Be Positive, Stay Focused, Reach Out: Jon Wetzler’s Job Search Story

Everyone’s job search story is different, but each individual story can inspire and empower others who are on their own unique path. Jon Wetzler remained diligent and focused through a job search that lasted more than a year, eventually landing a great job through his robust network. Here’s Jon’s story. 

What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?

I am one of a team of four educational leaders who manage training development activities for a bilingual(Spanish/English) Department of Defense Institute.  The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) trains military officers, cadets, enlisted soldiers and civilian personnel from Western Hemispheric military, police and non-governmental organizations (NGO). In this role, I coordinate and supervise the development, delivery of instruction and revision of military education and training programs taught in resident/non-resident courses and ensure compliance with all higher authority training guidance updates.

I collaborate closely with WHINSEC’s faculty and staff to integrate and synchronize training requirements and education programs with outside agencies such as United States Army Southern Command, United States Army Northern Command,  United States Special Operations Command, United States Department of State, United States Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to confirm that all instruction and training is consistently relevant to the institute’s educational program and larger mission.

How long did it take you to find this job?

Fourteen months, although I first started applying for vacant positions at WHINSEC in April 2016.

How did you find your job?

In 2006 I retired from the Oregon Army National Guard. I was recalled to active duty as a Retiree Recall Soldier in 2009 and served four years until 2013.  From 2011-2013 I was assigned to WHINSEC and after I was released from active duty I stayed in contact with several former coworkers and the director of human resources.  The human resource director kept me informed about upcoming employment opportunities that I was qualified for and encouraged me to submit my application through the USAJobs.com website.

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What resources did you use?

The WorkSource Oregon office in Bend helped me immensely.  I met with one of the employment counselors to review my work history, education and professional goals and also to assess and update my resume.  I also met with the Veterans Career Counselor, Paul Messett who was also very supportive and helpful in connecting me with potential opportunities and also encouraged me whenever I became discouraged.  I spent many days at the WorkSource Oregon office doing job searches and applying for employment vacancies using their computer work stations.  I attended a one day interviewing workshop led by one of the WorkSource Oregon counselors and practiced responding to interview questions many times while other participants observed and then shared constructive criticism intended to help me improve.

Prior to becoming unemployed, I had worked as a teacher and guidance counselor in Oregon public schools for nearly 20 years.  One of the first things I did after I became unemployed was to send a message out to all my LinkedIn contacts informing them of my job loss and requesting their help in trying to find new career opportunities.  Many people responded with information that was helpful as I sought a new path.

There were several online job websites dedicated to education professionals and I created profiles, uploaded job application documents(resume, transcripts, licenses) and actively searched for positions I was qualified for at these websites.  Schoolspring.com, joyjobs.commacslist.org, USAJobs.com, and governmentjobs.com were the sites I found most useful and where I created profiles and stored employment application documents.  I also used hercjobs.org (Higher Education Recruitment Consortium) which has a huge volume of vacant opportunities at a diverse range of colleges, universities, hospitals, NGOs and think tanks around the United States.  I applied for many vacancies directly at school district human resource webpages.

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In addition to the multiple efforts I made to identify and apply for vacant positions online, I also met with a private career coach seeking help in rewriting my resume to be more compatible with an employment search outside of public education.  I attended job fairs for veterans sponsored by Disabled American Veterans(DAV).  I met with a veteran employment specialist from the state of Arizona at a WorkSource Arizona office in Phoenix when seeking opportunities outside of Oregon. He added me to an email distribution list he sent out every morning that contained updated employment opportunities.

I applied for licensure, and became licensed as a teacher, school counselor and school administrator.

What tool or tactic helped the most?

Two things stand out:

A parent of a former student advised me to apply at USAJobs.com for temporary positions, and explained that it is sometimes easier to get a temporary job than a permanent one because the applicant pool usually isn’t as competitive because most people are looking for permanent full time positions.  Following this advice, I applied at the end of July 2016 on USAJobs.com for a temporary teaching position at Job Corps in Estacada, Oregon and was hired September 22, 2016 with a start date of November 27, 2016.  When I was contacted with the job offer by a human resources representative she informed me that the position was no longer temporary, and had been converted to a permanent full time teaching assignment.  I worked a little more than six months teaching at Timber Lake Job Corps before receiving the offer to return to WHINSEC in June 2017.

Another thing that helped a lot was being able to regularly talk with someone, the human resources director in this case, about potential employment opportunities that were projected to open in the near and distant future at WHINSEC.

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What was the most difficult part of your job search?

The most difficult part of the job search was recognizing that it was going to take a lot longer to find a new opportunity than I thought it would when I started looking.  The longer you’re out there without employment the more anxious, stressed and worried you become about your chances of securing another opportunity.  After a while you begin to doubt yourself and become concerned that maybe despite your education, licenses, skills, training and experience you still might not get another chance.

How did you overcome this challenge?

I tried to focus on the positive things in my life, my wife, our children, the love we have for one another and how important it was to our family for me to find a new opportunity.  I told myself that eventually something would come through, I just needed to keep believing in myself.

What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?

Believe in yourself and all you’ve accomplished in your life and career.  Avoid getting caught up in cycles of negative thoughts and doubt. You have to stay positive because you’re pretty much on your own out there, so you can’t afford to not believe in yourself.

Why do you love your job?

I love my job because it grants me an opportunity to continue to serve the United States and those who serve America in uniform in a way that capitalizes on my education, skills and experience as both a professional educator and a citizen soldier.