For professionals who are retiring from careers in government, finding employment in the private sector is an exciting next step. There are many adjustments to be made when transitioning to life in corporate America, but the first one is understanding much your resume will need revision.


I’ve worked with many former government employees from various agencies, as well as the military, and their initial reaction to my first draft is shock. Unlike their original government resumes that provided painstaking detail about every position ever held, this reincarnation was a concise marketing tool. And while career advancement in government agencies is based on progressing through the system, getting hired in the private sector is all about articulating your value proposition to your target employer.

Here are the 5 primary areas for revising your resume in order to garner attention among corporate hiring managers and recruiters.

  • Appearance matters because your resume represents you in digital format. That means using a modern sans serif font, like Helvetica or Arial, maintaining one inch margins, and keeping the entire document to two pages – and this is what makes most of my clients gasp. But in the corporate world, nobody is going to read past 2 pages. And don’t get fancy with one of those resume templates, and especially don’t add a header and footer to the document. Just write your resume in a simple Word document.
  • The top of the page will articulate your value proposition and needs to motivate the reader to want to learn more.
  • Nomenclature that’s specific to the agency or department you worked in has no place in a corporate resume. For reasons best known to bureaucrats, the language they use to describe jobs and functions is usually radically different than in the corporate sector.
  • Levels of detail don’t need to be granular. Just because you did something, doesn’t mean it belongs on your resume! Only include responsibilities that speak to your general competency, and that leverage skills that translate to the type of corporate role you aspire to.
  • Age is not something to highlight because ageism, while illegal, is difficult to prove and very much a factor in the hiring process. Avoid the temptation to announce that you have “35 years” experience at whatever you do. Leave off graduation dates. And don’t go back more than 15 years or so on your resume. Anything you did longer ago than that is probably obsolete or done entirely differently.

An important consideration is to highlight 5 – 8 very specific instances of your accomplishments that showcase your expertise. Think “show me, don’t’ tell me.” And don’t forget to include software expertise in a separate section.

sample former NYPD 2

sample former NYPD

former DHS

former Secret Service