Common Defence-to Civilian Resume Blunders and How to Avoid Them

When developing your resume ready for civilian employers it is easy to fall into some simple traps that can cost you potential opportunities.  These are the easiest and most common mistakes that could cause resume rejection –

 1.  Launching into writing the resume without adequate research. Before you can sell yourself to a potential employer you need to know three things – what you want, what they need, and what you offer.  Without this knowledge your resume will lack substance and focus.  Find the answer to these questions before you lift your pen then use this information to build a compelling case for your alignment with the role.

 2.  Hiding Your Defence Background rather than Demystifying It. Many well-intentioned people will tell you to hide your Defence background as some employers may not understand Defence careers but ADF experience and training is second to none! Instead of hiding it demystify it! Translate your skills and experience into terminology employers can understand. Put the emphasis on transferable skills and phrase your achievements in common commercial wording that will engage your reader.

 3.  A Lack of Substance.   A good resume doesn’t tell an employer just what you did, but also includes more importantly how well you did it. Make sure to take the time to write and hone examples of the value you brought in each role.   Look for opportunities to show employers the value of your skills.  If you managed teams, don’t just tell them that but instead showcase how and where you were able to improve productivity or performance. If you moved materials and stores, showcase how you consistently delivered them on-time despite tough, uncompromising timeframes and rapidly shifting delivery parameters. Remember results talk!

 4. Too many (or any) Acronyms and Defence Terminology.  Next to IT resumes, ADF resumes are the second most likely to be filled with acronyms normal people won’t understand. If it won’t make sense to your mother or non-Defence friends then don’t include it.  Recruiters will not usually be an expert in your area so keep your resume simple so anyone who reads it can understand the context.    

 5.  Developing a resume only a human will love. Today resumes are read by computers just as often as humans so it’s important that your resume is scanner-friendly.  In the machine world – simple is good. Avoid graphics or shading, use common fonts in 10-12 point sizing, keep your resume in a Word format and remember to include the keywords relevant to the industry you are applying to.

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Job Search for Ex-Defence Personnel – LinkedIn, Job Boards and everything in between.

If you’ve been in the Australian Defence Force for a large portion of your career, the job market can seem like a foreign territory.   “Whatever happened to reading the newspaper classifieds and sending in your resume?” one ex-ADF member asked me.  It’s true, job search has changed and successful transition demands that you adapt too or be left behind.

So what do you need to know and where do you start?  The following are my top three tips for adapting your job search methodology to today’s market.

  1. The traditional resume is dead.  Gone are the days of a typed resume that was a simple transcript of your employment history.  Today’s resume is a sophisticated document that requires a great deal of forethought and preparation. As many resumes are now read by employer and recruiter scanning software it’s important that your resume is scanner-friendly and targeted closely to the advertised position.  Read the full article Job Search for Ex-Defence Personnel

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Secrets to transitioning from the Australian Defence Force to the Resources Industry

The resource sector is a popular and logical choice for many Defence personnel transitioning out of the ADF and looking for an alterative career, and correspondingly many resource-industry HR Managers and recruiters look for Defence personnel during their recruitment drives. So how can interested ADF personnel find and transition to these potential roles?

Step One:  Understand your Options. If you think the resource sector is an area you are interested in start by familiarising yourself with how the industry operates and what options the industry may present to you.

Speak to as many people as possible who have experience working in that industry to determine what working conditions are like; what a day in the life of a resource industry worker usually looks like; and what challenges the industry may present to you.

Read and visit industry sites such as The Resource Channel, Mining Council Australia, This is Our Story, Mining Australia etc., and assess, absorb and digest as much information as possible.   Knowledge is power, and before making any move to a new area it’s important to understand what the move may mean to your life, your family, and your career.

