Former career fair attendee returns to hire other veterans. “Finding a job is a full-contact sport,” he says.
Tom Banker has some sage advice for fellow veterans seeking employment:
- Finding a job or a new career is a full-contact sport. “You’d be surprised how much work you have to do to be competitive. It’s not enough to simply write your resume and post it. You have to put yourself out there – making cold calls, following up, learning about companies, and meeting people face-to-face. I worked as hard trying to find a job as I did in my last position in the Air Force,” he declared.
- Gain cross-pollination skills. Banker already had a college degree, so he leveraged his GI Bill benefits to obtain PMP and Lean Six Sigma certifications – skills that are prized in the civilian world. “You can’t just hang your hat on what you did in the military.”
- De-construct acronyms, emphasize successes. Banker is the first to admit that compiling his resume took a lot of effort. But the process of translating and de-militarizing his duties to showcase what an employer would want to see made for good talking points later in his interviews. “It’s one thing to state that you were a director of operations, but an employer won’t know what that means.” Instead, emphasize successes that will resonate with civilians: savings, improved efficiencies, and process improvements.
- Jump on civilian-friendly opportunities. Banker specifically took on certain tasks in the Air Force solely because of their potential to translate well in the civilian sector. He acknowledged, “Yes, it’s great to tell employers that you’ve deployed and have completed 49 combat missions. It’s impressive. But that doesn’t mean an employer necessarily understands it. Get experience in things like budgeting, money management, operations, process improvements, runway construction – anything that could give you an edge later.”
The Air Force veteran was also an Air Force “brat” who moved around before coming to rest in Colorado and deciding to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Upon graduation from Colorado State University, Banker was immediately commissioned as an Air Force second lieutenant and headed to Texas for pilot training on the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueling aircraft. He twelve years in the service included seven deployments in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom; screening candidates for flight training as part of the 306 Flight Training Group in Pueblo, Colorado; and finally as the Director of Staff for the 18th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.
Job Search and Success:
Banker got out of the Air Force in August 2012 and decided to settle his family in Colorado. Having gone from school directly into the service, making the decision to move into the civilian world was “a leap of faith,” he said. Banker continues to serve in the Air Force Reserves.
Luckily, he had an aggressive plan in place when conducting his civilian job search. “I went at it pretty hot and heavy starting about six months before leaving the Air Force,” he said. He networked continuously, researched companies, scoured websites, posted his resume, and registered as a candidate on a number of job boards, including RecruitMilitary’s. “I even flew to the states on my own steam to secure interviews.” His plan was working, and Banker was in the process of interviewing for project management-related roles in a variety of industries.
Then a posting for a Director of Public Safety Communications for Eagle County (Town of Vail) caught his eye. “They needed someone with leadership strengths who could manage multi-lateral relationships with stakeholders countywide. I acquired small group leadership skills right off the bat as a second lieutenant, and commanded up to 60 student pilots as a captain. In my final active duty assignment I was in charge of more than 240 soldiers.” So he applied for the spot.
Soon after, he noticed that Vail/Eagle County would be one of the exhibitors at an upcoming RecruitMilitary Career Fair in Denver. “I was already in the pipeline, but I wanted a chance to get in front of them again,” he said. “I had a chance to visit their booth and speak with their recruiters, but I also visited a lot of the other booths. I got several interviews on the spot for project management roles with some well-known companies,” he said.
Banker’s plan and persistence paid off. He began working for the town of Vail in November of 2012, and directs a team of 24 911-dispatchers. In a strange twist of fate, it’s Banker who is now doing the hiring. He has brought several veterans onto his team, and hopes to hire more. “I know what you get from a military candidate, in terms of how they think, their training, and expectations.”
His transition journey has come full circle – he recently attended the RecruitMilitary career fair in Denver with the hope of hiring more veterans.