Recently, I got the chance to interview Andrea, aka The Military Translator.
Andrea is a technical writer who speaks several languages, but the “translator” in her title refers to something a little unconventional. She works with US military veterans to translate their resumes into language that civilian hiring managers can understand.
Thinking back to my own experience getting out of the Navy, I know firsthand the difficulties veterans have transitioning into the civilian workforce. If vets learn to “speak the language” outside of the military, they can get jobs that are actually in line with their skills and expertise.
Also, I’m fascinated by the idea of text that is technically English needing to be “translated” into coherent English. Language can become so specialized and technical that it becomes a kind of language of its own.
Andrea’s contact info is at the bottom of the interview.
Andrea, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. To get started, what is “The Military Translator,” what kind of services are provided, and who would benefit from using it?
Thanks for asking me to do this interview! I specialize in creating or “translating” current resumes for transitioning service members or anyone who has ever worked for the Department of Defense (DoD). The idea is to draw from the military experience and create something that makes sense to the average person. I also ensure that those details provided by my clients don’t end up compromising information.
Sounds like something that can get complicated. What kind of professional background do you have that lets you handle this type of work?
I’ve been working for the last ten years as a technical writer on behalf of the Intelligence, Information Technology, Undersea Warfare, Security, and Aviation communities on behalf of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps Aviation. Every one of those communities has its own terminology, and sometimes those terms overlap. It’s my mission to take those terms and acronyms and “translate” them into something that the average reader can understand.
In addition to my Technical Writing duties, over the years I’ve also been tasked with various Facility Security Officer (FSO) duties, researching and reading resumes, and sometimes even conducting interviews.
What made you decide to start this service?
I worked as an Executive Assistant (EA) and Technical Writer at Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) in San Diego for a few years. It’s not the most important job, but it is a highly visible one. My coworkers would joke that I knew everyone, but a big part of my job to know everyone! Your purpose as an EA is to make your boss look good.
Contracting is a fickle business, so friends would often ask me to take a look at their resumes, maybe fix them up a bit, and pass them on to my personal network hoping that it would end up in the right hands.
I’d been revising resumes in my spare time almost exclusively for veterans with mostly positive results. There’s quite a bit of personal satisfaction that comes with helping someone out like that.
I love that you use the term “Translator” to describe what you’re doing. As a veteran, I can attest to the fact that military jargon can feel like a different language. In your experience, how tough is it for civilians to understand military terms and terminology on resumes and cover letters?
It is very difficult for civilians to understand military terms and terminology! Think about how many times you see photos of Marines in the news and they’re labeled as soldiers. Unfortunately, most civilian hiring managers won’t bother to research what that terminology means to them. They just move on to the next candidate.
To give you an example: My husband served as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer. Prior to his retirement he asked me to look over the resume he had developed in his Transition Assistance class. To make a long story short, it was so jargon heavy that even with my background, it took me six hours to go through it and just highlight the parts of it that I didn’t understand.
Do you have any specific examples of military terms that pop up frequently and that veterans should try to avoid?
I see the acronym “IA” multiple times on almost every resume I read and it is almost never defined. IA has 58 different documented definitions in the military. In all, the acronym “IA” can have 81 different meanings.
What’s the biggest mistake you’re seeing on resumes and cover letters?
My personal pet peeve are undefined or unbroken acronyms. If you are going to use an acronym, it needs to be defined on the first call. Also, listing your rank. Unless you’re very important and well known, don’t bother including it. Same with awards and medals.
Besides speaking Military-ese, do you speak any other languages? If so, has your foreign-language skill helped you with the way you approach military resumes?
I speak French and Russian. Growing up, I spoke some Sicilian and Italian at home, but I’m out of practice now unless you count swear words! It does help–I’m always driven to define things.
Andrea, thanks again for speaking with us. Any final tips for veterans transitioning to the civilian world?
Post your resume to job sites like Monster, check the job listings once a day, and send Thank You notes (not e-mails) after your interviews!
If you’d like to get in touch with The Military Translator, you can reach her via: