At University of Maryland University College, we have a passionate veteran alumni base who understands the unique challenges student veterans face as they transition from military service to student life and their professional careers.

Norman Workman is a good example. Workman is a U.S. Army veteran and UMUC alumnus serving as a senior technical recruiter for IntelliDyne, a government contractor located in Fairfax, Virginia. In his role, he is specifically charged with hiring transitioning servicemembers and veterans. In a recent interview, Workman shared his thoughts about his transition from the military and gave some advice for veterans about the importance of their education and transitioning to the workforce.

Tell us about yourself.
I was orphaned as a teen. I went to college for a few years, but I lost my part-time job during a recession. I joined the Army to get the training and experience I needed to acquire a career-oriented position when I got out of the service. Given my limited resources, the education benefits offered under the G.I. Bill, along with the VA home loan guarantee program, helped me. I had great experience while in the Army and used my education benefits to attend and graduate from UMUC. I used my home loan benefits to buy my first house. Looking back, joining the Army was one of the best decisions I've made in my life.

What did you do in the military? How does that translate to what you do in your current role?
I was a combat medic and went on to Operating Room Technician School at the Academy of Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I spent three and a half years at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey at Patterson Army Hospital. Two years after I'd been stationed there, I met and married my wife, who was an ear, nose, and throat technician. Just as my four-year hitch was coming to an end, she received orders for Walter Reed, so I followed her to the Washington, D.C. area.

My healthcare training in the military has served me throughout my career. In fact, my company's largest contract is with the Defense Health Agency. It's the division of the Pentagon that manages Tricare, the very part of the Army that I was employed by while I was on active duty. While I was preparing for my interview with IntelliDyne, I had to look-up the DHA acronym to see what it stood for. I started laughing when I realized that I might be supporting the delivery-of-care unit I was involved with years earlier while still in uniform.

Tell us a little about IntelliDyne and why you chose to work for this company.
Based on the fact their longest-running prime contract was with DHA, it was a no-brainer. Supporting the DHA headquarters by identifying and hiring the best civilian sector employees I could find was like being back in service with my brothers and sisters. They brought me on board not only to recruit, but to lead our veteran and military family outreach program. I attend Soldier for Life and other veteran outreach programs on a regular basis.

What kinds of opportunities are currently available at IntelliDyne that may be a fit for a transitioning servicemember?
Most of our positions are in the IT sector, as we manage the networks for DHA and two divisions of the Department of Justice. We have many opportunities for help desk and deskside support technicians, systems administrators, systems engineers, network engineers, security engineers, and information assurance professionals. Occasionally, we have positions for program managers, project managers, project schedulers, and technical writers, as well.

How can a transitioning servicemember or veteran best "sell" his or her military service to stand out from other applicants?
There are a few things I always point out to the attendees at the Transition Assistance Program events I attend.

  • Be sure you've translated your experience from military jargon and acronyms into civilian language that non-military recruiters and hiring managers can easily understand. Look at job descriptions for the civilian sector positions you want to pursue and know what terminology you should or should not include on your résumé.
  • Focus on the "required" and "desired" sections of the job descriptions you're interested in so that you can know what the employer is looking for and whether your background is a fit.
  • Always list your branch of service on your résumé and the fact that you were honorably discharged. If you are submitting your résumé for a specific opportunity and a security clearance is required, be sure to list it on your résumé. If you remember the month and year it was awarded to you, list that as well. This is particularly important if you want to work for a government contractor.

What are some of the common mistakes that you see transitioning servicemembers or veterans make when they are competing for jobs at your company?
Military veterans are often not used to having to interview for their next position, and they're often unprepared. In the civilian marketplace, the résumé gets you in the door, but you need to sell yourself in the interview. This means preparation. You should have answers prepared for standard interview questions that can be found on any job website―Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, etc. Additionally, you should rehearse answers to questions that will likely be posed to you regarding the position itself, the company you want to work for, and the department. Keep your answers short. If the interviewer needs more information, they'll ask another question.

If you are interested in a career in IT or project management and you want to work for a federal contractor, you should get the certifications that match your career interests before you start your job search. DOD 8570.01 regulations state that all contractors must meet the Tier I, II, or III certification requirements to obtain a Common Access Card card. I've seen too many otherwise excellent résumés of veterans whom I'd love to hire but can't because they don't have the right certifications.

I've also seen candidates who are not appropriately dressed for an interview. Be sure to invest in a business wardrobe, even if it's one or two outfits that you'll only wear for interviewing. The old saying is true: "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression."

What other advice would you give to transitioning servicemembers or veterans about how to be successful during a job search?
When applying for a position at a company, find out who the veteran outreach contact is there. Whenever possible, it's their responsibility to hire the military veteran or family member for available opportunities within their organizations. We are looking for you, and we will champion your candidacy!

About the Author

Kristin Schrader is the associate director of InternPLUS and military career programs at UMUC. She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities. Most recently, she was the lead trainer in Europe for the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Workshop, where she taught transitioning servicemembers about the civilian job search. Kristin is a proud military spouse, and she is passionate about helping others achieve their goals.