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The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development recently spoke with Daniel Callinan, a U.S. Navy veteran, about his experience transitioning from over 20 years of military service to a new role in the civilian workforce.

Included below are excerpts from a conversation Lauren Jones, Director of Communications, and Beth Costa, Veteran Employment & Training Program Manager, had with Daniel. Following the transcript, are helpful tips provided by Daniel for other veterans seeking employment.

LAUREN: First, thank you for taking the time to meet today. Massachusetts has a history in supporting its veterans. As part of the Patrick Administration’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, we help support veterans through career services. Often times we hear veterans are described as highly skilled, hard-working individuals, and that’s certainly a value-added for Massachusetts employers. We want to spread the word, and encourage those within the business community to understand and appreciate the valuable skills that veterans possess and how those skills can be transferred into workplace settings.

You have a very great success story to tell, and we’d like to share it with other veterans and the business community.  Tell us a little bit about your service, where you served, and when you most recently returned to Massachusetts.

DANIEL: I served for about 22 years in the Navy. The first ten years were active duty, right from Great Lakes Michigan for training, boot camp. I was sent to train within air-conditioning, refrigeration, air-compressors, and hydraulics to start. A lot of it was just on-the-job training and my first five years I spent on a ship, the USS Peleliu. I was trained in all five work centers, from hydraulics to running air craft elevators, 300 ton air condition plants, and 5 ton refrigeration plants. This all included on-the-job training with senior personnel.

A lot of the training and everything they taught such as lock out, tag out, program, right from the start, Hazmat training, how to wear PPE, Personal Protective Equipment, clothing, glasses, face shields, and a lot of that, I think transfers right into the civilian workforce. Which is great, and I believe that the civilian workforce really likes that because you’re already coming in trained; you already know the safety that comes with the industry. The training I experience while in service was extensive and it works right from military into civilian world. And now I landed a great job at Harvard University as a facility maintenance operator.

LAUREN: That’s great! When did you begin working at Harvard?

DANIEL: I began working at Harvard February 12, 2013.

I was retired from the Navy for about four months when I landed this great position at Harvard. I did get out of the Navy for two years, and did Reserve for two years, and then I came back in the Navy in 2002 for active duty when they sent me to Sheppard Air Force Base where I was trained with the CV’s, and plumbing, and air conditioning. It was all hands-on for approximately four months, then I was sent to a Naval station in Sicily, where I stayed there for three years and worked on air-conditioning, refrigeration throughout the whole plant.  

We’d respond to a lot of “no heat”, “no cooling” calls that we’d take care. Even during my interview at Harvard, I was asked: how do you handle working with other people? Because we got a lot of calls like that over there, too, I said I was used to it from the military. We’re always respectful to other people, you know, they have no heat, they have no cooling, they have no water, whatever the situation would.

LAUREN: So it seemed like the demands and orders you experienced in Sicily prepared you for any kind of situation that probably could arise. Is that right?

DANIEL: Right, and we had all these buildings, just like Harvard dorms, but we had our own sailors and Marines that we had to provide the best services for. It’s the same thing as I’m doing now with students at Harvard, and professors, and all their classrooms, we give them the best services that we can.

There are a lot of different people and different backgrounds in the military and at Harvard, with people from all over the world.

LAUREN: How did you learn about the job opportunity at Harvard?

DANIEL: I was looking for a job, went to the career resource center in Chelsea, and met with Dennis Pellegrino, who I really can’t say enough about because he was superb. He really helped me out, even though the military also puts everyone through a TAP class (transition assistance program). The military teaches you how to look for work, how to do résumés and everything. So I took everything that I learned from TAP class and I put my own bullets together, and Dennis really helped me out.

For Harvard, I think I went back I think three or four times for interviews. I missed the first opening, but they had another one open right after and they called be back in because I was second on the list for the first job.

LAUREN: And were most of the job searches that Dennis helped you navigate specific to HVAC and maintenance?

DANIEL: Yes, they were HVAC, facility maintenance, and operating positions.

LAUREN: When leaving the Navy and beginning to look for a job as a civilian, were you planning to stay in this industry?

DANIEL: Yes, I was taken within that industry a lot.

Like I said, when I started my last ten years of active duty service with the military, they also actually sent me to advance what they call C-schools, additional air conditioning and refrigeration training. And all those certificates I have from training through the military were included in my résumé. Prior to going into service I had gone to schools like the Peterson School of Engineering in Woburn and Westwood, Bay State School of Appliances out of Hyde Park.

I brought to Harvard’s attention, why don’t they have an apprentice program so people who don’t have licenses can still get hired so they can achieve that license because you have to be in the field for at least 1-3 years before you can even get a license.

LAUREN: And does Harvard have a program geared towards hiring veterans?

DANIEL: I just went to one of their panels. They’re just starting to do that to get more veterans in there. And I was involved in the first panel that they had.

And Dennis was there.

BETH: That’s their “Navigating Careers and Higher Education Initiative.”

DANIEL: So they’re basically starting their own, “Helmets to Hardhats” for Harvard. But, like I said, there are a lot more military personnel that already do work for Harvard. They’re just opening it up now and trying to get more in, which is great. I’m very fortunate to be there now for eight months, and I love it, it’s a great job.

LAUREN: Would you recommend for other veterans to use the career centers for job opportunities?

DANIEL: Oh definitely, yes.

BETH: And did you give Dennis your NEC codes?

DANIEL: Yes, I gave him my NEC codes.

BETH: That is more commonly known as MOS, or Military Occupational Skills code, and each military branch has their own language and own category.

DANIEL: The Navy’s is NEC. I have a 4291, which was from the fleet side Navy, an air conditioning/refrigeration course. I’ll say 90% of all military, especially all Navy I should say, everything is on-the-job training. You’re actually doing it 24/7, especially on ships. You’re out there in the middle of the sea, and you don’t have contractors come in and fix your stuff. You have to do it, you have to get it done.

Dennis made my resume more civilian friendly, because even like they say in the TAP class, you can’t put it in military terms because civilians don’t always understand that.

BETH: If you had to sum it up for employers what do you feel veterans bring to the table for an employer?

DANIEL: I think most veterans are very dependable. We’re there on the job when we’re supposed to, and we’re hardly ever out unless actually sick. We just have so much training and confidence in ourselves, and we feel very proud to be who we are as a person, and to represent—whether it’s the military or your company.

HELPFUL TIPS

Throughout the interview, Daniel shared helpful tips for veterans looking for employment including:

 ·         TAP (Transitional Assistance Program) class is mandatory but extremely informative for service members.

 ·         When working on your resume, refer back to your MOS (Military Occupational Skills) Code, and include all the information that you actually really worked on while in service.

  • Dress for success and arrive early for interviews.

“I had a few foremen that interviewed me, and one of them said he had a guy that came off the street… he probably had thirty years of service but he walked in with jeans and was late. The foreman said, ‘That guy’s already off the list.’”

  • Bring copies of your resume to an interview in case the employer doesn’t have a copy or doesn’t have a clean copy.
  • Buy resume paper, envelopes, and create your own business cards.
  • Create an email account specifically used for job searching and applications.
  • Networking always helps.

Written By:


Communications Director

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