When Jeff Garner decided to retire rather quickly from the Air Force after 20 years of service, he admittedly had little time to prepare for a civilian job search. The Air Force Master Sergeant (E-7) and 20 year veteran had extensive experience working with fuels and aircraft and had served in England, Guam, Nevada, and Germany before retiring and heading to Phoenix, Arizona.
Although he had also earned a master’s degree in human resources, and had gained HR experience as a First Sergeant, Garner aimed to return to the fuel industry. However, he knew getting back to that field would be difficult, so he began considering the water industry as an alternative. He had heard of RecruitMilitary, but it was applying for a job on another site that led him to his next career. “RecruitMilitary appeared on a drop-down menu; I clicked on it and put my resume on the website. Soon after, I received an email about an upcoming All Veterans Career Fair coming to Phoenix in 2015,” he said.
Once inside, Garner appreciated that the employers at the event were targeting every rank. He did a quick scan of the room and found a water company, EPCOR. HR representatives were on site and took his resume, which led to an online application and an interview the following week. He began working in March 2015 as a water system plant operator. “I hit the bullseye,” he said.
Garner’s favorite thing about the service was the people he worked alongside as well as being part of a team. He deployed nine days after 9/11 to Spain to assist with the buildup to go into Afghanistan. He is also grateful for the technical skills he learned, and the opportunities for education and advancement; he earned 2 associate degrees, a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in human resources. “Overall, the military teaches you so much you don’t realize you have,” he said.
“My military career gave me so many directions I could’ve gone in: OSHA training, FEMA, lab work, HR work…that’s something I’m grateful for,” he remarked. “Vets have so much to offer,” Garner said. “Our leadership experience and training, our dedication and loyalty. Whether you serve four or 20 years, you develop the skills of being on time, having integrity and doing the right thing.”
Garner offers this advice to veterans who are seeking new careers:
- Social media is a great place to connect, but face-to-face interaction is the best, and career fairs offer invaluable platforms to meet potential employers.
- Think outside the box, and learn to break down your transferrable skills. Just because you have a background in ammunition, be open-minded about where that can take you.
- Learn how to spin:
- “Even though I was interviewing for a position with a water company and my experience was in fuels , I did know about safety and how to test jet fuels, so I spun that and talked it up. I knew about lab procedures.
“Seeking a new career forced me to examine my skills and experience and see where else they could apply. I was able to spin my old skills into a new career,” Garner said.