SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Landing a highly sought-after job in the biotech industry can be hard enough, but many military service members have the added hurdle of figuring out how to apply their military skills to the civilian world.
Retired Navy commander John Valle said instead of trying to leave the military behind, he tapped into a network of veterans to land his dream biotech job.
“I enlisted in 1989 and I retired in 2019,” the local veteran said.
After 30 years in the U.S. Navy, Valle said he wasn’t finished working. The transition, according to Valle, was tough.
“I found myself doing what many transitioning service members, veterans always do. What do I want to do now that I'm leaving the military?” said Valle.
What Valle learned was the value of reaching out to people he knew.
“So, I had several retired service members who I'd meet up with and seek advice from, and fortunately one of them provided my resume to that first employer and spoke on my behalf,” Valle said.
Valle said he spent a grateful year in that first job with a local clean tech company as director of operations.
He said his short list of dream jobs included med-tech company BD. When he reached out to a fellow veteran just to find out more about the company, he was in for a surprise.
“It just so happened he mentioned a role that he thought I would be a good fit for,” Valle said.
Turns out he was a great fit. Starting a new job during a pandemic was challenging, but now Valle is Senior Manager HR Business Partner at BD.
He said while networking is critical, so is filling in skill gaps so you're ready when a job comes along.
“I had an opportunity to be a part of Biocom Institute's Military Fellowship program,” Valle told ABC 10News.
The program provides veterans with job skills workshops, mentorships, access to life science industry executives and career fairs and it's not the only free resource out there for veterans interested in biotech.
“It really helped me to fine tune my communication skills and then my understanding of how to research organizations,” said Valle.
Valle said his compensation has gone up about 10 to 15 percent compared to his time in the military.
He said the cost of living in San Diego and providing for his family weighed on him as he worked to move up in the corporate world.
“It was very challenging for me to just stay the course, to be honest. A lot of members of the military, unfortunately, will take their first or second role where the compensation isn't quite what they would expect,” Valle said.
Compared to many other industries, biotech has been thriving. While California experienced a 7.4 percent drop in total jobs in 2020, life sciences grew by .5 percent.
Valle said his new job affords him a better quality of life with his wife and two kids. He even has time to pay it forward by coaching other veterans looking to do what he did.
“The struggle is real, but you don't have to do it alone. There are a number of people and organizations out there,” he said.
What’s more, you don't have to be a veteran to take advantage of job skills and networking programs. Biocom alone has many including fellowships for first generation college graduates, teacher training programs and other professional development courses. There’s more information at Biocom.org.