A good tip is to set up a Google alerts for industry news or posts using terms like Australian Mining Industry, Resource Jobs, Mining Jobs Australia etc. so you can remain abreast of changes or opportunities.  You will also want to set up job alerts with major resource industry job boards such as

Step Two: Identify Suitable Roles.  A common mistake for a lot of Defence personnel trying to enter the industry is to send a generic resume with a letter saying, “I’ll do anything”. Whilst there is a great volume of work available in this industry, because of the potential income levels it is highly attractive to many individuals and can be very competitive to get into.  Trying to enter the industry without ensuring you have the relevant skills and qualifications, and promoting these skills effectively is likely to lead to job application rejection.

Before you start applying do your homework about where the skill shortage areas are. Next, ensure that any potential areas you identify as interesting to you, are going to be a fit with your needs, personality, capability, family circumstances and work style.  The money seems attractive but a role that is in conflict with your working style, personality or values can lead to burn out.  Identify roles that will meet your needs and skill set over the long term and are a match with industry opportunities. Once you have this you can then work towards positioning yourself effectively for these roles.  


Step 3. Build Your Case. Once you know what type of role you want to apply for the next step is to ensure you have the relevant requirements for the role. Read the job advertisements and familiarise yourself with the required credentials.  If there is required training, make sure that you investigate available courses carefully to ensure the training provider is credible and that the work opportunities will be there once training is completed.  Many people have burnt their money doing courses only to find there were no job vacancies.  Another good strategy is to look at career pathways such as trade apprenticeships.  A number of sites offer information on career pathways including and The Resource Channel.



Step 4: Assess your transferable skills and value offering.   When it comes time to prepare your resume and application make sure to identify what you offer of value in terms of skills and strengths gained from your life and Defence career that will be relevant to the role before beginning to build your resume.

Common Defence-developed skills that may be relevant and valuable include:

  •  Procedural Compliance – The ability to follow work instructions accurately and to the letter.
  • Safety & Risk Management – Assessing and reducing hazards and risks in the work environment and following safety procedures effectively.
  • Team Work – Operating successfully in team based environments and supporting strong levels of cooperation and morale
  • Performance – Delivering consistently high levels of concentration and performance whilst working under tough work conditions
  • Leadership – Managing and supervising teams to deliver on operational objectives.
  • Physical Fitness – Trained to maintain peak physical fitness,  and experience in remote and shared living environments. Success working in environments demanding clean physical health record. Commitment to EEO and ethical work conduct.
  • First Aid & Emergency Response: Trained in First Aid and Emergency Response

Step 5. Build a resume and application letter that sells your skills and capability.  Once you know what Resource Industry recruiters and HR staff are looking for, and have a strong understanding of what you offer and your transferable skills the next step is to market this in your resume.

Visit our site to read the full article Secrets to Transitioning from the Australian Defence Force to the Resources Industry

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Business Lessons from The Avengers

Few companies would classify the blockbuster ‘The Avengers” as a business movie but as I sat in the cinema watching the Avengers I couldn’t help but smile as it brought to life a fundamental message that only a few maverick organisations have genuinely embraced and used to their advantage, and that is “the misfits together rule the world.”

Of course, Google knew it and became the epitome of the non-traditional workplace; the company everyone wanted to work for. Steve Jobs lived and breathed it and was famously quoted as having said “here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes.  His career resonated with the belief that uniformity was the enemy of innovation. As Jim Collins commented “good is the enemy of great”.

How cool is that! A movie that not only breaks box office records but embeds an intrinsically powerful organisational concept – how the strongest of organisations are not built on soldier armies trained to follow procedure at all costs, but instead on groups of passionate individuals each unique with their own strengths and flaws all working toward a common goal but with the freedom to contribute in their own way.  As I like to put it – a culture of superstars instead of a workplace of vanilla.

Every day I see smart companies committed to finding superstar employees able to deliver results that will enable them to out-perform their competitors.  They invest in employer branding campaigns and pay headhunters to trawl the market for talent.  They engage in bidding wars and poach competitor workforces in their search for the elusive advantage. The rationale is solid but the investment unfortunately often wasted. Why? Because so many workplaces are built around the tired doctrines of traditional performance management and organisational development – the graveyard for innovation.

