Troops look for civilian jobs after deployment

As 2,700 Red Bulls soldiers settle in at home after returning from deployment in Kuwait earlier this spring, many of them will have to hunt for a job.

31-year-old National Guard Infantry squad leader Eric Knode is one of the lucky ones.

He managed to land a job while he was still in Kuwait and had his first interview over the phone and met his new employers face to face after returning to Minnesota.

Now, he’s starting the new job in management at a local software company. “This position provides the challenges I’m looking for to further my career,” Knode says.

It wasn’t easy. Knode, like other returning service members, had to figure out how to translate his military experience into civilian terms.

“That’s the most difficult part – trying to explain the skills and talents that I’ve learned in the military and prior civilian employment,” he says. “But in the end with the military, my training, the lessons I’ve learned, the skill set I’ve developed in making decisions and looking at processes and my education in a civilian business process improvement methodologies – all that training and that skill set helped me. The company was able to see that I was somebody who’s motivated, who’s educated and who’s made these decisions consistently over time. And I think that is a huge advantage for a company to have somebody like me coming in.”

Knode had another advantage.

Part of his job in Kuwait was training other soldiers how to translate their military experience to civilian employers. And the National Guard sent a special team to the Middle East to help troops prepare for their civilian job searches.

The team set up mock interviews and drilled soldiers on how to answer questions. They helped revise resumes and research their target civilian industries.

Knode says all that practice and access to job search resources was invaluable when it was time to find his own job, “that gave me extra preparation on how to help myself,” he says.

Now that he’s been home for about a month, Knode’s turned his attention to adjusting to the rhythms of a civilian workplace.

“I think it was my father who joked, ‘now remember, you can’t make people do push-ups if they do something wrong!’ But I don’t think it’ll be a problem because I’ve spent enough time in the civilian sector and in management so I know some of the key attributes for leadership: leading by example, servant leadership, making sure the needs of the employee are met, standing up for what’s right. So for me I think it’ll go quite smoothly.”

To help more soldiers find work this summer, the National Guard will work with private employers and officials from the Department of Employment and Economic Development to host job fairs around the state and at regional workforce centers.

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