Any vet can attest that making the transition back to civilian life can be difficult. The skills that make you successful in military life don’t always translate to the civilian world. You’re essentially starting a whole new career. However, many military vets rise to the challenge and pass with flying colors.
Enter Peter Quinones. A tattoo artist, Harley-enthusiast, and U.S. Army Vet, Peter was transitioning out of almost two decades of service when he came to LeaderQuest for assistance.
This is the story of how he was able to land a job in cyber security that made him $50,000 more a year from where he started.
Sixteen Years of Service
June 1999 – January 2015
“I was doing a PhD in emergency management and a lot of cyber was coming up as a critical need so I started looking around. I decided to come into LeaderQuest and talk.”
Peter Quinones left the U.S. Army with an impressive, 16-year service record. He started as a Human Resources Specialist and was later reclassified as Military Police where he aimed to apply real-world practice towards his BA in Criminal Justice.
During his career, he trained military police officers in tactical law enforcement operations that resulted in 100% mission success with zero casualties. While still in the employ of the Army, he also pursued a Master of Arts in Security Management at American Military University.
It’s safe to say, Peter was no slouch. With his military transition coming up he wanted to face the problem head-on. That’s where he first made contact with LeaderQuest.
“I was doing PhD in emergency management and a lot of cyber was coming up as a critical need so I started looking around,” Peter said, “I decided to come into LeaderQuest and talk.”
Joining up with LeaderQuest
January 2015 – March 2015
“LeaderQuest has become more than just a place to take classes. The staff is great and always helpful . . . everyone is helpful and that is why I keep recommending it to people.”
With his background primarily in security-related work, Peter didn’t know much about IT. What he did know is that the field was growing and he wanted to explore his options. Taking classes at LeaderQuest seemed like the perfect way to see if he was interested.
Peter headed to the Colorado Springs campus to learn more. He liked what he saw and before long he was enrolled and hit the ground running during his transition. “The first thing I did upon my transition to civilian life was to take my A+, Net+, and Sec+,” Peter said, “I had no previous IT experience.”
Peter tackled the three CompTIA certifications in January, February, and March. He ended up liking the atmosphere so much that LeaderQuest became more than a school. It wasn’t long before enjoyed coming on to campus just to study.
“It kind of feels like home,” Peter said, “The staff is great and always helpful.”
Interested in our entry-level IT classes such as A+ and Network+? Get more information below.
Cyber Security All-Star
“Immediately upon obtaining my Security+ certification I was offered a position as an Information System Security Engineer, that jumped me up from my previous pay by about $20,000, just shy of making six figures.”
After Peter earned the Security+ certification, which is much sought-after in the Department of Defense and enterprise cyber security world, it wasn’t long before he got the job he was looking for.
“Immediately upon obtaining my Security+ certification I was offered a position as an Information System Security Engineer, that jumped me up from my previous pay by about $20,000, just shy of making six figures,” he said.
By the time Peter was finished, he had accomplished much. He’d made it into the cyber security world. He’d learned valuable knowledge and was even able to re-sit his Security+ class to refresh the information later. All in all, during his time at LeaderQuest, Peter went from making around $40,000 to $90,000.
“If I can make it with little to no experience, anyone can—especially if they have LeaderQuest on their side.”
After getting hired, Peter continued to push his career. Eventually, he partnered with another IT specialist in the field. Today, he’s the Chief Operating Officer of an information system engineering firm that focuses on risk management framework compliance and IT security solutions.
“I’ve recommended numerous individuals to LeaderQuest,” Peter said, “I am proof that if I can make it with little to no experience, anyone can—especially if they have LeaderQuest on their side to assist them with their goals.”
Interested in IT Training?
Looking for a chance to upgrade your career? Or maybe you want to jump into the thriving IT or cyber security industry and you just need your foot in the door. LeaderQuest offers excellent IT training with industry expert instructors. They’ll prepare you to take the certification exams while also giving you the skills and confidence you need to thrive in a new position.
Do you work days? Nights? Would you rather take classes online? LeaderQuest offers classes during the day, at night, online, and on campus to work with any schedule. Getting trained is an investment in your education, but with even starting IT salaries in the $35,000 to $50,000 range, it’s one well worth making.
If you’re exhausted and stuck in a job you hate, don’t worry. Give us a call today and our career advisers can help you find IT training path that’s best for you.
You spend years of your life in the dedication and protection of your country and the people you love, only to return home after all that hard work to a job market that doesn’t know how to value your dedication and evaluate the learning you’ve already done.
