Alumni Veteran Network Event Provides Veteran Connection, Career Support

Alumni Veteran Network Event Provides Veteran Connection, Career Support

Unemployment is higher than normal nationally; a health pandemic is gripping a struggling business world and another class of students around the world just graduated and seek entry into the job market. Military men and women are among both the graduating class and either were in the midst of transitioning to civilian jobs or are experiencing job loss and are searching again.

It’s difficult, no doubt. COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, has made life a struggle in just about every industry since March 2020.

Refreshingly, though, a Zoom event co-hosted by the University of San Diego Alumni Association and USD Alumni Veteran Network Wednesday afternoon was an opportunity to inject some hope and deliver sound advice for military-connected students and alumni by USD staff and from military-connected alumni.

The “Alumni Veteran Connection and Career Support” event — hosted by Alumni Veteran Network’s Director of Fellowship Jennifer Castro Garcia ’18 (BA), ’20 (MA) — gave USD Career Development Center Assistant Director Dee Kayalar Polat a chance to emphasize the importance of networking.

“In this uncertain time, it is pivotal to build new connections and to nourish current connections,” Polat said. “Eighty percent of hires come through networking, so it’s important to use resources like LinkedIn and TEAM (Torero Employer and Alumni Mentors) to build connections with people who are with companies you’re interested in.”

Retired Marine Corps veteran Derek Abbey, a double USD graduate alumnus (2011 master’s, 2019 PhD), former USD Veteran Coordinator and current president and CEO for Project Recover, values relationships he’s made because his approach centers on giving back.

“I’m not one who lives by a lot of quotes, but (author) Zig Ziglar says, ‘You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want,’” said Abbey, who led one of three small breakout rooms during the hour-long program. “When I connect with someone, whatever I can do to assist them gives them a positive impression. You do it without reciprocity though, because otherwise you’ll be disappointed. But I do find when I focus more on others, it tends to come back many times over. Most positions I’ve had, I’ve obtained them through relationships.”

Jhonnaton “Johnny” Chinchilla, an 11-year Marine Corps veteran and another double USD alumnus (2018 BAcc, 2019 MTAX), works on the tax staff for EY’s San Diego office.

One of the event’s main panel speakers, Chinchilla’s advice was two-fold.

Learning doesn’t stop with graduation, he noted. Continuing your professional education is important to learn new skills, get new certifications and enhance skills “to keep up with the times.” He also believes more companies now have networking opportunities specific to veterans, but often it isn’t advertised heavily. “You have to let them know you’re interested … do your own due diligence.”

Polat agreed with Chinchilla on reaching out to those who are veterans in companies they’re interested in. Given networking’s importance at 80 percent, that's a plus. The other 20 percent she reckons should be split between shoring up your resume and the job application. The Career Development Center is a resource current students and alumni should utilize for appointments, career fairs, events and to tools such as Handshake and TEAM. Toreros can maximize interview skills, formulate effective questions, build resumes, address cover letters correctly and when seeking jobs they can find opportunities with companies where USD alumni currently work.

As solid as the advice was for job hunting, the reality of a pandemic and living while in a stay-at-home quarantine, remotely working or taking classes and participating in online meetings or on social media platforms takes a toll.

Polat, a working mother of two and a graduate student, said it is key “to know when you learn and work the best. I’m most productive in the mornings and that’s as early as 5:30 a.m.,” she said. “It’s important to draw boundaries.”

Chinchilla, agreed, noting his daily routine — working remotely — has brought his military background back with time management. “I take this like deployment. I wake up, work and create a schedule. At a certain time, I take a break. If you transfer that to looking for jobs, you have like three to five windows. Create a schedule and create rewards. You’ve got to have boundaries so you can take care of yourself.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Be sure to check back often to learn about upcoming USD Alumni Association-led virtual programming and events.

Military-connected veteran students celebrate at a 2018 graduation ceremony. A Zoom event featured recent alumni sharing their thoughts on career tips and support.Military-connected veteran students celebrate at a 2018 graduation ceremony. A Zoom event featured recent alumni sharing their thoughts on career tips and support.

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