Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Returning Vets Are Seeing New Options

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Returning Vets Are Seeing New Options

Article excerpt

Serving in the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit in the early 1990s, Brian Marzka was part of a special operations crew tasked with counterterrorism missions that sometimes left the members outnumbered with only weapons and their collective wits on their side.

Nearly two decades later as a sales representative for a Pittsburgh office furniture company, Mr. Marzka was part of a team of individual players who were ready - and sometimes anxious - to poach potential clients from his portfolio.

"Office politics was easily the hardest thing I had to deal with during my 18 years in the civilian workforce. It's not necessarily done from a standpoint of honesty and integrity," said Mr. Marzka, who is now president and CEO of his own office furniture company Natural Office Solutions in Carnegie.

Transitioning from a unit of one with a targeted mission to a company of hundreds with diverging goals is only one hurdle faced by returning servicemen looking to re-enter the civilian workforce. A lack of networking resources, handling an emphasis on personal accomplishments outside of groups, and even going from the desert sun to an air-conditioned cubicle can be jarring in ways that prevent some of the nation's hardest workers from landing jobs after they're relieved from duty.

With veterans deployed since September 2001 bearing a 9 percent unemployment rate in 2013, compared to a high of 7.9 percent in January and a low of 6.7 percent in December for the overall population, addressing the disconnect between what veterans offer and what civilian employers need is critical, said Lida Citroen, reputation manager and author of "Your Next Mission: A Personal Branding Guide for the Military-to-Civilian Transition."

"I want to teach veterans to crack open their personal brand and take an individual approach to their stories. It's about getting men and women who are so used to working together to remind themselves that they are human beings with passions and dreams, and to tap into that. We need to get them to say, 'Who do I want to be for the rest of my life?' " she said. …

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