Workplaces where individuals are encouraged each year to pinpoint their development needs and work on their weaknesses. Management structures where leadership are encouraged to manage succession planning through promoting up. Organisational development arenas where coaches are employed to assess against defined KPI’s.  The result – the culture of vanilla.  A workplace where everyone is geared to be perfectly competent.  Where superstars with hidden talents lay dormant and undeveloped. Where creativity and innovation is quashed as people work within the boundaries they have been given. Where companies miss incredible talent right under their own noses as people sit stagnantly wasting away in roles not aligned with their strengths

But what if instead of a culture of vanilla more businesses decided to follow the road less travelled and build a culture of superstars. Their own unique superhero alliance.  Imagine the possibility of performance acceleration if individuals were focused on honing their talents and strengths rather than countering their weaknesses.  Think of the change in workplace satisfaction that would be possible if employers and employees looked across all areas of the business to better match individual capability with business and market opportunity. What could happen if promotion was defined not as moving up but instead moving across to new areas of opportunity? What could be achieved if people were encouraged to take a risk and shoot for the stars?  To strive in an environment where failure was acceptable and ‘not trying’ was inconceivable.

Would the Avenger’s team have been as good if The Hulk hadn’t been able to use his strength? Who didn’t enjoy seeing The Hulk finally given the freedom to smash? Would the team have made it if the world had succeeded in taming Ironman Tony Stark from his maverick ways?   Of course not.  Greatness comes when unique strengths are unified with shared goals.

The challenge is not eliminating our differences but harnessing them appropriately. How many companies have a superhero workforce already right under their noses just waiting to be unleashed.  In the words of The Avengers movie

“ You put those people together, you can’t expect what’s going to happen…”

Viva la difference.

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Brand Caution – Navigating a World of Instant Visibility

In the new world of work, instant visibility is both a blessing and a curse.  Everyday we are faced with endless opportunities to grow or damage our brand.

Blogs, tweets, social media interactions and other online vehicles all bring new and rapidly unfolding ways to leave our mark, share our expertise and bare our thoughts.

However just as many are finding the confidence to dip their toe into the online ocean, others are finding ways to use or exploit it. Predators in identity fraud are sifting through our personal information looking for weak spots, new intelligence businesses are trawling social networks for commercially sensitive information to sell to rival companies, and recruiters and employers are checking our digital dirt looking for past indiscretions.  So how do you manage the risks while taking the critical steps to building that all important visibility in today’s workplace?

1. Manage your privacy settings. Take the time to check and recheck your Privacy settings on any social media you are using. This way you can control who sees your personal information.

2. Never drink and tweet.  What you said last night after a few wines never looks as funny the next day.

3. Google yourself regularly to ensure no-one has published anything about you that is untrue or damaging to your brand.

4. Think before your press the post or submit button.  Recheck what you have written to make sure what you want to say is being conveyed correctly.

5. Avoid saying anything derogatory about others that may see you caught up in legal action.

6. Never reveal anything in your social media that will have you in breach of company policy.

Finally remember putting yourself out there in the cyber-world will enable you to build your brand but will also occasionally bring others who disagree with you and your opinions. Manage these people with grace and dignity and if all else fails – block them.

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Ramping Up Your Resume with Transferable Skills

Understanding your transferable skills is essential to an effective job search strategy and absolutely vital if you are seeking a new direction in your career. All jobs incorporate the use of some transferable skills and the most successful career chameleons recognise this and adapt their resumes to suit.

So what are transferable skills? Essentially they are the skills you offer that you’ve gained through your work, study and personal life that are directly transferable and relevant to the roles you are applying for.

