How One Veteran Landed a Job in IT Just 3 Weeks After Completing Training

How One Veteran Landed a Job in IT Just 3 Weeks After Completing Training

By Mark Emery

Steffon Fisher thought he had his post-military life all figured out.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 2018, he went to school for marketing. He made plans to start his own business, and had even created a website and begun acquiring clients, when COVID-19 came along and turned the whole world upside down.

“All of the clients that I had been working with were like, ‘I can’t go through with this. I’ve gotta save as much money as possible,’” Steffon recalls. “I was like, ‘Well, this is just perfect timing.’ So it kind of just fell apart. But everything happens for a reason, I think.”

What makes Steffon, 26, say that now? Using his GI Bill to attain full funding, he enrolled at the ACI (formerly LeaderQuest) Denver Tech Center Learning Hub for IT training. Just three weeks after finishing classes — and with an ITIL certification in hand — he received an offer for a job in IT.

The role: An entry-level service desk position with a Colorado company called Astonish. It was the first step to a brand-new IT career.

“They told me it was going to take about 90 days for me to get my first job offer after classes. So three weeks was definitely not expected,” Steffon says.

“I’ve always been good with computers. That’s just something that kind of comes natural to me.”

Top-Notch Instruction

it careersSteffon still remembers the call he got from ACI Learning. He had just moved from San Jose to Colorado with his wife and son. One day the phone rang, and the word “cybersecurity” caught his attention.

“Since I have the GI bill from the military, it wasn’t really a tough decision on whether or not I was going to do it or not,” Steffon says. “So I started.”

Once in class, he was immediately impressed with the quality of the IT training.

“The instructors are really awesome, and they’ll work with you,” Steffon says. “I would touch base with them, like, “Hey, yesterday was kind of rough for me. Do you think we could go over what we talked about, on the side?’ They’ll work with you on the weekend. They’ll give you an hour-long call and go over the stuff you’re missing, or what you’re not understanding. So that was really helpful.”

That above-and-beyond level of dedication was key for Steffon. Training online at home because of COVID-19, he caught himself losing focus from time to time. Having a 7-month-old baby will do that.

But wherever he got lost, he knew he could count on the instructors to get him back on track.

“They definitely have a passion for teaching you the knowledge, which is rare,” Steffon says. “These instructors want you to learn — they’re not just doing it because it’s their job.”

Stellar IT Career Help

it trainingSo that was the learning process. But what about the whole, you know, getting-a-job process?

Here again, Steffon says ACI Learning came through with flying colors.

Shannon Travis was really helpful,” Steffon says, referring to an Employment Development Manager on the Career Services team. “She did an amazing job getting me the interview with Astonish. Most universities, they don’t even bother with employment.”

With a mere three-week turnaround after completing classes, it’s hard to argue with the results.

And Steffon is loving his new job in IT.

“I’m getting some good experience,” he says. “I get challenged on a daily basis, which is something I need in order to stay interested in a job. And the company itself is awesome. They have a lot of opportunity for growth. It’s pretty much like, if they have a new project and you let it be known that you want to work on that project, regardless of your experience they’ll let you work on it, and they’ll pay you for it.”

Another plus of Astonish: the chance to move into cybersecurity.

Steffon says he is currently working on his CompTIA Security+ certification, while going to school for a computer science degree. The next certifications he wants to achieve are CompTIA A+, Certified Network Defender (CND), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).

It’s all part of what he enjoys about IT and cybersecurity — what he describes as an “act of constantly evolving” and “figuring out solutions.”

“IT definitely wasn’t in my plans,” Steffon says. “But after going through LeaderQuest and having the opportunity to take these certification exams, that’s definitely in my cards now.”

Could This Be for You?

We’ve written before about how IT can be a perfect next step for transitioning veterans, and Steffon is living proof of that. So many of the skills are transferable. Add VET TEC and other sources of funding, including for military spouses, and there’s practically no downside.

A typical course track is ACI Learning’s Computer User Support Specialist program. It can be completed in just five weeks if attending full-time during the day. If you need to take classes at night, that’s an option too. That takes 10 weeks from start to finish. Either way, graduates leave the hands-on instruction with everything they need to know in order to pass the ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications — the basics for most any entry-level IT position.

And, as Steffon mentions above, you don’t have to land that entry-level job on your own. Thanks to people like Shannon Travis on ACI Learning’s Career Services team, students and graduates have a plethora of job-hunt tools at their disposal. From resume edits to interview practice, this team exists to make job candidates as prepared as possible. What’s more, they have professional connections established over years and years in the IT and cybersecurity community. Frequently, they make phone calls to employers that result in jobs for ACI Learning graduates.

Whether you’re a veteran yourself or a civilian looking to start a new career, IT is worth considering. And ACI Learning can get you the IT training you need. Fill out the form below to learn more about the opportunities to be had with IT careers.

7 Common Misconceptions About Veterans (& Why They’re Harmful)

7 Common Misconceptions About Veterans (& Why They’re Harmful)

As Americans, it’s no secret that we love our military men and women. A few times a year, we come out en masse to thank our active duty military or veterans for their service. Despite this, there are a number of myths about veterans that circulate in our culture.

In the United States, there are 1.4 million people in the military and an additional 22 million more veterans. That’s a sizeable population of dedicated people who have made a tremendous commitment to their country only to sometimes face a backlash born of misunderstandings in the civilian world.