A corporate IT career path is about as different from the military promotion system as civilian life here in the US is from the time you spent as a soldier overseas.
You send in countless resumes only to get back one rejection email after another… without so much as a chance to meet someone for a face-to-face interview to show them how capable you really are.
It’s totally unfair, we know.
And it’s frustrating. Beyond frustrating.
But the silver lining is, there’s always, always a way to swing your military experience in your favor without making life-long desk jockeys uncomfortable around you or sounding like that old man down the street who sits on his porch with a shotgun and a can of warm beer talking about his own good old days in the Army.
Because the truth of it is, your status as a veteran and your experience in the military are an advantage in the IT job market… you’ve just got to do some reverse-engineered thinking to figure out how to put a spin on things so your resume, cover letter, and interview make you a no-brainer to hire.
Here’s what we mean:
1. Incredible Attention to Detail is Needed for an IT Career
In the military, those tiny details you had to pay close attention to and worry over could literally make the difference between life and death.
Information Technology, though usually not life-threatening in any way, is what it is because of the small details and the attention to how to optimize even the smallest things for the greater good.
It’d be rare to find a non-veteran with the respect and attention towards even the smallest details that you’ve had to learn in your time in the armed forces.
2. Post 9/11 GI Bill® = IT Training for Veterans
The desk jockeys of corporate America may not realize the gravity of the work you’ve done in the military (try not to hold it against them). But they almost always respect the desire for quality education.
As a veteran, one of the best advantages you have access to is the Post 9/11 GI Bill®. You can fund some quality IT career training and IT certifications for yourself once you get out of the military to get a head start in your civilian IT career.
If you’ve already used it, flaunt that shamelessly. Show off that you dove head-first into an IT education so you’d be able to do the best job possible once you landed a new IT career.
If you haven’t used it yet and you know what IT field you want to go into, you can add to your resume when you’ll be starting your new educational program, or even just mention what you’ll be using your GI Bill® for.
If the reason you’re reading this article is that you are currently considering all of your different options, be sure to read “5 Reasons Why Veterans Make Perfect Network Security Administrators.”
Pro tip: If the company you want to work for doesn’t have any openings, ask for a 30-minute informational interview, presenting yourself as a veteran interested in their line of work. During the interview, you can ask for suggestions on which IT certifications for veterans to pursue and what programs they recommend. Keep in touch with your interviewer thanking them for their time and again when you’ve enrolled in an IT training program. It’ll keep you top-of-mind for when a new position opens.
3. Leadership Is Your Way of Life
Confidence, being able to take charge to solve technology problems, and a having a knack for creating workable solutions are some of the best assets you can have in the IT world!
In the military, leadership gets ingrained into you at a much younger age than most young people who go directly into a corporate IT career path.
For example, most people join the military rather young (some at only 18), so by the time you’re 22 (the age most people graduate from college), you’ve already got a couple of years of experience leading and managing a team of people.
Most corporate hiring managers don’t realize this, though, so make sure you carefully point it out on your resume.
4. No-Nonsense Management Systems
Along with early leadership, the army and the other branches of the armed forces do not mess around with wasting time, money, or resources when it comes to getting things done.
There might be a bit of puffery in the corporate world that you’re not used to, but at the end of the day, the main decision-makers of any company are looking to run their businesses with that kind of no-nonsense, goal-achieving work system you learned in the military.
So while your fellow entry-level tech colleagues may not ‘get it,’ your bosses and managers definitely will.
5. Perseverance & Calm Thinking During Chaos
To say things get chaotic in an office environment after the things you’ve experienced in the army may seem like a bit of a joke to you.
But when there’s loads of money on the line for one particular business deal, tensions can run pretty high between co-workers if it looks like things might not be going your way and the deal might be lost.
Or, particularly in cyber security, if you’ve got a hacker that’s advancing quickly and you can’t seem to figure out what to do to stop him, panic can quickly take over for the average IT professional. But not you…your training gives you the ability to think clearly and react better, which makes cyber security training for veterans a good fit!
You’ve been taught how to persevere when things get tough (heck, most of your corporate colleagues probably couldn’t make it through boot camp), and you know how to calm your mind to think progressively and analytically during chaotic situations to come to the smartest course of action possible.
Revamp Your Resume & Start Advancing to Your IT Career
Another thing that’s different from the military in the corporate world is speaking in “I” instead of “we.”
The military is all about group honor and value, which is great. But when you’re getting hired in the corporate world, it matters less what your group as a whole accomplished and more what you did individually to contribute to your group’s success.
