After their military service ends, veterans can face a difficult transition back into the civilian world. The stark differences in culture, schedule, and daily stress levels can affect former service members as they enter the next phase of their lives and seek out compatible new career paths. However, finding a civilian career that plays to veterans' unique strengths and passions is far from impossible.
Sean Wilkins, Military Recruiting Manager, Texas – Penske Logistics, speaks to why maintenance can be one of the best fits for job-seeking veterans:
"A lot of the folks who served in the military aren't looking for a desk job. They're used to working with their hands and being active. Because of that, maintenance is a good fit for many veterans making the transition into a civilian career – even if they weren't a 'wrench-turner' in the military. For veterans who were already working with diesel vehicles during their service, it's an even more seamless transition."
, Lead Technician, New York – Penske Truck Leasing, got his start as a diesel technician in the Marine Corps. Eager to get his hands dirty and discover how things work since early childhood, his time in the military only increased his professional drive and ability to succeed as a technician. He speaks to how his service prepared him for his civilian profession:
"The Marine Corps is not just about honor, courage, and commitment. They also teach you to have a lot of tenacity, which absolutely helps out in this profession. If you come across something tough, you can't just give up: someone's waiting on it and you might be the only one who can fix it. Outside of the maintenance training I received during my service, that mindset is what has helped me out the most in my current profession. I also learned that if you stick anything out long enough, things get better and better. As time goes by, you learn more and more. As long as you continue to learn, you get to do more interesting things – maybe the things you envisioned when you started out in the field just doing oil changes. 'Stick with it' would be my advice to anyone starting out in this field."
The tenacity that the military teaches also assists veterans throughout their post-service education.
Jonathan Palmore, Tech III, South Carolina – Penske Truck Leasing, credits his ability to push past any low points in tech school with the perseverance he learned in the Marine Corps:
"Putting myself back in the school mindset after coming out of the Marine Corps was tough. But this has always been something I wanted to do, so I just kept pushing for it. Thankfully, I graduated from UTI with my certificate in diesel technology. There have been some ups and downs, but that's life. The Marine Corps lifestyle definitely prepared me for that. I like a challenge.
"I had time off between the Marine Corps and school and then between school and starting at Penske. But I kept brushing up on my knowledge, and once I started this job, I got right back into the groove. I would definitely encourage anyone who's transitioning into the civilian maintenance world to make sure you're brushing up on what you know. Stay on top of it. You have to want it."
Some rest time between a veteran's military career and civilian career is expected. A short break can be a good opportunity to decompress, reacclimate, and reassess goals. But for some veterans like
Claudia Lendrum, that downtime can be trying the longer it lasts. Luckily for Claudia, a scholarship opportunity from TechForce Foundation set her back on track. Currently in a co-op with Tennessee College of Applied Technology and Penske, she has been offered a full-time Tech III position once she graduates in August. A true testament to the strength and skill that veterans possess as well as their natural aptitude for maintenance, she speaks about her journey:
"I was a driver in the Army, and I really loved it, but when I left, I wasn't in the best place. I found out I was pregnant the same year I left, and I had to take time off from entering the civilian workforce to raise my kids. That time off was very difficult; I felt like I'd lost my direction. I wrote about that struggle in my application essay for TechForce, and the process of writing it down helped me rediscover my passion for diesel and big trucks. That was a very big moment for me – finding my way back years later felt amazing.
"I love being a technician. I look forward to the little challenges and I learn something new every day. I have had times where I thought 'I can't do this, this is too hard,' but the people at school motivated me and kept me pushing forward. It's the same here at Penske – everyone's been so great about helping me adjust from school, where it's a little less hands-on, to being fully hands-on here in the shop. That encouragement from others definitely helps when I'm feeling low."
Sean Wilkins agrees that the single best thing for transitioning veterans is support. "Talk to a recruiter, talk to other technicians and talk to veterans who have been in the same position as you. Have those exploratory conversations, take away the fear of the unknown and understand what you need to do to be successful. Our recruiters are happy to help."
By Sarah Althen
Penske is always looking for qualified technicians to join the team. Learn more about career opportunities at Penske.