Veterans are sometimes put in a box by those who don’t understand and labeled as villains, victims, or vindicators. Those three categories sweep aside the broad spectrum of veteran experiences and ignore everything veterans have to offer as complex individuals with unique circumstances.

With that in mind, here are the top seven misconceptions that are harmful to veterans, the truth behind the men and women in uniform, and how everyone can fight these myths. Thank you to the LeaderQuest staff and students who have served in the military and shared their experience with us for this piece.

1. All Veterans Have PTSD

“I think one of the most unique situations I was in was when my 18-year-old daughter was giving a report in her high school class that covered my time in the military.

One of the comments that was made by her classmate was how I was dealing with my PTSD. She laughed this off but then it turned out the majority of the class

believed that all veterans are suffering from PTSD.

My daughter let them know that although it is great that veterans are able to have access to the help they need more so than in the past, not all veterans suffer from PTSD.”

~ Charles Marcus, Retired U.S. Air Force, LeaderQuest Student

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is definitely something that affects the veteran community, but it’s not quite as relevant as you might think. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD affects:

  • Almost 31% of Vietnam veterans
  • As many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans
  • 11% of veterans of the war in Afghanistan
  • 20% of Iraqi war veterans

To sum up, don’t assume that if a person is a vet they have PTSD because it’s simply not true. If someone does tell you they’re suffering from PTSD, understand that they’re trusting you with something important and often misunderstood. That brings us to our next big myth about veterans.

2. PTSD Makes Veterans Unpredictable and Violent

“One of the misconceptions is that we all have PTSD. That we’re all going to suddenly explode someday. Or they have a misconception of what PTSD is . . . popular media oftentimes shades people with military service and what they’ve done and what they’ve been through.”

~ James Gross, U.S. Air Force, LeaderQuest Staff

Yes, this is such an important issue that it gets two entries. Merely saying the word PTSD is sure to conjure up images of unbalanced vets about to explode in violent, unpredictable ways. However, this characterization is a gross misrepresentation of the real disorder.

“PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”

~ National Center for PTSD

What you might not know is that PTSD affects a multitude of people who experience trauma, not just those in the military. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event, avoiding situations that remind you of that event, having more negative beliefs because of the trauma, and feeling keyed up/jittery. People with PTSD may have other problems including:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Physical symptoms or chronic pain
  • Employment problems
  • Relationship problems, including divorce

Even for the population that is affected by this, it’s more likely to cause problems for the sufferer than the people around them. Violence is only prevalent in about 7.5% for PTSD sufferers in the U.S. population and 19.5% in post-9/11 veterans. While that is a little higher, it’s important to note that post-9/11 vets are younger (median age = 34) which meaning they’ve got a higher risk of violence anyway.

One of the biggest problems with this misconception is that it often leads to the idea that veterans with PTSD can’t be trusted with firearms. This simply isn’t true. This can be especially harmful because it’s a barrier for veterans who do suffer from PTSD and want to seek treatment. Many veterans chose not to seek treatment in part due to fear that their guns will be taken away. This can be another unnecessary barrier for people who already have to navigate a difficult mental health system to get help.

Next time you hear someone speaking with authority on how PTSD makes veterans violent, you’ll have the knowledge to step in and explain what’s really going on.

3. Veterans Don’t Think For Themselves

“When people think of a soldier obeying orders, they’re thinking of orders like ‘drop and give me fifty’ that they’ve seen in movies and on TV. In reality, those orders are more likely to be a complicated series of dynamic objectives, any or all of which can and will change as soon as plans meet reality.”

~ Antonio, 7 Myths Civilian Employers Have About Veterans

We’ve all heard the stereotype. The vet who’s a mindless drone, completely unable to think for herself. While it’s true that basic training is designed to get those that enter the military putting the good of the group first and understanding the importance of obedience, the idea that veterans don’t have original thoughts is untrue and offensive.

Veterans are put into incredibly complex situations and have to think on their feet. Each unit has its own personality which comes out in unique ways, and getting the job done is most important above all else. This means that veterans are often forced into situations where creative thinking isn’t just good, it’s essential.

So, got a complex problem you’re not sure how to fix? Call on a vet for help. You’ll be glad you did.

4. Female Veterans Don’t Exist/Don’t Do Very Much

“The simple fact that I am a veteran. They assume my husband is a veteran but are shocked that I am too.”

~ Mary Walker, U.S. Air Force, LeaderQuest Staff

Women serving on the battlefield aren’t as new as you think and have been kicking butt and taking names for decades. Currently, there are more than 2 million female veterans in the U.S., about 9% of the total veteran population. However, that doesn’t stop many people who can’t seem to wrap their minds around women in service.

While the U.S. Military only announced it would open all combat jobs to women by the end of 2015, the truth is they’ve been on the battlefield for as long as America has been a country. During the Revolutionary War, American Civil War, and Spanish American war women served as nurses, cooks, support staff, and more while others dressed as men to serve in secret.

Women were officially allowed to serve in the military since the last two years of WWI, mostly as nurses, spies, and support staff, and slowly took on more duties through WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam War

In 1976, the first women were allowed to enroll in service academies like Westpoint, and during the ’90s women were allowed to fly on combat missions, serve on combat ships, and were deployed to areas like the Persian Gulf. In the last two decades, women have served in more and more positions and Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester became the first woman awarded the Silver Star for combat action.

