Marine For Life mentors offer advice, assistance to job seekers

24 May 2005 | Maj. Carolyn C. Dysart

Landing your first civilian job can be a long and confusing process, something Mike Martinez learned from experience.

“I remember getting out and not understanding how the process worked,” said the former Marine.  “It helped me to talk to people, whether they were Marines or not.”

Now a manufacturing manager at Starbucks headquarters in his native Seattle, Martinez offers his experience to fellow Marines as a mentor in the Marine For Life program.

“A lot of people want to know about the hiring process.  There are a lot of misconceptions about how it works,” said Martinez, who has also helped with resumes, interviews and understanding job descriptions.

According to Martinez, Marines make great employees.  Their sense of responsibility and accountability is what sets them apart.

“I tell Marines to focus on broad traits not their MOS training.  Not many companies out there are hiring infantrymen and artillerymen but they are looking for good decision makers,” said Martinez, a former artillery officer now working with coffee.

Martinez had been informally helping Marines referred to him by friends or colleagues even before being contacted by Maj. Whitney Mason, the Seattle Hometown Link, about a year ago to join the Marine For Life program.

“I think it’s a great idea to formalize the network.  It’s been there for a while but now you give more people access,” said Martinez.

A true mentor, Martinez encourages Marines to stay in touch.

“Getting a job is a long process and it’s important to have a friendly voice on the end of the phone to tell them that their work will pay off and to keep at it,” he said. 

Marines contacting Bo Cole for advice could end up with a job. 

The reserve lieutenant colonel is a Marine For Life mentor and employer.  As a recruiter for Seattle-based Avanade, a joint venture with Accenture and Microsoft to provide business- and industry-based solutions utilizing Microsoft technology, he is always looking for good employees. 

Cole’s primary message to Marines is to figure out what you really want to do. 

Many Marines look at the IT field because there is a lot of opportunity and it pays well, but that’s not enough, said Cole, who warns if you didn’t like it as a Marine you’re not going to like it as a civilian.

“You have to be able to wake up and get excited about going to work,” said Cole, who hires developers who write code all week and then do it for fun on the weekend. 

Terminology is also a challenge.

“Marines have to be able to articulate their passion—where they want to go—in civilian terms,” said Cole, who estimates he has helped 20 or more Marines in the past three years.  “Most civilians don’t understand what Marines do, so you have to package yourself in a way they understand.”

According to Cole, the greatest opportunity for IT Marines is in systems engineering and they’re pretty well qualified. 

“Network engineers build out the system and that’s what Marines do.  It’s very expeditionary,” said Cole, who has opportunities available. 

Avanade has grown to over 3,000 employees in 20 countries, but only a dozen or so are Marines.  Cole would like it to be more.

“When we started the company back in 2000, one of our first 10 hires was a lance corporal in the reserves,” said Cole.  “He’s worked out really well for us.”

Marine For Life’s Marine Mentor network was formally launched in October 2004 and has grown to about 1,000 members nationwide. Transitioning Marines can search for mentors at  Former Marines interested in joining the network can apply through the Marine For Life website. 

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