Season 2 Episode 89: Applying your Same Military Skills in a New Industry with Sarah Ostrowski

Having served 7 years as a US Army intelligence officer, Sarah Ostrowski decided she was ready for a new challenge. Her transition plan included going back to school, however, when the acceptance letters started to arrive, her gut was telling her to go in a different direction. Today she is the Manager of Global Intelligence and Threat Analysis for the Walt Disney Company. Her job search was full of mistakes and blunders, but she used informational interviewing, networking and an engaging, open and honest communication style to ultimately land her role at Disney. Sarah discusses how she showcased her military skills in her interview and as an employee, who was promoted during her first year.

For the first four years of her military career, Sarah served as a field artillery officer before moving into the intelligence field. During her service, Sarah noticed the need for better access to quality mental health services. Her interest in pursuing a PhD in the psychology field spurred her toward military separation. During her last deployment with Special Forces, she applied to schools. When the acceptance letters came in, she realized she wasn’t 100% sure this was the right path. She made the decision to defer school and seek out other opportunities in the private sector. Her first stop was LinkedIn.

As an intelligence officer, Sarah used her intelligence skills to gather intelligence on LinkedIn. However, you don’t have to have a background in intelligence to utilize all the functions of LinkedIn for your job search! She relied heavily on the algorithms already built into the platform during her searches. For example, she searched military intel officer and analyzed the profiles to learn what military intel veterans are doing. If a person continued to work in the intelligence community, she poured over the profile to learn the civilian intelligence language. Her next step was reaching out to individuals for informational interviews.

During a late-night job search session on LinkedIn, Sarah came across an intelligence analyst role at Disney. At this point, she didn’t have a civilian resume but also knew job postings don’t stay live for long. She pulled together a resume that was far from perfect. Knowing her resume was not going to be enough to capture the hiring manager’s attention, she did a search on LinkedIn for Disney global team members. She cold messaged every single one of them and was pleasantly surprised at the 50% response rate, including one from the hiring manager himself. Through her conversations, she learned the job posting was intended for an internal candidate but that didn’t stop her from asking questions and learning and understanding the company’s needs. Not long after, she received a phone call for an interview.

Sarah highlights the importance of asking questions, listening and learning how to be a solution for an organization’s problems. Through her informational interviews, Sarah formed relationships which overcame her weak resume full of military jargon, acronyms and even a misspelling.

Sarah discusses how she identified transferable skills and pitched them in her interview. Skills she cultivated in the military such as building teams and understanding systems and processes felt like soft skills when she applied and wrote her resume. After progressing in her career at Disney, she now realizes the value of those skills and mentors others to showcase them on the resume and in the interview.

Please head to the Lessons Learned for Vets YouTube channel at to hear a bonus clip on Sarah’s career progression and lessons learned during her first year in the corporate world.

You can connect with Sarah on LinkedIn at

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