The lack of awareness of female veterans is especially problematic because of the issues women have to deal with in post-service life. Female veterans are two to four times as likely as their civilian counterparts to experience homelessness and make up the fastest-growing share of homeless vets. Between 20,000 and 40,000 are homeless. Most, especially those with kids or histories of trauma, couch-surf with friends and relatives as opposed to going to shelters.

So the next time someone asks, “but do women really serve in the military?” feel free to educate them on how much women have contributed to the U.S. military.

5. Vets Are Less Skilled/Able Than Their Civilian Counterparts

In a market with such a strong emphasis on degrees, there are times when veterans are looked down upon simply because of their lack of job experience outside of the military. If you had a job fixing aircraft or defusing roadside bombs in the military, there might not be a lot of direct crossover in your skillset.

However, that doesn’t mean that veterans are less skilled or incapable of learning quickly. Quite the opposite in fact. They know how to problem solve, work on deadlines, and operate under immense pressure. In fact, research from Deloitte found that the veteran workforce is 4 percent more productive and 3 percent less likely to leave the organization.

Veterans often make great employees because they’re honest, notoriously hard workers, candid, and they know how to get things done. The truth is, you’re probably already working alongside great vets right now. Be sure to give them their due and call out their hard work.

6. Some Military Branches are Lesser/Vets Are All the Same

“From an Army point of view, they look at us like, ‘You were in the Army? That’s it?’”

-U.S. Army, LeaderQuest Student

It’s no secret that the different branches of the military like to poke fun at each other, but in the civilian world, certain branches of the military are looked down upon by some. Whether they make fun of the Army, National Guard, or the Air Force, there’s no short supply of shade to be thrown around.

In the end, serving in the military is a huge commitment. Each branch is different because it serves a specific purpose, but each branch also gives members the same loyalty, ability to operate under high-pressure situations, and willingness to do what’s best for the group and get things done.

Veterans also run the risk of attracting anti-government sentiment in general. The truth is that, while veterans do tend to vote more conservative and Republican (and also vote more in general), veterans are not a homogenous group. They have varied opinions on politics and the role of government in general. As for directing anti-government sentiment their way, just don’t. It’s not necessary or appropriate.

7. Getting Hired as a Veteran is Easy

“I thought I could get a job at the drop of a hat because I was told everyone wanted to hire military. I was unemployed for 6-weeks and was throwing my resume at anything and everything.”

-Aaron Kiewicz, U.S. National Guard, LeaderQuest Staff

Transitioning is never easy. There’s the culture shock to navigate and the sudden realization that you no longer have every hour of your day planned out for you. Perhaps the single biggest fear veterans have to deal with is going from a steady paycheck to an uncertain future for them and their families. Issues like having skills that don’t translate, concern for upcoming deployments, and being swayed by negative stereotypes of veterans, can keep veterans out of jobs they might otherwise excel in. On top of that, going from a culture that uses the f-word in excess to an office environment can be difficult.

When veterans are able to find jobs, it can be difficult to find work that is meaningful. For a population of people who had such a strong sense of duty and purpose, going to an environment where that feeling isn’t front and center can be devastating.

So, with all that in mind, what is the solution to helping vets transition into the workforce more smoothly?

Getting Vets Employed in Meaningful Jobs

Fortunately, there is a multitude of groups working to help veterans get into the civilian workforce and transitioning into the next step of their lives. Groups like We Hire Heroes, Operation Homefront, Valor Bridge, and even the USO help with career fairs, practicing interview skills, and resume building to get vets prepped for the next chapter of their lives.

Certifications are also becoming an increasingly viable option for vets who need to demonstrate their abilities to get that first employer to take a chance on them. That’s why cyber security and other IT fields are becoming an increasingly attractive option for vets.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to shattering these misconceptions. The men and women of our armed forces have done so much for us. By disarming these myths that can keep vets from jobs where they excel we take the first step in creating a workforce that is open and accepting of veterans. Not to mention the fact that vets are kick-ass workers, and who among us couldn’t use a few more of those on staff? It’s just common sense, really.

13 IT Job Hunting Tips For Veterans in the Civilian World

13 IT Job Hunting Tips For Veterans in the Civilian World

While nobody likes hunting for jobs, it can be especially difficult for transitioning veterans. The civilian business world just doesn’t work the same way that the military does. While the freedom to take your career in any direction is exciting, it may also be intimidating. It can seem like you have a million things to do before you can even begin to apply for IT professional jobs.

Fortunately, by taking it one thing at a time, and one day at a time, you can break these tasks down into small parts that are easy to accomplish. Below are 13 tips to help transitioning service members undertake their job hunt with confidence!

Job Hunting

1. The Hiring Process Takes Time

This may seem obvious, but it can be hard to grasp in practice, especially for transitioning veterans. Don’t expect to be able to get a new job immediately. Plan on your job hunt taking at least 4-6 weeks before you’re starting your new position. Even if you’re interviewed within the first week of your job hunt, it will take more time for a second interview and other things such as a background check, calling your references, drug testing, and so on.

2. Professionalism is Important

Most job hunters are prepared to dress professionally, but professionalism doesn’t end there. Remember to stay in communication with potential employers. If you have a phone interview, send them an email thanking them for their time afterward. Set up reminders to occasionally email them and see if they need more information. And, if they reply to you, make it a priority to get back to them! You don’t want to lose your chance at a great job because they didn’t hear back from you for two days.

