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Overlooked Careers: Are You Bypassing Your Dream Job?

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: UMUC

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Dig into anyone’s professional past, and you may find some interesting surprises, especially if that person is a veteran who learned long ago to tackle a civilian career they may have otherwise overlooked. And if you discover some basic ways to see your skills in a new light, you might also stumble into a dream job that wasn’t even in your sights.


Take Steve Degnan, Chief HR Officer for Nestlé Purina PetCare North America. Would you guess he used to run hundreds of rifle ranges as an Army LT Ð and even a missile maintenance platoon, in which he was responsible for $50 million worth of equipment in the 1990s? Degnan is the first to admit that even he didn’t see how his training would eventually parlay into a career with a mega pet food manufacturing corporation.


“Most military people have had big responsibilities at a young age,” Degnan says. “But because military members become so accustomed to duties that would overwhelm anyone else, they often overlook potential jobs and fulfilling careers.” For example, Nestlé Purina PetCare is building relationships with military transition offices in order to connect with veterans that would be great fits but who might never think to apply.

“We have openings across the gamut in our corporation - openings in almost every function in the company, from great entry-level jobs in manufacturing, to everything that encompasses supply chains, operations, HR and engineering,” Degnan says.


But how do you connect those dots between your salient skills and jobs (or companies) that haven’t even crossed your mind? We asked Degnan and some other experts for pointers on how to fall effortlessly into the dream job that you’ve never considered.

Eyeball Industries No One Else is Eyeballing

In many cases, your military skills are transferrable in a number of industries. You just don’t know it, says Russ Hovendick, author of “Deployment to Employment: A Guide for Military Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Employment.” He is also founder of Directional Motivation in Sioux Falls, SD, a firm specializing in job coaching and employment searches.


The secret, Hovendick says, is to find industries that other job hunters are ignoring and look for jobs matching your skills or interests in those arenas.


The manufacturing and agricultural sectors are top areas that veterans aren’t considering. For example, high-speed packaging and automation systems in the food industry rely on IT professionals, but veterans may be too focused on Silicon Valley jobs. The same goes for the automotive sector, which relies on robotics and electronics.


Have you done work with propulsion systems? Those skill sets are needed anyplace with a lot of process flow and liquid transfer systems (think food industry, oil and gas, and water treatment facilities).


Diesel mechanics, think you can only work on tanks? Think again. The same motors you’ve worked on are in the agricultural sector, with farming equipment (consider companies like Caterpillar and John Deere).


Rachelle Chapman is Senior Manager for Strategic Partnerships and the Military Liaison for Adecco, a leading provider of HR solutions. Sales is also a largely overlooked area in which many veterans would find success, she says.


“Veterans do not always see the direct correlation between their experience in the military and how they might excel in a sales environment,” she says.


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