From military to civilian life: Veterans turn to job fairs

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The military prepares our veterans for hundreds of challenges but it’s not always so simple to make the transition back to civilian life.

“I’m a captain in the army, I am important in the army but the army doesn’t necessarily translate to corporate sector jobs,” David Douglas said.

For the Army Captain, the shift from soldier to private citizen started several months ago and it’s been a process lined with obstacles.

“To be honest with you, I thought it would be much easier,” he said.

That’s because Douglas said sometimes military skills get lost in translation. Rob Reckner is a veterans job fair’s event director and said he understands the struggle firsthand.

“Now being on the other side, it’s kind of interesting when I have lieutenant, lieutenant colonels coming to me asking me what’s out there,” he said.

The West Point graduate was medically retired from the military a year after graduating.

“I was kind of thrown into the civilian workforce without really having to choose that route so it was really difficult to figure out where my skills lined up with the civilian workforce,” Reckner said. “You spend four years at West Point training to do one job and then you don’t get to do that job it’s kind of hard to find what the next step is going to be.”

Reckner said he didn’t know about veteran job fairs initially until it literally became his job. Today, he helps others find their path.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Everybody has to do it, whether you’re going to stick the full 20 years out in service, you’ll still have to transition or you’re doing your minimum contract, that transition is still going to happen.”

For Douglas, that means keeping an open mind.

“Find where you make a difference,” Douglas said. “That’s easy to do for military people is finding where you make a difference is what you do every day in the military, now I just have to get a job and find where I make the most difference, the most impact in that civilian category in that civilian job.”

Douglas recently got a job as a civilian contractor for the military. He also serves as a part-time officer in the Texas National Guard.

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