I met Mark during my second deployment to Iraq. We both were Army brats whose fathers left active service during the Clinton-era cuts, watching them complete their military careers in the Army Reserves while starting civilian jobs. Mark, however, was not a traditional active duty Army officer like me.
Mark joined the Army Reserves as an Automated Logistics Specialist, attending both Basic Training and AIT. He then attended college and completed Army ROTC, earning a commission in the National Guard. A shortage of active duty officers allowed him to be placed on active duty orders, bringing him to join my unit in time to deploy to Iraq.
During his time as a logistics planner for our Brigade Combat Team, Mark remained on the fence about whether he wanted to remain on Active Duty or to leave upon completion of his contract. He had close friends and mentors in the unit, and learned a lot about contracts, vendors, and business.
“More importantly,” he emphasizes, “[it] allowed me to support soldiers within our Brigade and see a direct, positive effect on them.”
Mark remembers eating at the DFAC during the deployment with a friend, discussing plans for mid-tour leave, or R&R. They happened to be sitting beside some of the other Brigade Staff , including our notoriously emotionless Brigade Executive Officer.
“The Brigade XO turned to us and asked us where we were going for leave,” Mark said, “We told him, ‘Australia, Sir. We’re going to see a lot of the cities, and we’re going to go cage diving with great white sharks.'”
The Brigade XO’s eyes lit up and he actually smiled.
“That’s great!” he said, “You know I always wanted to be a marine biologist and travel the world.”
Mark recalls the man’s eyes quickly dimming, his smile disappearing, as he ended, “And then I got wrapped up in the Army.”
“I knew from that moment,” Mark said, “I was getting out.”
Upon redeployment, Mark returned to the National Guard, but spent a few uncertain months applying to jobs on his own with no success. A few companies had expressed real interest in hiring him before he left active duty, but in the end he received no callbacks.
Mark contacted a corporate recruiting company that specialized in military members, and attended a hiring conference. It turns out that his military work made him a great job candidate.
“I learned I had done more as a 24-year-old 1st Lieutenant than most people at the age of 30 or 35 did in the corporate world,” Mark said, “Of the ten companies I interviewed with that day, five showed immediate interested… By the end of the next week I had three job offers on the table, and each company vying for me. It was a good feeling.”
Mark chose a job that happened to be in his hometown. He makes more money than he did on Active Duty, between his job and National Guard duties. He is using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to work on his Masters in Project Management, as well as working as a published author selling books and short stories. He finds that he has more time to devote to his love of writing, especially since his employer encourages him to head home at the end of his shift. It seems Mark has assimilated naturally into his ‘civvie’ life, though he does miss his friends from the Army.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself, how to identify my shortcomings and improve upon them, and how to continue to develop my strengths,” Mark concludes, “I’ve had some setbacks, but I rose back up and kept going. Now I’m successful in the civilian world with a bright future ahead of me.”
Mark’s Tips for Success: “If I can find a good job out of the Army, so can you.”
1. Start early. Look for a job at least 3-5 months before you leave Active Duty. Companies, for the most part, understand that ETS dates can shift and change.
2. Be patient. Building up momentum to the point where you start getting callbacks and job offers will take a while. Mark submitted no less than 50 applications/resumes and went to dozens of interviews.
3. Polish your resume. Work hard getting the important info into it, and then have three or four people that have experience with resumes look at it and help you refine it.
4. Practice for interviews. No interview will be the same, but there are some regular questions companies will ask. Make notes about your career, what you’ve done, and what you have to offer. Practice over and over again. Practice in front of the mirror and watch yourself while recording your voice. Have others interview you. The more practice, the better you’ll get, and the more relaxed you’ll be.
5. Stay positive. Keep your chin up. Don’t get down because something doesn’t go your way or because a company said they weren’t interested in you. Persevere and work hard and you’ll find a good job.