there an existing plan that reviewed? Did you review Unit Performance Reviews (stakeholder feedback) and adapt your project and plan?
Young male in uniform smiles at counselor

Life Cycles

Finally- Life Cycles.  Your instructor discusses plan-driven and adaptive approaches to projects. This is an easy way to describe your role during the any one of the processes.  “I was a deputy leader during the planning of the project. We completed planning before beginning the execution phase, where I moved on to leader”. “I was responsible to monitor and control all vehicle maintenance and readiness prior to the vehicle movement. We utilized quick feedback loops to adapt and improve our processes if necessary.” Hiring managers and PMI want to know your project approach, so it is important that you are able to put it into words. Need more guidance? Check out our video, “Translate your military skills for a civilian career.”

Military Skills Translator


Check out our Military Skills Translator Tool, created by Frank Tank, Peak team member and 30-year Army Veteran. Frank passed his PMP using the best practices referred to in this article.

Military Veteran Training and Certification – Peak Business

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This article was written by Frank Tank. Frank serves as the Military & Veteran Adviser to Peak Business Management. Frank is a certified PMP and a 30-year US Army Veteran, serving as an enlisted soldier and as an officer in the intelligence field. Frank guides military members and veterans who are pursuing PMI certifications.