See more of the story

Austin Timm's job search was almost certainly different from your job search.

It was late 2020 and Timm, a Sartell native and 2014 graduate of St. Cloud State University, was deployed in the deserts of Afghanistan's Helmand Province. The first lieutenant was nearing the end of his 4 ½ years of active duty in the U.S. Army, and he and his wife, Crystal, wanted to move back to Minnesota from Fort Drum in upstate New York.

The problem was that Timm was in charge of construction projects at Camp Dwyer in Afghanistan, which meant he was looking for a Twin Cities job from half a world away — in the middle of a global pandemic, while remotely studying for his MBA from the University of Illinois.

Oh, and his military occupational specialty didn't seem immediately transferrable to the civilian workforce. He was an expert in explosives and demolitions.

It was a delicate time in Afghanistan, not long after the peace treaty was signed. Sometimes, their small base would take rocket attacks.

Timm's day job was upgrading buildings and off-base obstacles to make it safer for soldiers, then he would stay up until 3 a.m. local time for online job fairs and would do Zoom interviews at 11 p.m.

"The process was overwhelming," said Timm.

"I'd started to job hunt on my own, but I didn't have a good path. I figured it would all work out, but I quickly realized there was a lot more work to do."

But last Thanksgiving, he came across something online that gave him hope.

The Edge4Vets jobs preparation program at Fordham University's Human Resiliency Institute teaches veterans to identify skills from their military career and use them to get civilian jobs.

He e-mailed the head of the organization, Tom Murphy, and told him about his dream job: Working for Boston Scientific, which is part of the organization's network. The medical device manufacturer has thousands of employees in the Twin Cities.

"I really didn't know what [kind of job] I wanted," Timm said.

"I was doing lots of construction stuff in Afghanistan, had to create schedules, plan out man hours with the National Guard, balance priorities. COVID-19 made things tough on our supply chain, so we tried to predict and forecast materials."

Murphy and a few other veteran job advocates helped Timm realize that his training in logistics would be quite valuable in the civilian job force. He just had to learn how to sell himself — without using military jargon.

"That's what veterans struggle with in the transition back to civilian life," said Murphy, whose organization has helped 2,000 veterans find employment over the past decade.

"They're given these huge responsibilities at such a young age, managing millions of dollars worth of supplies, and they figure it out. That becomes a transferable skill. But it's not automatically apparent to them."

One of the veterans Murphy brought in to help Timm was Paul Davis, who spent nine years on active duty for the Marines and had three combat deployments.

"You build up these incredible skills in the military that are very transferable, but you don't know what to say to people to relate that," said Davis, who works in Boston Scientific's materials management group.

"You got all these acronyms. You got all these experiences. You tell it to someone that served and they know what that means.

"You tell it to a hiring manager, it's not that easy."

Davis quickly became a mentor to, and somewhat of a civilian translator for, Timm.

"Austin is really good at breaking big concepts down into manageable and organized chunks," Davis said. "Instead of saying, 'I'm good at blowing things up or building things,' you say, 'I'm good at breaking a big concept down into smaller pieces, prioritizing and then divvying up the work.' "

Timm returned to New York in December. Just before he and his wife moved back to Minnesota, he got a job offer from Boston Scientific as a senior project lead with the direct purchasing team.

He started the job this spring in Maple Grove.

"I'm just glad we got him before someone else did," Davis said. "He's got this overwhelming can-do attitude."

And he's going to need it. Because Timm's next big step is to buy a house in a highly competitive housing market.

Reid Forgrave • 612-673-4647