Season 3 Episode 143: Strategic Career Changes with Sean Oliva
After 17 years of service, Sean Oliva was medically retired from the US Army. Because he had spent 10 years in a recruiting role, Sean thought he could easily slide into a similar role on the civilian side. His job searching proved to be extremely challenging and competitive. After accepting a role with a nonprofit, he transitioned into a talent acquisition role with Boston Scientific. Recently, Sean made an internal move into a project management position.
When Sean medically retired in 2021, he soon realized how competitive the job market was. During his transition, Sean was working with a nonprofit to gain public access for his service dog. At the time, the current and first responder program coordinator was retiring, so Sean applied and was offered the position. Sean found his new role extremely rewarding, but the challenge of living other people’s PTSD triggered his own PTSD. Weighing the pros and cons of working for a nonprofit, Sean decided to look for roles in talent acquisition. While he was submitting applications, he sought coaching and mentorship through Warriors to Work – a veteran employment program within Wounded Warrior Project. They helped him with his interview skills and learning how to effectively translate his military skills. Ultimately, they helped him find the confidence to sell himself in the interview. There is a balance of being humble as a person and confident in your value.
For someone who is considering a career that is different than their military background, Sean encourages them to expand their search and include jobs that are relatable. From there, start to network. Conducting informational interviews with people already in the industry will reveal other avenues of opportunity. Boston Scientific hired Sean, in part, because of his soft skills. When Sean served in talent acquisition with Boston Scientific, he also found that veterans possess a set of soft skills which can be hard to find in other applicants.
When Sean decided he wanted a new role within Boston Scientific, he reached out to colleagues and set up time to learn about their roles. To gain visibility within the organization, he got involved with the Veterans Employee Resource Group. He made the right connections and proved his value with his organizational and communication skills. When a new project management position opened, he was immediately contacted and encouraged to apply. His networking and visibility within the organization paid off. He got the job!
Sean shares some advice on how to stand out from the applicant pool. On his resume, Sean highlights his strengths in a short paragraph under the title of the role that he’s applying for. From there, his professional experience showcases achievements with metrics that indicate how he saved the company money, made money or brought solutions to solve a problem. He encourages every person to translate their military job titles to a civilian equivalent. Integrate your soft skills into the resume. Show how you used both hard skills – technical skills – and soft skills to achieve your accomplishments. Don’t limit your job search to companies that advertise specifically to veterans. Just because an organization doesn’t have a “military friendly” slogan on their career page doesn’t mean they are not interested in hiring veterans.
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