3. Not Everyone Will Respond

The military is a highly structured organization, and you may have come to expect a response when sending out an email inquiry. Sadly, the civilian job hunt is the exact opposite of this. As you send out applications, you’ll begin to notice that you hear nothing at all in response most of the time.

Don’t take it personally. Hiring managers are very busy, and they are looking for the ideal candidate for each position. With possibly hundreds of applicants per position, they don’t have time to respond to every resume they get. Just keep applying for new jobs, and don’t sweat it if you don’t hear anything back.

4. Apply to Recently Posted Jobs

Job hunting takes a significant amount of time every day. You don’t want to waste your time applying for jobs you have little to no chance of getting. It’s for this reason that we recommend only seeking jobs that have been posted within the last one to two days.

Older job postings, especially from a week or more ago, are have either been filled or the company has created an applicant pool and is working on it. Job postings from the last one to two days are fresh, and you’ll get a much higher response rate by applying to these. Speed is key because candidates are called as they apply.

5. IT Companies Tend to Hire Contract Positions to Start

Don’t look at a contract position as a “lesser” option. You may think it’s better to hold out for a full-time offer, but these can be very difficult to find. Contract positions are very common in the IT world for a few reasons and are often a gateway to a salaried position. Employers like to “try before they buy” by hiring workers on as contractors. If they like the worker’s skill set and work ethic, they will be interested in bringing them on.

Another reason for contract-to-hire is to avoid the cost of a security clearance renewal unless they know they want to have that person on staff for a while. A security clearance can cost between $30,000-$60,000 to renew. Finally, it’s important to remember that many states, including Colorado, Florida, and Texas are at-will employment states. You do not have more job security by seeking a salaried position.

IT Professional Resume

6. Certifications Count as Experience

If you have relevant IT certifications, make sure to list these on your resume! Certifications are as good as experience in the eyes of many employers and can make up for a lack of job experience on your part. If you haven’t completed your certifications yet, but are studying for them, list them on your resume as “in progress.” Keep studying and take the exam as soon as possible so that you can officially list these on your resume.

7. References Don’t Need to Be on Your Resume

This is just a quick reminder. Don’t put references on your resume! They take up valuable space, and you should reserve them until you’re asked to provide them. Instead, just add “References Available Upon Request.”

8. IT Experience and Your Resume

Just because your job title doesn’t have IT doesn’t mean you don’t have experience. If you spend some time thinking about your duties at work, you’ll notice that most jobs have IT aspects. Make sure to list these on your resume. Perhaps you have experience with a point of sale system, or you were responsible for rebooting the router at your job. Yes, there is always somebody with more IT experience, but there are also people with less! Don’t be afraid to list your experience with IT, even if it’s a hobby. It can be used on your resume.

9. PM Resumes Should Have a Section Called “Projects”

If you’re looking for project management positions, you should have a section on your resume to describe the kind of work you’ve done before and highlight your successes. Don’t include projects under your different jobs, where they may get lost. By giving them their own section, you can give your project experience the spotlight it needs to shine.

10. Use Military IT System Names

Go ahead and use the names you already know to describe military IT and networking equipment. You’d be surprised by how many people with military experience are out there. If they don’t have any experience, there’s always Google! By using the correct names for these things, you show that you know what you’re talking about.

11. Be as Technical as the Job Description

You may be worried about being too technical in your resume and putting-off people who aren’t as tech-savvy. If this is a concern, take a cue from the IT professional job description. If it contains a lot of technical details and jargon, feel free to be as technical as you want. If it looks like it was written by a layperson, tone down the technical references instead.

12. Optimize for Keyword Search

As you work on your job hunt, you’ll notice that certain terms pop up over and over in the jobs you’re looking for. You should make your resume mirror the IT job descriptions by including similar language. Don’t just copy/paste what they had in the job posting, but do try to see if you have the experience that matches what they’re looking for. As you see terms comes up repeatedly, make sure that these are included on your resume if you can.

Large corporations use software to comb through the hundreds of resumes they get and narrow them down to a few top contenders that have the needed skills. If your resume is missing these terms, you won’t get the chance to explain this to the hiring manager.

13. Don’t Get Overwhelmed, Ask for Help from Your EDM!

The job hunt can seem like a never-ending list of things to do, but it doesn’t have to be. If you study for your certifications at LeaderQuest, you’ll get access to our Career Services team including your friendly local Employment Development Manager (EDM). Each EDM has a twofold job: to help prepare our students for the job hunt, and to connect with employers in the community who might be interested in hiring our graduates.

Your EDM can help you break down all the details of the job hunt and take care of them one at a time. They’re experts when it comes to resumes, cover letters, job hunting techniques, and interviewing. It’s their mission to make sure each of our graduates is armed with everything they need to secure the job they want. When one of our employer partners is hiring, your EDM can even help you skip much of the job hunt process!

IT and Cyber Security Training at LeaderQuest

If you’re interested in a career in IT, cyber security, project management or networking, LeaderQuest can help! We offer 4-8 week certification programs that will give you the knowledge you need to pass the exam and excel in a new IT job. You’ll also gain access to our Career Services team. From initial training to dealing with your GI Bill® to finding a job in IT, we’re here to help and we understand veterans better than anybody. Job hunting is never easy, but we can help you get the training you need to succeed.

