By Ms. Suzanne Ovel (Army Medicine)October 10, 2013
When Jim Gonzalez and Chris Hall started their internships, getting offered jobs wasn't even on their list of expectations. Learn new skills? Get valuable resume fodder? Network with people in the industry? Sure. Being asked to apply for openings and actually getting hired for jobs? That was an unexpected bonus.
"I got everything I wanted out of the position, and then some. I wasn't expecting a job," said Gonzalez, a staff sergeant with the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., who's on terminal leave and started working in his civilian job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Oct. 7.
A transportation coordinator by trade, Gonzalez went through two other internships before finding a good fit with the Corps of Engineers through the Operation Warfighter Program. He began his internship on June 28 as a transportation assistant, and quickly took on a lot of responsibility -- managing a fleet of 300 vehicles, overseeing quarterly accounts of $500,000, coordinating for emergency transportation resources, and more.
About a month later, they asked him to submit his resume, which led to Gonzalez being directly appointed to his position as a supply technician. He will also be assisting their emergency operations mobile command center, a role he got through networking with the director of that
field as an intern.
"Even if I hadn't gotten the job, I met the right people, I networked," said Gonzalez.
While Gonzalez found an internship that related to his military specialty, Hall knew that he needed to find a new career field altogether when he left the Army. A former WTB Soldier who retired as a first lieutenant in July, Hall was a Guardsman who served as a field artillery officer in the Army and as a police officer as a civilian.
Sustaining severe ankle injuries meant he had to change careers completely.
"The wear and tear wasn't conducive to those types of lines of work; I knew that I would have to change things eventually," Hall said.
He ran into a recruiter for the General Services Administration at an OWF fair in the billets; GSA later invited Hall to intern with their organizational resources division.
While Hall learned the ropes of that division, his supervisor allowed him to explore other areas as well, such as contracting, leasing, and working on business plans. Once he showed more interest in contracting, GSA moved his internship there, where he got experience and made professional contacts in the field.
"They're more interested in doing things that are personally beneficial to me, but I was able to do things that were meaningful for them as well," said Hall. After GSA told him about job openings, Hall applied for and got a position as a contracting specialist.
More than just teaching position-specific skills, both internships offered additional career experiences and mentorship as well. Hall said his coworkers helped with his resume and made sure his internship experiences translated to valuable resume builders.
"They helped me identify some of those areas where I could grow, to be more marketable on the civilian side," Hall said.
For Gonzalez, getting support in his transition back to the civilian workforce also included a crash course in relearning "civilianese," and mentorship in developing his short- and long-term career goals.
Both Gonzalez and Hall found their workplaces were flexible with their medical schedules and needs.
Hall was also able to gradually increase his workload, while Gonzalez was able to work around his schoolwork for his bachelor's degree.
Gonzalez encourages Soldiers to make themselves more marketable to have better transitions later; he said that not all military skills are transferable, and Soldiers should gain needed experience now for their desired civilian careers.
His prior planning ensured he had a smooth transition and the knowledge that he could provide for his family.
"I like having the peace of mind that I'm doing something; I'm still involved in a job that I love doing," said Gonzalez.