- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

An Educated Transition

Realize the value of a college degree

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After two tours in Iraq and three in Korea, U.S. Army veteran James Ortega knew there was only one way to provide a secure future for his family after he left the military: get an education.

“Like most enlisted members of the military, as I progressed through my career I realized that the key to achieving success would be found not only in my formal military experience but in the continuation of my civilian education,” says Ortega.

He joined the Army in 1992 and spent 20 years working on military telecommunications systems, with a focus in radio frequency management.

“When I finally decided to get out of the military, the recession was sliding into its worst,” he says. “I knew I had to do something to distinguish myself. I decided to throw everything into my education and push forward as fast as I could.”

In 2007, he enrolled at University of Phoenix to pursue his bachelor’s degree in business management. The University’s online program afforded him the flexibility to earn his degree no matter how many moves and deployments he had. After earning his degree, he began seriously considering his civilian job search.

“It was not an ideal time to make the transition,” says Ortega. “A lot of people come out of the military and think jobs will be there for the taking, but that is not the case anymore.”

He enrolled in classes offered by the Army Career & Alumni Program to learn how to write a strong resume and apply for civilian and federal jobs.

“I can’t stress how much effort it takes,” he says. “I had 10 people vet my resume.”

He sent out close to 200 resumes, each customized for the position and hiring organization. He also ramped up his networking efforts. Eventually, he landed his current position of telecommunications specialist at Fort Huachuca Network Enterprise Center in Tucson, Arizona. His responsibilities are similar to those he had while in the military.

Though he knew he had a solid foundation of skills and experience from his time in the Army, Ortega credits his degree with helping him find success after retirement.

“Everybody can find a reason to wait or not go to school, but no matter where you stand at the moment, it is always a feather in your cap to pursue education and continuously improve yourself,” says Ortega, who’s pursuing his MBA at University of Phoenix.

Image courtesy of Davis Morris

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