If you’re interested in investing in your future, contact us today.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

How to Start an IT Career with AF COOL

How to Start an IT Career with AF COOL

What is Airforce COOL?

AF Credentialing Opportunities On-Line or AF COOL (Note: You’ll most likely get a security warning from the AFVEC website) is an Air Force program designed to help airmen achieve credentials that are recognized by the civilian community. This serves two purposes: to help the enlisted force gain new skills in an airman’s Air Force job, and to prepare the airman to work in the civilian world after leaving the airforce.

The AF COOL website can be used to research credentials and their prerequisites, identify credentials that are relevant to Air Force Specialties, learn about how credentials can fill gaps between Air Force training and civilian job roles, and learn about the resources available to Airmen that can help them gain civilian job credentials.

Read on to learn about a special offer for those using AF COOL funding for LeaderQuest training.

LeaderQuest and AF COOL

LeaderQuest is proud to participate in the AF COOL program. We know how important it is for airmen to get the right certifications to get hired once they are a civilian. That’s why we offer training in high-demand industries like IT, networking, and cyber security. The certifications that we train students for are globally recognized and are often listed as a prerequisite on job postings in these industries.

For those with little to no IT experience who would like to get started in the industry, we recommend CompTIA certifications such as:

  • CompTIA A+ is a two-part course that covers computer hardware, as well as software installation, OS maintenance, troubleshooting, security, basic networking, and more. This foundational course builds important skills for technical support practitioners.
  • CompTIA Network+ provides network technicians and support staff with the foundation-level skills they need to install, operate, manage, support, and troubleshoot a corporate network.
  • CompTIA Security+ students will understand the field of network security and how it relates to other areas of information technology. This course also provides the broad-based knowledge necessary to prepare for further study in specialized security fields, or it can serve as a capstone course that gives a general introduction to the field.

Which of these courses is right for you depends on your level of experience and where you’d like to take your career. Our Career Training Consultants can help you choose a career path and evaluate which courses are right for you.

For those who already have some experience, we offer mid and high level certifications such as Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Whether you are just beginning your IT or cyber career or looking to advance it to the next level, we offer training in the certifications you’ll need to get there.

LeaderQuest’s AF COOL Training Offer

For those using AF COOL funding, LeaderQuest offers two certification courses for $4,500! Our courses include the cost of all materials, and we also cover the exam fee for each student and offer an onsite testing facility to make the process of getting trained and certified as simple as possible.

If you’re interested in getting into IT, LeaderQuest is a fantastic option. We hire instructors with years of industry experience and our training is always live and in-person. When training is complete, our Career Services team makes it their #1 priority to help you get hired into a great job in the industry of your choice. You’ll get one-on-one assistance with resume writing, practicing interview skills, and looking for the perfect job.

AF COOL Process

We have a summary of the process below. For the full process to apply, click here. (You’ll most likely get a security warning from the AFVEC website.)

Step 1: Search for the Credential

In your AFVEC account, navigate to the AF COOL homepage and search AFSC related credentials. Find the credential you wish to achieve.

Step 2: Create Education Goal

Click on the icon that is listed on the top right of the certification you are seeking to create your education goal.

Step 3: Upload Your Documentation

You’ll want to review the eligibility requirements to make sure the credential or program is a good fit for you. You’ll also want to get all the information on pricing for books, exams, administration fees and so on. If you choose to study at LeaderQuest, we make this simple by charging one price for all the materials (books, labs, etc) and training, and we cover the cost of the exam as well.

You’ll need to upload supporting documentation including:

  • EPRs (only if required as proof of eligibility for the credential)
  • Applications
  • Prerequisite certifications
  • FAA Form 8610-2 (FAA Tickets to test) or CCAF-awarded Certificate of Eligibility
  • Books – MS Word document with ISBN, Title, and web link for each book per the vendor’s site
  • Login Information – If payment must be made via student login, please provide login and password to AF COOL on a MS Word document (this is not required for LeaderQuest courses)
  • Exam Cost – Invoice or quote from the vendor; screen shot or active link to the vendor’s site is also acceptable
  • Prep Course/Boot Camp – Invoice from the vendor

Step 4: Start a Funding Request

In your AFVEC account, click “Start a Funding Request” at the bottom right. You’ll need to be ready with info on…

  • The exam center you plan to use (LeaderQuest has a Pearson VUE testing center at each location)
  • The total cost of the exam (The exam fee is covered with your LeaderQuest enrollment.)
  • The testing window, which can be up to 120 days by default or more with special permission

Step 5: Approval Process

First your supervisor has to approve the request, and then it will get passed on to the AF COOL office which will make the payment on your behalf. You should expect a call or email about this from the CPO/Purchase Agent.

Step 6: Study for and Take Exam

Now you’re ready to study for the exam and then sit for it! You’ll need to follow up with the AF COOL CPO to report your scores/achievement and close out your educational goal.

Ready to Start Training?

If you’re interested in learning more about using AF COOL to train at LeaderQuest, you can start the process by contacting us today! Our Career Training Consultants are experts on what certifications will help connect you to a great career in IT, networking or cyber security.

Fill out the form below to get the process started, and take control of your future!

Making $50,000 More in Cyber Security with IT Training

Making $50,000 More in Cyber Security with IT Training

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

February 2016

“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.



December 2017

“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?

LeaderQuest IT TrainingLooking 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.

