Jeremy Knisely, Matt Owens, and Matthew Swimeley were all military men. Jeremy and Matthew were both in the Air Force while Matt served in the Navy. Now, they all have positions at OhioMeansJobs. Entering civilian life can be difficult after a life of serving one’s country, but these three men show how with guidance and direction, the transition from military life to civilian employment is possible. OhioMeansJobs is dedicated to opening doors to career opportunities tailored for veterans–careers that inspire them and help them step into a future that values their military service and skills.
In this blog edition, these three men share their stories of how they were able to bridge the gap from military work to civilian employment. We hope you or a veteran you know will be inspired to use the services of OhioMeansJobs to enter a new phase of service in the civilian world. We also have video versions of each of their testimonials, which are linked throughout.
Jeremy Explains How OhioMeansJobs Helped Him
Jeremy says that when he came out of the military, he felt untethered and lost with no idea what to do with himself or where to go next. He thought it would be the skills he learned in the military as a mechanic that he would use in civilian work. While he still possesses those skills, he says it’s the leadership he developed as well as his first-hand experience with diversity and inclusion while serving that are the skills that have played a major part in everything he’s done since he left the military.
“When I walked through the doors of Ohiomeansjobs, seeking guidance and advice,” he says, “they grabbed me up, much like the military had done, and said, ‘There’s a way to do this.’ They showed me the tools and things I needed to be able to reintegrate into the civilian world, and it made a world of difference for me. It’s how I ended up where I am today.”
Jeremy now serves as a program delivery manager with OhioMeansJobs, guiding people to meaningful employment through career programs. He’s now the one providing guidance and advice. He loves working with the OMJ center system and “making a difference in other people’s lives.” His advice to former military personnel is simple: “Come, talk to the OMJ centers. There are people like you willing to help you and assist you. Come use us.”
Matt also felt lost when he first got out of the military. In the Navy, he had served four years on an aircraft carrier as a personnel man and a shipboard firefighter. There, his mission and purpose were clear.
Post-military service, he found himself in a difficult place of not knowing what to do or where to go next. He says OhioMeansJobs helped him tremendously. In fact, he adds, “If it weren’t for the job center, I wouldn’t be in the role I’m in today.” The Veterans Service staff took the time to get to know him and identified his barriers to entering the civilian workforce. The help was practical and addressed him at his point of need. “They helped me fill out an application and helped me transfer my military skills into civilian skills,” he says.
The journey from military work to civilian work can be challenging. “In the military, he explains from experience, “you’re used to giving orders or taking orders, and everyone follows those orders. In the civilian workforce, it’s different. In a leadership role, you can’t just bark out orders. You have to engage team members and get their buy-in.”
There are similarities too, he notes: “In the military, you have to be a quick decision maker, adapt, and be flexible. The same is true in the civilian workforce.” Matt would know. He now serves as a program administrator for OhioMeansJobs, overseeing a state-wide grant that’s delivered in all 88 counties in the Department of Jobs and Family Services.
Just as in the military, everyone has a specific role and depends on the next team member, so it is in his work now. The main trait needed in both positions, he observes, is attention to detail.
Matthew Shares His Experiences With OhioMeansJobs As A Veteran
Matthew did have a plan for his post-military career. After retiring from Security Forces with the Air Force, he had a position lined up with Border Patrol in North Dakota. That fell through when, as part of a medical review, he failed a grip test due to having shattered his wrist while in the military. Without a plan B, he says, “I struggled, going from odd job to odd job, still trying to pay the rent, still trying to take care of my family. Eventually, we left North Dakota and came back to Ohio, where I was from.”
It was here in Ohio that he found a path to civilian work that he loves. At the recommendation of his sister, who worked for one of the Veterans Services Commissions, he came to an OhioMeansJobs center where he met with someone who helps veterans find employment after the completion of their time with the military. From this OMJ veterans specialist, Matthew learned that his same position was open in another county. He suggested Matthew apply for it. He did, and He got the job.
As a disabled veteran outreach specialist at the Warren County Jobs Center (BCW/Workforce), Matthew loves his work. “I love doing what I do,” he says, “because I can sit there and tell a customer, ‘Hey I’ve been on the other side of the desk; I’ve been where you’re at, and this program works. If you take our advice, if you put the effort into it, this program works.’”
Matthew adds, “OhioMeansJobs has shaped my life. It helped me get a job, and now I’m continuing to help others, so it’s awesome.” He loves having the opportunity to help others in a situation similar to the one he was in prior to getting this job. Some of his favorite parts are helping military veterans see how their military skills transfer to civilian work and that it allows him to stay involved in a military community as through his work, he continues to experience the camaraderie and passion of military service.
OhioMeansJobs is your compass for navigating the waters of civilian employment. Just as we did for Jeremy, Matt, and Matthew, our dedicated career centers are ready to help you bridge the gap between military service and your next professional adventure. Visit one of our centers to see how we can help you too.