So while you might have the right information on your résumé, you’d be surprised what a difference in wording could do for you!
And while we’ve only listed five here, the University of Colorado made a list of 21 advantages you can easily list out on your resume and cover letter as a veteran, depending on the job in IT that you’re going after.
For more help revamping your resume to get hired quickly into the career path you want, check out our IT career services and our free 10-step checklist that walks you through a successful job search.
Did You Know?
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The day-to-day of the military and the daily grind of Corporate America are worlds apart. Worlds.
They resemble each other in no way possible, yet once you’ve gotten your discharge papers from the military, it sometimes can seem like you’re expected to make the military to civilian transition and just jump into the corporate world head first, figuring out how to swim in the heat of the moment.
It doesn’t sound easy, but even still, it’s much easier said than done.
Clearly, starting out in an entry-level position is almost a necessity… not only because of the skills you need to learn that you don’t have yet, but also so you can start out in a less threatening role while you get your bearings in a totally different work environment than what you’ve ever been used to.
And for veterans interested in some of the top jobs for veterans in IT, that means a pretty conscious choice between a few deliberate starting points you can use as a launch pad for a successful life-long post-military IT career. (You know…once you learn how to swim among those corporate sharks.)
Taking examples from GS4, a company with its hands in security and information technology whose workforce is around 1/4 veterans, here are some of the top job for veterans to pursue when making the military to civilian transition into the workforce:
1. Support Specialist, Technical Support with Security
This is perhaps the most popular starting point for many veterans wishing to pursue an IT career. The reason it is one of the top jobs for veterans is that the required IT certifications to qualify for entry-level IT careers in this field are also the certifications required to be DOD 8570 compliant – which can lead to some of the best government cybersecurity IT careers! Also, they are almost always covered by GI Bill® and Post 9/11 education benefits. LeaderQuest’s Computer User Support Specialist IT training program is only 23 days and will prepare you for four different DOD 8570 compliant certifications in only 23 days!
Earning the base ITIL and CompTIA IT certifications will help you get your foot in the door quickly and allow you to get experience while pursuing your long term IT education and career goals.
2. Tech Compliance
As an entry-level compliance officer, you get your hands on policy creation, implementation, and procedures to make sure the entity you’re working for stays within important compliance guidelines.
While some companies will require a Bachelor’s Degree for such a position, others are more concerned with experience, and still others simply just want you to have the knowledge you need to back yourself up.
A training like our Network Security Specialist IT Training is comprehensive and will give you’ll the knowledge you need to get in on the ground level so you can start climbing your way up the ladder.
3. Network Technician / Network Administrator
Cisco® products provide a network that can securely and reliably handle all types of traffic, throughout the entire network, over virtually any media, while providing consistent service delivery to all users. Because of this, Cisco products are used across the world and it is essential for anyone serious about network administration to be knowledgeable and experienced in Cisco. CCNA is by far the most popular IT certification for Cisco products and is highly sought after by many companies. CCNA Training and Certification can happen in as little as 10 days and put you on the road to advanced level IT careers.
4. Network Control Center Operator
Admittedly, this may not be the most glamorous of entry-level positions for IT careers, but it is something, and it does get you working under the people whose jobs you want someday.
You’re essentially working as a call center help specialist, but with a little deeper responsibility in solving security-based technical problems.
The great thing about it, though, is that it doesn’t require anything higher than a high school diploma and conversational English skills to land the job… meaning it’s one that you could probably land right away without having to worry about who’s paying your bills while you’re going to school.
5. Transition & Management Training for Veterans
While this is not specifically an IT career, if you can get accepted into a position like this, it can be one of your best bets for getting your foot in the door at some of the most successful companies in the country…setting you up for a great career path in your field of choice until retirement.
GE, for example, has a transition assistance workshop created specifically for United States veterans moving out of the military and into the corporate workforce. (It’s called JOLP – Junior Officer Leadership Program.)
While they’re not always hiring for IT positions into this program, it’s worth checking regularly to see if they are.
Because GE is such a large company, it’s only natural that they’ll have some IT support roles, and if you get accepted into their program, you’ll rotate around to different departments so you can dig your hands into many aspects of business (like finance, leadership, organization, and six sigma quality), giving you a deeper understanding of the business world that’ll only help your career in the best ways possible.
And though GE, in particular, does require a Bachelor’s degree to get into their program, (you could definitely use your Post 9/11 Benefit to help pay for that), some other programs may be more flexible on educational prerequisites.
