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Five things to know about veterans in the workforce

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 9, 2013 at 5:09 a.m.
Updated Nov. 10, 2013 at 5:10 a.m.

Bulmaro Martinez, co-owner of We Buy and Sell Real Estate, center, discusses paint colors with the head of his paint crew, Eddy Puentes, left, and project manager Kristie Threadgill, right, at one of his properties  Tuesday. Martinez is a former Marine, and he has learned to apply the skills he gained as a sergeant to the civilian world in his ability to manage a work team.

The smell of paint hung in the air at the small house on Guinevere Street where crews busied themselves the day before the home hit the market. Some people worked on landscaping while others wiped down countertops and eyed the overall project.

"The places where you see the blue tape, that's where we need touch-ups," said Bulmaro Martinez, co-owner of Platinum Home Investments.

Martinez admitted his job today is light-years away from what he was doing just a decade back. The Victoria native, a United States Marine Corps veteran, served a tour in Iraq.

There, he was a combat radio operator.

"I was working in communications, but it isn't like communications here," he said, explaining it involved work with satellites and the like. "It's not like I could come back and go into the media or TV."

Thus, while Martinez did his duty overseas - he said he made his way from Kuwait to Baghdad and was part of the group that toppled Saddam Hussein's statue - he was lost once he returned home in 2003.

"What relates to what I did over there? Nothing, really," he said. "I kind of thought, 'Well, now what?'"

Martinez's problem isn't an unusual one, said Carole Kolle, center director with Workforce Solutions of the Golden Crescent. That transition from military life to the civilian workforce can be difficult.

Many times, she said, it boils down to the terms used and the ability to translate skills. After all, describing one's skills using military terms might be accurate, but an employer might not understand.

"It's all about selling yourself to the employer," she said. "It's getting the terminology right and knowing how those skills you picked up over there might translate into the workplace."

For Martinez, he said he took to the want ads and took work with a Victoria car dealership.

From there, the veteran took things into his own hands.

He and a co-worker discussed the idea of "flipping" houses or purchasing homes, making upgrades and selling them for a profit. Soon after, Platinum Home Investments was born.

Martinez might not be using his satellite skills, but he said he still uses his training in day-to-day life.

He honed his ability to give orders during his four years in the Marines, for instance, which helps in managing crews. Cross-training - making sure people have some knowledge about a variety of jobs - is also important.

"That military experience helped a lot," he said.

Martinez encouraged those veterans just returning home to work on their resumes early on and to have someone else read over them.

Don't be afraid to ask for assistance from workforce centers, he said, and have faith in your abilities.

"You already have it," he said of the necessary skills. "You just have to be able to use it."

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