These skills don’t have to have been built only in the workplace, in fact unlike job-related skills they may have been developed through volunteer activities, studies, past projects, even through your hobbies.
Regardless of where you have developed them, knowing what skills employers are looking for in the positions you are applying for and showcasing your skills in these areas is vital to marketing yourself effectively in the career’s marketplace.

When trying to showcase your transferable skills it’s important to understand two things – firstly what the transferable skills are the employer is looking for, and secondly what you have to offer.

To begin this process start by reviewing the position descriptions and advertisements for the positions you are applying for and make a list of the commonly outlined skills they are seeking. Next review your past positions and break them down into the tasks that you performed and the skills you needed to perform them. If these skills can be used in other positions and are relevant to the positions you are applying for, then these are your relevant transferable skills.

When you have done this for past positions, broaden your assessment to others areas of your life such as voluntary work, studies, community activities and even hobbies to further broaden your skills lists. When trying to brainstorm skills consider common transferable skills such as leadership, time management, planning and organising, adaptability, decision-making, team work, relationship development, communication and interpersonal skills, problem solving and critical thinking.

Once you’ve identified your transferable skills you are now able to use these to market yourself to potential employers in your resume, application letter and interview.

With most employers only skimming each resume for up to 15-20 seconds it’s important to realise that simply relying on employers to figure out your transferable skills from your job titles and accountabilities isn’t enough – you need to highlight these skills clearly to employers at the outset of your resume. Consider the front page of your resume as a marketing profile of you. It’s your opportunity to pitch yourself to the employer as skilled and relevant, and highlighting your key transferable skills is an important component of this.

You can do this through a number of ways.

1. Write a career objective that outlines the type of skills you offer and are looking to use.
2. Write an opening profile that describes your key skills.
3. Develop a bulleted list of keywords that describe your core transferable skills or develop a combination resume (chrono-functional resume) that incorporates a description of your key transferable skills and experience on the front page and focuses in the body of the resume more on the skills you offer than just the titles and dates of your past positions.

Finally if you are struggling to present yourself well, consider seeking the support of a professional resume writer. Click here for more information on resumes and Career Edge’s international award winning resume writing services.


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Interview Coaching – Giving Yourself the Unfair Advantage!

“I’ve always been a great communicator – if I can get in front of people, I’ll go well.”

“I haven’t had to interview for a long time, but I’ve always done well in them, in the past.”

“I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates – I don’t need interview coaching.”

Do any of these sound familiar? If you answered yes, you are not alone – many people think this way, and 10 years ago, the chances are you would have been right.

But the Human Resources industry has changed. Never before have selection systems been so process-driven. Interviews today are rarely an informal meeting to get a “feel” for the candidate.

In fact modern systems have been specifically designed to ensure that charm, charisma and communication skills don’t sway the interviewer’s decision. Modern Selection Systems are designed to collect evidence of a candidate’s specific behaviours, skills and motivations relevant to the job. This is sought in a very specific way, and information is collected in a very specific format. Then it becomes a numbers game. You will be given a score in each dimension, and compared with other candidates.

Consider this scenario…

Daryl has gone into the interview with brash confidence, backing his interpersonal skills to see him through as they always have done in the past. But the questions are not how Daryl remembers them. He tries to answer as best he can, but the interviewer keeps pulling him up, trying to redirect him to answer in a different way. Daryl sensed the interviewer was getting frustrated.

Dora has done some investigating on interviews on the internet and found some information on “Great Answers to 50 Commonly Asked Interview Questions”. The interview explores precisely none of these, and the questions don’t even sound close in format and structure to what Dora was expecting and her nerves start to show. She would have done well if it was 1985! The internet and business-section bookshelves abound with outdated resources in this field.

Finally, your turn. You invested a small amount of money and a few hours for coaching to gain an understanding of these modern systems. You’re confident and know what to expect. You understand what the interviewer is looking for and how they want your answers. Responding this way makes the interviewer’s job easy. 55 minutes passes quickly and easily, and you feel confident you have done well.