Contact Us


Partners in Veteran Support: Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center

Partners in Veteran Support: Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center

This story starts with Jay Cimino, the man who founded the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center and defined its mission.

After serving in the Marine Corps as a young man, Jay returned to civilian life and became a highly successful businessman. Now, he is CEO and owner of Phil Long Dealerships, the largest privately held automobile dealership group in Colorado. Throughout his life, Jay has had a passion for supporting our local military and their families in numerous ways. He provided assistance to family members during deployments as well as supported military organizations.

In 2014, he wanted to take the next step. Jay decided to create a place where military, veterans, and their families can get the support and services they deserve: the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center.

Mt. Carmel’s mission is:

“To collaborate with community partners providing best practices in transition and wellness services for veterans, military and their families by delivering expertise, resources, space and sustainability.”

LeaderQuest is proud to participate in Mt. Carmel’s mission by offering free workshops that focus on expanding professional skills, such as maximizing the potential of LinkedIn and the art of the interview.

We were able to get a few minutes of time from Cindy McLaughlin, Marketing and Communications Manager for Mt. Carmel, to ask her about Mt. Carmel’s mission and progress so far.

1. How does Mt. Carmel serve the local community?

At its core, everything we do at Mt. Carmel is designed to make it EASY for military, veterans, and their family members to get the resources and services they deserve. In our 16,000 square foot center, we partner with over 30 great organizations, like LeaderQuest, to bring a broad array of services together under one roof. In addition, the great services our partners deliver include VA benefits support, financial counseling, workforce support, and educational assistance and counseling. Our Mt. Carmel Staff runs multiple programs to include the employment and transition, behavioral health counseling and wellness, and supportive services management and resource navigation.

2. What has been the most challenging thing about fulfilling Mt. Carmel’s mission?

The most challenging thing has been creating an environment where so many different organizations can be successful in serving veterans by integrating services without feeling like they lose their own unique identities. It is really important to us that our partners know that they are valued and that we respect their separate needs as individual organizations, and that by working together with us, we all can be better at meeting our individual AND collective missions.

3. Since opening in March of 2016, what has Mt. Carmel accomplished in the community?

We are thrilled to share that since we began operations in 2016, we have supported 8,311 client visits. We have also secured employment or critical training placements for more than 557 transitioning service members at an average wage of $26.10/hour. We’ve also provided behavioral health counseling to over 150 military-connected individuals and resolved the needs of over 394 people so that they could become more self-sufficient.

4. What do you want to make sure veterans know as they transition?

Transitioning from military service to a new civilian life can be a very stressful time for not only the service member but also for their entire family. We have a unique focus on service members in transition as all of our Peer Navigators working one-on-one with them at Mt. Carmel are recent veterans themselves. They know exactly what it feels like to go through that life change. Mt. Carmel’s staff can help them with more than just finding a meaningful civilian career – they can provide support through all of the areas; financial consultations, behavioral health counseling, and even connections to housing opportunities if you need that. But, the most important message for those in transition is that “you are not alone!” Our team and our wonderful partners are here to help and we know that each service member can achieve great things in their civilian lives!

5. How can volunteers help Mt. Carmel’s mission?

At Mt. Carmel there are lots of opportunities to volunteer. We have people support our front desk activities with Greet and Connect, we have resource fairs and other outreach opportunities where volunteers can represent us to the public, and they can also do any number of office types of support. Specifically, in our employment and transition departments, we can always use people to support our networking and mock interview events. We will try to fit the best job to each volunteer so that they can feel happy and satisfied at the end of the day!

Click here if you’d like to help support the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center.

We ❤ Veterans!

At LeaderQuest, veterans hold a special place in our hearts. Many of our team members are veterans, as well as much of our leadership team. We love employing veterans because they bring discipline, commitment, and strength to our team.

We wanted to give a big THANK YOU to all the veterans out there. We value your service and your sacrifice. Thank you for making America safer and stronger.

Get Help, Get Better: Veteran Suicide Prevention

Get Help, Get Better: Veteran Suicide Prevention

Over 40,000 people take their lives every year in America. Nowhere is this felt more deeply than for veterans and active duty military. Roughly 20 veterans commit suicide every day. In active duty military, suicide kills more troops in the Middle East than ISIL.

To complicate matters, getting help means navigating the serious stigma around mental illness. Many believe asking for help is a sign of weakness and they should just, “walk it off.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Suicidal thoughts can be devastating, but it’s not your fault. Seeking assistance is one of the healthiest and most courageous decisions you can make for yourself and your family. That’s why we’re highlighting how to deal with suicidal thoughts and urges for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

At the end of this article is a comprehensive list of resources for the Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, and Jacksonville areas. If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately.

Jump to a suicide prevention resources section: National Veteran Resources, Colorado Springs, Dallas, Denver, or Jacksonville.

Understanding Suicidal Thoughts

With all the myths surrounding this illness, it’s important to understand the exact causes of suicidal thoughts. Medical News Today defines them as…

Suicidal thoughts, also known as suicidal ideation, are thoughts about how to kill oneself, which can range from a detailed plan to a fleeting consideration and does not include the final act of killing oneself.

Whether a person really feels like they want to die or simply has these thoughts in passing, the situation is serious. When people feel trapped or hopeless, they may believe suicide is the only way out. These thoughts often triggered by an overwhelming situation in life and those in families with a history of suicide are at a higher risk.

