Life has a way of throwing curveballs at us, testing our resolve and determination. In the case of Army veteran Steve Chambers, a mechanical engineer at OFI Testing Equipment, the road to finding meaningful employment was filled with pitches he wasn’t prepared for, but Steve kept swinging for the fences. It’s a story that reminds us that a home run can only come if you get back into the batter’s box.

Army veteran Steve Chambers, a mechanical engineer at OFI Testing Equipment,

After graduating from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, in 2015, Steve encountered a disheartening reality. “I had to learn the hard way. It’s very hard getting someone to hire you without engineering experience.” Finding a job in his field was more challenging than he expected, but “not working wasn’t an option,” so he pinch-hit as a stocker at Lowe’s and later as a contractor at NASA. Both roles led to him sitting on the bench due to unexpected layoffs.

Steve was in a financial bind following his layoff from NASA, struggling to make ends meet. During this challenging time, he sought help from HOPE. “I’m unemployed, I need help, I’ll take the help,” he said. HOPE Career Transition Case Manager/Scholarship Program Manager Kristy Warren coached Steve on how to get more quality at-bats by tailoring his resume for specific positions. “Navigating a job search is a very vulnerable and mentally draining process. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, knowing that rejection is possible in a competitive job market,” Kristy says. “However, as a career coach, I do my best to build confidence by helping clients like Steve utilize tools and assist in market research to give them a competitive edge. In today’s market, the competitive edge is networking and getting face time with hiring managers.”

It wasn’t just about the resume, it was also about networking, and if you speak to Steve for longer than 30 seconds, it’s clear that networking is a part of his skill set. “I’m not intimidated by talking to people. [I was] a shy kid. Being in the military brought me out of it.”

Steve attended a job fair organized by Rigzone, and despite the uncertain prospects, he approached the event positively, understanding that opportunities often arise unexpectedly. He spoke to a representative from OFI who said they didn’t have any engineering positions at that moment, but it could change. His decision to attend paid off when, a few weeks later, he received a call for an interview. “That was literally the best interview I’ve ever had,” Steve said. Reflecting on the experience, he acknowledges the importance of networking, particularly in the earlier stages of his career. Kristy was thrilled to hear the news. I’m so proud of Steve for taking that step and attending a job fair. I hope his success helps others to do the same!”

As Steve’s story unfolds, he embodies what it means to keep swinging. He could have easily given up in college, in the Army, or during the pursuit of education. Finishing school was always on Steve’s mind, mainly because it was his father’s dying wish when he passed in 2006. “Before we left [the hospital] he told me to come closer so I could hear him,” Steve said. “He said, ‘Promise me something. Finish school.”

That statement stuck for Steve, and on the day he got his diploma, he looked off into the distance with a smile and said, “I told ya.” His degree, plus his perseverance, was a recipe for success. “The view is so much better here than before,” Steve said. “The only way you’re going to be invisible is if you stop.”  Thanks to his determination and a little help from HOPE, Steve is officially back in the game.

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