Featured on the Bronx Chronicle.
Featured Veteran: Finding Your Vibe
by Gonzalo Duran
In my regular column I have sought out veterans to share their stories and recognize the services they provide. This week’s featured Veteran is Corporal Jared Sterk of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Jared was born and raised in Old Tappan, New Jersey. He currently works at New York University Langone Medical Center (NYU LMC) as the Senior Program Coordinator in the Veteran’s Outreach Program. Jared enthusiastically shares his trials on finding a career and what he has learned from this in the hope that it will help other veterans. He is also sharing how his company offers free mental health services to veterans and conducts research studies on veterans dealing with the effects of military service.
Already a couple years into college, Jared longed to travel and the military seemed like a perfect choice. Along with allowing him new options, there was the added incentive of an education benefit. Now at the age of 22 he enlisted into the USMC in the Aviation Ordnance field, going on to serve four years with two oversea deployments to Japan. Jared enjoyed his time in the Marine Corps and grew to love Japan but found it difficult to find activities outside of base. A colleague recommended Jiu Jitsu off base and Jared took to that with a passion. The rest of his service was memorable to say the least.
After his discharge he moved back home with his family, something he was not fond of but counts himself fortunate and acknowledges that many do not have that luxury. Immediately he took advantage of the education benefit to earn his Bachelors and Master Degree at William Paterson University. Shortly after beginning college the education benefit changed from the Montgomery G.I. Bill to the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, which now included tuition plus living expenses. Jared used this new advantage to move out of his family’s home in order to regain the freedom he was accustomed to while in the service.
In 2012 he completed his Masters Degree in Public Policy and International Affairs, but trouble would soon follow. Obviously the next step was seeking employment but his hopeful expectations would turn into a dreadful experience. For six months he struggled with his search for employment. Even though he was frustrated with how things were going, he had no choice but to continue applying for jobs online and going to job fairs that failed to produce useful leads. With bills piling up, Jared began taking temporary jobs to make ends meet.
Due to these increasing pressures, he made a decision that would cause trouble for three years and what he remarks as the, “biggest mistake I ever made.” Jared’s error was to take the first job he was offered, and this job would linger on for three years, but he was eventually laid off. At the time, the situation that he was in was unpleasant but it would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. To overcome his hardships, Jared used this negative situation as a learning tool to change his approach when it came to job searching and to find a method that worked.
This change in approach would be networking. Within a matter of weeks, one particular networking event brought Jared to the attention of Mike Abrams, President of Four Block, a career development program for veterans. Mike invited Jared to attend his program and within a few weeks hosted an event at New York University (NYU). The event went well for Jared and he emailed one of the Human Resources representatives the next day. This brought a follow-up meeting, which Jared thought was going to be an informational session but was actually a casual interview. This led Jared to another casual interview the following week and then employment. “I basically fell into it.”, said Jared, who now enjoys the work he is doing and the amenities that come with it.
Jared travels around to promote NYU LMC programs that have two main focuses:
- Free mental health services for veterans and their families, regardless of era served or discharged status.
- A volunteer research study to better diagnose the after effects of military service on veterans. This will hopefully guide them on how to provide better care for them in the future. It also provides compensation to those selected.
So what is Jared’s take on the process of finding employment as a veteran or the current approaches offered to veterans? Most job fairs have hundreds or thousands of attendees but the outcome of employment for those attending is very small. Applying for online positions can be unsatisfying and tends to lead the job seeker to apply for hundreds of positions but never talk or hear from anyone. “When you begin your search for employment there is a sense that the workforce has a ‘thank you for your service’ atmosphere, but the reality is, I felt many of the companies were subpar and were there for the tax incentives they received for hiring veterans.” explained Jared. That may seem harsh but going through a list of companies and positions offered at a job fair show that many offer minimum wage and entry-level positions. Even when a job seeker finds a position they may be interested in, the response from company representatives is to submit a resume online. This cuts off any further conversation about the job and makes it nearly impossible to network, regardless of the fact that job fairs tell participants to bring copies of their resumes and to dress professionally. Jared still strongly encourages fellow veterans to go to job fairs, go online but states that they need to add networking to the equation.
Looking back, Jared hates the mistakes he made but takes pleasure in helping others when possible. He explains that there are many programs geared to help veterans and wished he knew about them when he was struggling. Another common trend he sees is that veterans’ expectations are sometimes too high, believing their certification or experience in the service will automatically ensure them a high paying and high-level position. From experience he will tell you that trial and error will be hard but to push forward and, if you can, wait until you get the right vibe.
Now employed, Jared can put his focus back on activities he enjoyed like Jiu Jitsu. He hopes to get back to training more regularly and improve his conditioning before competing again; with sight set on progressing to his black belt. So, what does a man do when he finally gets the stability he so very much deserves? He looks forward to marrying his fiancée and long time friend Suzanne Arancibia.
Jared may be too modest to acknowledge this but his work and the company he represents provide an undeniable assistance to the veteran community. Hopefully Jared’s candidness with his experience in the job market will bring many veterans to ease. His story is a perfect example that there is resolution to the turmoil of the workforce.
For more information on the Military Family Clinic at NYU, please visit their website . If you are a veteran interested in participating in the New York University Langone Medical Center research studies, more information can be found here. For questions or inquires, Jared can be reached at Jared.Sterk@nyumc.org
Devil Dog USA Incorporated
Gonzalo Duran is CEO of Devil Dog USA Incorporated, a non-profit in the Bronx that focuses on veterans. Duran is a Veteran Columnist for The Bronx Chronicle.