The likely result is pretty obvious.

The take-home messages are clear:

  • The more prepared you are, for what you are actually likely to face in an interview, the better you will do; and 
  •  Do your homework in sourcing an interview coach. Find someone that has been involved in selection systems either within your targeted industry, or across a range of industries. Make sure their experience is recent and current.

The good news is that these systems are predictable, and armed with a simple strategy for answering in the right format, you can easily place yourself in the very top handful of candidates. For more help with interview coaching

In the current economic environment, with more candidates lining up for fewer jobs, do yourself a favour, and give yourself an unfair advantage.

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Gillian Kelly Interviewed on Personal Branding with BNet

Looking for some more tips to build your personal brand. Don’t miss my podcast on Personal Branding for the CBS business site You can listen to it here.

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The Redundant Brand and How to Avoid It!


It’s the toughest question of all. The white elephant lurking in the interview room. Your silent stalker.


“So why are you looking for a new position?”


It’s the question most people affected by redundancy fear in an interview and also the most common stumbling block. With a look of resignation most people answer –


“I was made redundant”.


Sure, it’s the truth isn’t it?


The answer is an absolute 100% resounding no! Why, because you weren’t made redundant – your position was. In today’s economy, retrenchments are generally caused by economic circumstance and business downsizing and not because of individual performance.


If it was a performance issue you would have been fired for cause. You weren’t, your position was made redundant, and yet almost universally people feel the need to step up and shoulder the blame for ‘losing’ their job. It’s healthy to self-examine, it’s not healthy to assume blame where there was no need to. At the moment redundancy has little to do with the individual and mostly to do with the bottom line, and this mindset of fault and blame will only hurt your chances when looking for your next position.


Personal Branding Strategist Gillian Kelly says “How you perceive and present yourself to your network, recruiters and potential employers is how they are going to see you and as soon as you start to wear the redundancy brand it will stick.”


Instead, focus on what you want you want to be known for – what you want your personal brand to be. When asked by employers, friends, family or others in your network why you left your last job, explain that the organisation was downsizing or undergoing change and that due to this certain positions in the company were no longer needed. Then refocus on the positive. Talk with confidence and enthusiasm about your enjoyment in your past role and your time with the company in general. Hone in on the contributions you offered.  Use this as an opportunity to bring to the attention of others the value you have offered in the past and potentially offer new employers in the future.  


In essence brand yourself for the future not by your past.  


Contact Gillian Kelly for more information on outplacement services or visit the personal branding section of Six Figures Resources section. 




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Avoiding becoming Resume Spam

Everyone hates spam but now for job seekers there is an even greater down side as candidates find their resumes ending up, not on the employer’s lap, but instead caught in the recruiter’s or employer’s spam box. 

In a 2008 survey done by Career Directors International regarding the percentage of résumés received that end up trapped in SPAM filters, 72 percent of recruiters said that less than 5 percent of résumés were caught; 22 percent said that 5-10 percent were caught; and 6 percent said that a whopping 11-25 percent were caught.

For jobseekers this can be devastating as dream jobs pass them by simply because of the inclusion of seemingly innocent words and/or symbols.  Words such as free, specialist (which contains the drug name cialis in the middle), trial, expand, winner and American University honour term ‘magna cum laude’ are all triggers that can cause your resume to spam blocked.

My three top tips to avoid having your resume renegaded to the email spam bin include

1. Avoid words that flag your resume as a risk to spam blocking technology or utilise a content checking technology such as the  free service “Lyris Content Checker” http://www.lyris. com/resources/contentchecker before sending it out. Alternatively contact a resume writer to check it for you.

2. If you send your resume as an attachment, word your subject line carefully. Alternatively cut and paste your resume in the body of the email.

3. Send a back up copy of your resume via the mail to ensure your resume is received and/or follow up via telephone. If you are concerned have the company white-list your email address.

Remember forewarned is forearmed, so take steps today to protect yourself.

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