Army Reserve veteran Jason Tipton’s most recent job hunt was akin to running a marathon. So once he had a job offer in hand, he felt like any runner feels at the finish line.
“I think I’m just going to lay down—that was honestly the feeling,” Tipton said.
After hundreds of applications and countless career fairs, Tipton landed a role at Applied Materials, a Texas-based company that engineers ways to build complex computer chips and displays. He found his new job through a virtual DAV job fair in spring 2021.
Tipton now travels around the country and even abroad installing the machines that make computer chips for everything from smartphones and toys to appliances and vehicles. It’s exactly the field he had been trying to get into for years, beginning with his military service.
Tipton enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2007 and worked in communication systems.
“Line-of-sight radios, satellite ground terminals, computer networks—in short, if it shot out an RF signal, I probably had something to do with it at some point,” he explained.
Once he transitioned out of the Army Reserve in 2015, Tipton was equipped with invaluable training and experience.
“I learned a lot about how to troubleshoot in the Army, because the whole thing about Army commo gear is, it breaks a lot. And that’s what the commo guys are there for, to fix it as quickly and efficiently as possible, because you get in theater and you know lives are depending on that,” he said.
“I can now take that same problem-solving skill set and translate it over to problem-solving when the (computer chip) machines don’t go quite right.”
He also tapped into his education benefits to earn an associate degree in electronics and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He’s now pursuing a master’s degree in material science.
That perseverance helped Tipton through a challenging, yearslong hunt for a fulfilling post-military career. He said the field can be hard to break into under normal circumstances, and the COVID-19 pandemic presented a whole new set of challenges.
“The world shut down right in the middle of my job hunt,” he said.
Tipton went from trekking from city to city for in-person career fairs over the course of a few months to attending as many virtual DAV job fairs as possible. He’d have a browser open for the virtual fair and a word-processing document open to take detailed notes. That strategy helped when it came time to follow up with employers via email.
“The advice that I give is to stay incredibly organized and stay on top of people, because they might have forgotten about you in the sea of job fairs that they’ve done,” Tipton said. “And a new job might have popped open, and you’re perfect for it.”
The job market has since swayed in favor of job seekers. As employers contend with the “Great Resignation” and rethink how to attract and retain employees, the military-to-civilian pipeline has become even more attractive for talent. During one DAV job fair in early 2022, 222 offers were reported among 174 attendees.
But that doesn’t mean job seekers should just sit back.
“Through job fairs and other resources, we at DAV are committed to helping veterans find meaningful employment, in any job market,” said National Employment Director Rob Lougee. “While we urge employers to tap into the unique skills and experience veterans offer, Jason is a reminder that the veteran must take an active role in their job search.
“Hard work and dedication are never out of style.”
Job seekers and employers can find more support at jobs.dav.org.