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How to Transition from the Military to a Civilian Career with David Orozco, '14


David Orozco ’14 | Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness

Geared Up

How Thomas Edison State University Helped David Orozco ’14 Serve His Fellow Veterans

After serving his country in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard, earning a commission as an officer and completing a deployment in Iraq, David Orozco did not expect to find himself unemployed when he left active duty service and became a veteran.

Orozco had earned a scholarship to Rutgers University in 2002, when he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson, N.J., but instead decided to complete military training that he began prior to his senior year of high school in the Army National Guard.

“While my peers were enjoying their summer down the shore or spending time with their friends, I was learning military tactics, learning how to shoot weapons and disciplining my mind and body,” recalled Orozco. “I decided to forego my college education at that time so that I could finish my military training. The attacks of September 11 were a big factor in my decision.”

Orozco rose through the ranks, eventually earning a commission as a second lieutenant, and served in several specialties, including infantry, recruitment, human resources and military intelligence. He started his college career in 2004 at a community college while stationed at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey and first enrolled at Thomas Edison State University in 2009.

“I realized that in order to fulfill my potential, I had to attend college and immerse myself in the academics,” he said. “However, it wasn't until I was in Iraq that I foresaw my military career was reaching an impasse due to my lack of college education.”

Orozco learned first-hand just how large of an impasse he was facing when he transitioned to civilian life in 2013.

“I encountered some difficulties coming out of active duty, specifically because I thought I was prepared but I really wasn't ready for the job market,” recalled Orozco. “I was an officer, I had all of this training, and I had some college education but not a degree yet. I did not know where to go or what do to with my life.”

At the time, he was enrolled in the Associate in Applied Science degree in criminal justice and the Bachelor of Science degree in homeland security and emergency preparedness. Orozco said he realized that he wanted to find a position with a Fortune 500 company that offered the potential for professional growth.

But it was not easy, even with his veteran credentials.

“I faced several challenges during my transition. These included not knowing how to market myself to employers, not really networking with civilian counterparts and not being able to accurately convey the military experience on my resume,” said Orozco, who completed both degrees at Thomas Edison State University in 2014.

After a several months, he got his first break with the Department of Defense and secured a position after networking with civilian professionals. Additional networking a few months later led to an interview at CBS, where Orozco was selected for a position as a military and veteran recruiter. Today, he serves as a primary contact for veterans interested in working at CBS and its subsidiaries.

Four Tips to Prepare for Veteran Transition

David Orozco said veterans transitioning to the civilian job market should be able to incorporate themselves into a company's culture, understand what makes a company successful and be able to explain how what they have learned in the military can benefit a company. Below are tips he shares with active duty military members and veterans.

  1. Develop your resume (before you leave active duty service)
    • Have someone without a military background review your resume so you can see if a civilian can easily determine how your military training translates to civilian job
  2. Research the job market
    • Get an understanding about which fields are expected to grow and where jobs are forecasted be available
  3. Network
    • People are often hesitant to do this, but it is important to make sure people know who you are and what skills you possess
  4. Earn a college degree
    • It helps an employer see that you can do research, understand certain concepts and apply research and concepts to the job

“Even with all of the skills and experiences a veteran acquires in the military, they will be limited in their career options without a college degree,” he said.

Orozco said completing a college degree is extremely important, especially for veterans who are interested building a career at a large corporation in today's highly competitive civilian job market.

“Despite all the training and experience a veteran may have, unless they have a college degree, they are very limited in their career options,” he said. “My college education played an enormous role in both my military career and my ability to successfully transition to the civilian sector. Without a college degree, I wouldn't have been able to work for the Department of Defense or at a prestigious organization such as CBS.”

Orozco said that Thomas Edison State University worked for him because its online program could be completed around his schedule regardless of his location. He also said it was critical to be able to earn credit for military training.

“The best part of the courses for me was the final project. That was the culmination of everything that I had worked for and where I could apply everything I learned into a practical, real world scenario. The gratification at the end of each course was sublime,” said Orozco. “In addition, the professors understood the rigors of military life. That understanding is invaluable to veteran students.”

Orozco said the best advice he can give to veterans who are considering earning a degree is to select a course of study that they enjoy and one that is also marketable.

“Veterans should conduct research on what the future job market demands will be,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is to spend your hard earned benefits on something that is not going to improve your quality of life.”