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Military Skills Translator

Helping Place Veterans

A Conversation with Mike Starich, President of Orion International

Orion International has been operating as a military career placement firm since 1991, and in the past 20 years it's helped place 23,000 former officers and enlisted servicemembers in jobs. We had a conversation with Orion President and Marine Corps veteran Mike Starich, who gave us his insights on the hot job markets for veterans as well as tips for how you can market yourself as a job seeker.

Military.com: Tell us about your military background, and what led you to Orion.

Mike Starich: I grew up in Wisconsin and was a scholarship student at Marquette through the Navy, and I eventually opted for the Marine Option Program. Upon graduation I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marines, competed for an NFO Flight School slot, got it and then set off for Flight School. Eventually, I was stationed in California at El Toro, back when it was still a Marine Corps air base, until 1990, then did another tour as an officer recruiter for the Marines in Ohio, where I visited college campuses throughout northern Ohio. When I got out in 1992, Orion hired me due to my recruiting background and I've been here ever since.

What services does Orion offer?

If you're a job seeker and get in touch with us or vice versa, we have an initial screening with one of our recruiters, where we get to know you and your preferences in your job search. Our recruiter helps you understand what the job market is like, what you're particularly qualified for, what regions of the country are available for you in terms of industries, positions, where you would fit in. After that first screening we work with you on your resume, set up mock interviews, and schedule you for a hiring conference or what we call a mini-conference. At these conferences you can talk to multiple firms at one time, in a private environment -- unlike job fairs, you get to meet face-to-face with representatives with corporations we work with. Once you successfully negotiate that, you'll be brought back for a final interview with any interested companies, and hopefully an offer comes right after that.

We feel like we have great breadth of opportunities across the US. We're not pigeonholed into junior officers or enlisted, we do both. We see ourselves as a full-service recruiting firm that specializes in making good matches for our candidates as opposed to a job fair firm or a headhunter who might be just pulling candidates from the resume job boards.

What are some hot industries for military veterans right now?

Over the last five years or so alternative energy has picked up some tailwind, so to speak. The wind industry, solar industry, ethanol, fuel cells, they've all done very well. What's very appealing about them is they're a good fit for military-trained individuals who are used to movement, being very autonomous and technically sound, and can make good decisions in difficult environments. For instance, in the wind industry, there are turbines out in the middle of nowhere, and turbine technicians have to be relied on to make good decisions when it comes to installation and commissioning. There's been good expansion in these industries over the years, and it's very nice to see that as they grow, the opportunity for military veterans grows as well.

Do you see any other growth industries for veterans?

There's been a dramatic surge in the energy sector since mid-year last year (2010) --  oil and gas are particularly strong right now. Power generation is also strong, as well as aerospace and defense, and retail. General manufacturing in the Midwest, both for supervisory and technician roles, is very strong right now. Semi-conductors have seen some pockets of good growth.

There seems to be an upswing for veterans finding jobs in the current environment.

I'm seeing a lot of companies and large corporations that not only want to hire military people but provide an environment where they can transition well, train well, and join a corporate climate that's conducive for onboarding. It's good to see. The general economy also seems to be picking up speed. We anticipate a very good 2011 in terms of a hiring environment and we see it continuing to grow in 2012. It's certainly better than it was two years ago, I can tell you that. In fact, back then we often advised folks to stay in, as it was just not a good time.

What are some tips you'd have for transitioning veterans?

Networking is #1 -- don't just rely on companies like Orion or any of our competitors to help you. It's important to network through any possible means you might have. Some of your best sources are friends and comrades who've recently left the military. Then of course there's the mechanics of having a very professional resume. Orion and firms like ours can help with that and with interviewing skills. We provide those services free of charge to military candidates. The more you can tap into all of this, the better it'll be for you.

As a military individual you can either be too scared or a little too cocky -- I've seen both sides of it. When I came out of the military it was frustrating for me to have done the things I'd done in the Marines and not have an impact on the hiring employers. I don't think they were all that impressed, to be honest. [laughs] "What skills do you have that you can offer my company? Okay, you flew jets, big deal." If I could give any advice based on that experience to transitioning veterans, it would be to figure out those intangible skills that apply to positions you're applying for, whether it's leadership, organizational skills, your mission focus, or with your communication and persuasion skills. Things along those lines are important in any position in the civilian world. You get them in spades in the military but you might not think about them when you first come out. It's very important to translate your skills so civilian managers can understand how you can be valuable to them.

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Orion InternationalAbout Orion:
Orion International is the nation's largest military placement firm, founded in 1991 by five former Military Officers. Orion finds civilian careers for Junior Military Officers, Noncommissioned Officers, and Enlisted Technicians leaving the military, as well as veterans who have already transitioned from service but are seeking a career change.

Orion provides career transition advice, resume assistance and interview preparation; and arranges interviews for positions that are a match with the veteran’s background, qualifications and desires. To learn more, please visit www.orioninternational.com.

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