Veterans are at even higher risk than civilians due to factors like frequent deployments, deployments to hostile environments, exposure to extreme stress, physical or sexual assault while in the service (which is not limited to women), lengthy deployments, or service related injuries.

However, separating fact from fiction when it comes to this heartbreakingly common ailment can be tricky. That’s why we’ve provided some of the most common myths about veterans, suicide, and what the facts tell us.

Suicide Prevention

Warning Signs

One of the most common misconceptions about suicide is that people who think or attempt it have made up their mind and want to die. In fact, many who attempt or think about suicide will seek help which makes intervention all the more important.

Here are the warning signs from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs that indicate someone is in trouble:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill self
  • Feeling trapped, like there’s no way out
  • Looking for ways to kill self
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Trying to get pills, guns, or other means to harm oneself
  • Withdrawing from friends or family
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Having dramatic changes in mood
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling like there is no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Experiencing rage, uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Giving away possessions

If you’ve seen any of these patterns in yourself or your loved ones, the time to seek help is now. The National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) also provides a list of signs that may mean an attempt is imminent. This includes:

  • Putting affairs in order and giving away their possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • A sudden mood shift from despair to calm,
  • Evidence of planning and acquiring the means to commit suicide such as a firearm or prescription medication.

So what can you do to help? More than you might think.

Getting Help for Yourself

Recovery is a journey and even veterans can face serious obstacles, but it’s important to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Help is out there, no matter what your situation. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a special section outlining healthy coping methods for veterans.

Reaching out the first step. If there is an immediate danger, can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or contact one of our sources below. If you’re seeing warning signs in your own behavior, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional or a support group.

Once the more immediate danger is taken care of, the next step is to build a support group of people you trust. Isolation can exacerbate symptoms that lead to suicide and getting trusted people in your life is imperative. Connect with friends and family, volunteer or take a class, or get involved in your community. The first step could be something as simple as connecting with people and sharing your story on social media.

After you’ve created your support system, remember to use it. Learn how to express yourself even when your instinct may be to shut down. Try to keep an open mind about the advice that is given even if you don’t agree with it. Lastly, show appreciation. While your support group is people you can always count on, it’s important to remember that relationships are a two-way street.

Lastly, prepare for future crises by creating a safety plan. This will outline your coping strategies, signs you may be heading down a dark path, phone numbers of people you can reach out to, provide the numbers to resources like a suicide hotline, and remind you that life is worth living and this too will pass. Having this information ready and available will be doing yourself a great favor.

Helping a Loved One

Confronting a loved is difficult. Though the decision to get help ultimate lies in their hands, there are things you can do to help. These are the guidelines provided by NAMI to assist your loved ones:

  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, such as “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?” rather than, “Would you rather I call your psychiatrist, your therapist or your case manager?”
  • Talk openly and honestly about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
  • If there are multiple people, have one person speak at a time
  • Ask what you can do to help
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
  • If your loved one asks for something, provide it, as long as the request is safe and reasonable
  • If you are nervous, try not to fidget or pace
  • If your loved one is having hallucinations or delusions, be gentle and sympathetic, but do not get into an argument about whether the delusions or hallucinations are real

Staying Healthy & Staying Safe

No matter who you are or what you’re going through, you are not alone. There are people who will always care about you. Suicide is a tragedy, not only because of the loss of life but because of the devastation to those who are left behind. There is hope. There is always another way.

If you or a loved one exhibits any of the warning signs please check out our resources below. You have value, you matter, and you can get through this. Keeping silent only gives the darkness power. Speak up, speak out, and be there for the people you love. Together, we can try to end the tragic loss of life.

Because 20 veterans a day is 20 too many.

National Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone Contact Online
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or text 838255 Click to speak with someone online.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 800-950-6264 Support for veterans and active duty.
Lifeline Crisis Chat Chat online.
Crisis Text Line Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA.
Wounded Warrior Project 904-296-7350 Register online.
Make the Connection (Speak with veterans.) Visit the website. Resource locator.
National Center for PTSD Resources for PTSD.

Military Health System and the Defense & Defense Health Agency

Information about the care provided by the Military Health System. Ask your question online.

Denver Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone Contact Online
Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado 1-844-493-8255. Text, “TALK” to 28255. Or call the Colorado Crisis line at 1-888-885-1222. Contact the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado here.
Colorado Crisis Services Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. Online chat for after hours use here.
Mental Health Center of Denver

Email about services here.

Colorado Springs Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone Contact Online
Colorado Crisis Services Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. Online chat for after hours use here.
Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention 719-573-7447 Email the organization here.
Colorado Springs Counseling Services


Dallas Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone (Crisis Numbers) Contact Online
Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas 214-828-1000 or text “CONNECT” to 741741. Email for more information about services.
NAMI-Texas 1-800-273-825
Health and Human Services in Texas 2-1-1 or (877) 541-7905 (for resources)
North Texas Behavioral Health Authority (NTBHA)


Jacksonville Suicide Prevention Resources

Name Contact by Phone Contact Online
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 Click to speak with someone online.
Suicide Crisis Marketing Dial 2-1-1 in Northeast Florida and 1-904-632-0600 in the Duval County area
National Association of Mental Illness-Florida 850-671-4445 Contact the office here.
Mental Health Association of Central Florida (407) 898-0110 Referral form for health services.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-Florida Chapter Reach out to the local Florida chapter here.
Florida Department of Children and Families 1-800-273-8255
7 Tips for Vets Transitioning from Military to a Private Sector IT Career

7 Tips for Vets Transitioning from Military to a Private Sector IT Career

From Soldier to an IT Career in Cyber Security

Moving from a military career to a private sector IT career is a unique challenge: you move from a structure that’s highly regimented to something that’s seemingly a free-for-all and more about luck than commitment.