The Most Important Step for Military to Civilian Transition… Getting Your Foot in the Door
One of the most difficult things for transitioning veterans entering the corporate world is going from a position of authority and respect to starting out at the bottom of the ladder once again.
It can seem a little de-motivating at first, but with the discipline, motivation, and pure work ethic that you learned in the military, you’ll be able to learn, work hard, and study towards higher-level IT certifications, meaning that you won’t be at the bottom of the ladder for long!
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
We’ve got a special place in our hearts for veterans who’ve served to keep our country and our freedoms safe.
So much so that we dedicate an entire department of our company to working with veterans and their families helping them figure out the technical education and IT training they need to get on their desired IT career path once they leave the armed services.
One of the biggest things we’ve noticed when Veterans come to us is that there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to:
- How to know which jobs you qualify for as a veteran
- What technical education path and certifications can best elevate your current military skills and background to qualify you for CURRENT job openings
- How to get the most out of your Post 9/11 Benefits
Competition in the commercial world doesn’t make it much better, either. It’s a place where even the most high-ranking military titles don’t carry as much weight as we’d like them to, and where entry-level salaries can be more cut-throat than you’d like to deal with.
So, to help you wade through the confusion and frustration, we got our IT Career Training Services team to answer some of the most common, frustrating questions veterans have about taking the next step in their career path after leaving the military.
Because after serving our country the way that you did? You deserve the IT career of your dreams!
Q: Why do so many job listings require skills that I don’t have? Where can I use the skills I learned in the Army?
Positions and working skills required for the army are very specialized.
And while they require time, study and practice to learn and not everyone can do them, they are so specialized to one career path; which often means they’re not directly applicable to working from a cubicle, for example.
Jobs in the Department of Defense might be a good choice, since they’re typically better at helping veterans transfer their skill sets than corporate organizations.
Q: Do you mean I have to start from the bottom, even after I reached _______ rank in the army?
While you may not have to start from the absolute bottom (like an unpaid college-level internship), chances are you won’t land the job you’re after right away. Most corporate promotion strategies are based on merit, and a lot of hiring in the corporate world happens from within.
So, yes, you might need to get your foot in the door with a lower-level position than you’d initially like, but the good news is you can use the discipline and focus you learned in the military to quickly prove yourself better than your peers, pushing you up the promotion ladder.
Q: Do I have to do two to four years in a college before I can get some kind of degree to prove myself?
As long as the educational institution is approved by the VA (LeaderQuest is!), you can use your Post 9/11 Benefit to pay for any kind of job-based training, so you don’t have to waste your time sitting in classes about world literature if you’d rather work in technology.
In fact, many of our career-ready, VA-approved technical training programs are quite short. The I.T. training program we most recommend for veterans who want to begin their IT career is only 23 days, for example.
Take a look at our Degree vs. Certification article to see pros and cons of each path.
Q: I think I might want to work in IT, but how do I choose an IT career path, let alone a training program?
IT is a great choice. It’s one of the fastest-growing sectors and provides more and more high-paying jobs every single year.
Since most veterans don’t already have a working background in IT, we recommend our Computer User Support Specialist Training. It gives you all the fundamentals you need to start a solid career path, and gives you what you need to pass THREE CompTIA certifications (A+, Network+, and Security+), which around 80% of IT employers look at as an advantage.
(We also love that it only takes 23 days to complete.)
The three certifications also fill levels one and two of the security requirements for Department of Defense Directive 8570, if you decide you’d like to work for them.
Q: If I can’t get the salary I want right away, what kind of salary can I expect?
This highly depends on the field of work you go into. Teaching is vastly different from marketing, which is vastly different from IT. (Not to mention all the other endless possibilities.)
But since we specialize in helping veterans transition into the IT field, we’ll answer for those interested in IT.
Based on our research from O*Net Online, we’ve found that Computer Support Technicians (an entry-level position you can obtain with our training) that have the CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications earn between $46,000 to $66,000 per year, depending on location.
This is still above the national average, which was $44,888 in 2013.
So… What Should I Do Next?
How you use your Post 9/11 Benefit is totally up to you and what your post-military career goals are.
If you know what your dream career is, identify the qualifications it has and figure out what kind of training program you need to get your foot in the door of a company that can help lead you there.
If you’re still not sure what you’d like to do, we have a veteran resources center you can check out. Get in touch and we can answer all of YOUR questions and help you help figure out exactly what you want, how to get there, and how to use your Post 9/11 Benefit to help!