But the discipline and commitment soldiers possess helps them exceed far and above their civilian counterparts once they learn to navigate and adapt their discipline to the private companies of corporate America.

If the thrill of hunting down cyber criminals, killing information security threats and viruses, and serving one of your favorite private companies or public offices excites you, Cyber Security training could be the perfect next step after you exit the military and the key to landing an exciting Cyber Security job.

Interested in getting started in a cyber security career? Follow the link below to learn more.

Get Trained in Cyber Security!


The way you work and earn a promotion in the military and the way you land a new IT-based position in a private company are completely different: and it’s got a lot to do with the way you talk.

1. Wording Your Resume: Acronyms & Nouns vs. Verbs

In the military, you get so used to using acronyms and noun-based vocabulary that it becomes second nature and you hardly notice yourself doing it.

As you write your résumé, spell out all acronyms: they might mean something totally different to the new industry you’re applying to work in, or mean nothing at all. If the person reviewing your résumé isn’t familiar with the military, acronyms will be totally confusing to them. For example, in the military, APU stands for auxiliary power unit, but in IT, it stands for accelerated processing unit.

Next, focus your resume around verbs, not nouns. Military jobs are very specific and pointed with lots of direct precision. This precision leads to noun-focused work thinking in our minds. It’s not a bad thing—but the corporate world doesn’t work that way.

Even if you work in a super-detailed job like a cyber security analyst, or a similar career in the IT field, private sector companies are all in business for the bottom line: making more money. And to make more money, they want to expand. And to help them expand, you need to show them that you can do things.

Can you see the difference?

So rather than saying you worked on X, Q, M, and T, explain what you fixed, maintained, improved, or gathered.

Find out if your resume is holding you back from a great IT career!

2. Network, Network, Network

As soon as you know your release date, tell everyone you know that you’re in the job market.

This can be tough, coming from an environment where you learn to rely almost solely on yourself, but there’s no risk involved in putting the word out there.

Once you do get back home, network like crazy: meet new people at ball games, Rotary meetings, and veterans’ organizations. Message people in your LinkedIn network who work in tech-based roles. You never know what opportunities are waiting to be uncovered until you try.

3. Emphasize Your Learning Curve & the Lasting Benefits You Offer

The hard truth is that the military doesn’t give you direct IT training for private sector jobs. Though you’ve earned an incredible breadth of knowledge for things like management, soft skills, and leadership, a lot of military retirees are a bit lacking in the deep technical expertise required to perform specific private sector job.

But that’s okay.

You can tell the interviewer you’ll have a small learning curve during your training period — most new hires do.

What you’ll want to focus on instead is that you’ve got the leadership and bent of mind to handle the tight, quickly evolving and potentially threatening situations information security analysts face in warding off cyber crime.

Talk to One of Our Career Advisers


Working as a Cyber Security Analyst does place you in a corporate desk job, but it still carries excitement and rushes of adrenaline when you find a hacker trying to attack secure information and you’ve got to rally your troops to stop him.

4. Manage Your Expectations

Promotions work differently in the corporate world than they do in the military. Instead of being based on time served, they’re all about performance and potential.

Realize when you’re applying for IT jobs that you might have to take a position that’s a little lower than the one you want (like a Network Support Specialist or Network Administrator), but if the company is growing, you could be in your desired position before you know it.

5. Responsibility

The day-in-day-out duties of a cyber security analyst include network monitoring, encrypting sensitive data, vulnerability tests, documenting breaches and figuring out how to avoid similar ones, creating security plans and recommending enhancements based on industry trends.

For sure, some of the work could get a little monotonous, especially during times of no threats — but don’t let that stop you from being on your toes. Monitor and execute with the same keen eye you used as a soldier, and you’ll be far more successful at your job than the vast majority of new hires.

6. Embrace Your Leadership

Along with maintaining a keen eye, don’t be afraid to step up and take the lead when your team is faced with a tough situation and can’t seem to repel a security threat.

If you’ve got an idea of how to do it, use your soldier mindset to map out a plan to get there, get everyone on board, and execute the attack on the hacker.

7. Plan for IT Career Growth

Around 200 to 300 people exit the military every day, and for every job opening in the United States, there are 187 applicants.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for cyber security analysts will grow much faster than average at 18% through 2024. In today’s world, cyber security training is key to landing many careers in the IT industry.

Though the job outlook is good for military veterans seeking employment as a cyber security analyst, you do still have to prove yourself as a valuable hire. Boosting your résumé with intensive Cyber Security Training will set you apart from the competition and prepare you to start your new job immediately.


LeaderQuest IT Training

Interested in Starting or Advancing Your IT Career with Cyber Security Training?

If the information provided in this blog posting has interested you and you would like to take the next step, then you should consider talking to an experienced Career Training Advisor at LeaderQuest about our available Cyber Security training programs. We are more than happy to help you chart your path to IT career success!

Start Your IT Career Now