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Pathways for Veterans Career Fair
Pathways for Veterans Career Fair

Life Changing Is … A Place to Call Home

Pathways for Veterans Career Fair

“We go beyond saying, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

In 2022, Sam Cunningham attended UPMC’s Pathways for Veterans career fair for the first time.

After 22 years as an active-duty Marine, Sam retired in 2021. He returned home to the Pittsburgh area with his wife and two children.

However, the transition from serving his country to a civilian career proved challenging.

“It was pretty rough for me coming back,” Sam says. “Our last duty station was Hawaii. So, we came from Hawaii back here to Pittsburgh, and I needed to get a job right away if I wanted to get a mortgage, everything like that.”

Sam says he worked three different jobs. But like many other veterans, he struggled to find the right fit for his skills and experience.

He was encouraged to attend UPMC’s Pathways for Veterans career fair. The decision proved life-changing for him and his family, as it led to a career at UPMC.

“I really found a home here, not just in the veteran community and everything, but with everyone who works there," says Sam, project coordinator, Community HealthChoices, UPMC Health Plan.

Sam was excited to return to the 2023 Pathways for Veterans career fair at Acrisure Stadium. This time, he came as a UPMC employee willing to offer the same support he received the year before.

Attendees were encouraged to “come as you are,” whether that meant stopping by after work or bringing their kids along. Event organizers understand the significant role family members play in a veteran’s success. They strive to make the career fair as accommodating as possible.

“What we see here tonight, as folks are coming in, we see couples coming in and relatives,” Sam says. “So, it's great to see that UPMC is a family company, and it's just great to see a lot of interest from not just the veterans, but also from their family as well.”

Reading between the lines of a resume

Like Sam, Erik Orient also had to navigate a move to the corporate world after a 22-year career in the Marine Corps. He knows firsthand how difficult the acclimation process can be for veterans.

“The key is talking to someone, not just looking at a resume,” says Erik, director, Military Affairs and Student Initiatives, UPMC Health Plan Center for Social Impact. “Because you can look at a resume and say, ‘I don’t see an alignment here.’ But when you talk to someone, you can pick up on what they’re good at.”

The Pathways for Veterans career fair allows attendees to participate in on-site interviews while exploring thousands of open positions at UPMC. Positions range from entry-level to advanced-level in various fields. Options include customer service, project management, supply chain, nursing and clinical, insurance, human resources, information technology, and more.   

Veterans also can receive resume assistance while learning about roles that align with their interests and skills — an opportunity that Sam seized. He says translating a veteran’s resume poses a tough challenge, but it helps when someone knows how to read between the lines.

“You can never get enough help with resumes," Sam says. "Even if you have the most perfect resume, it's not perfect because everybody looks at it differently. It's a very nice thing to have people who can see your experience where it's not easily translatable.”

Making the event a true family affair, the services offered at the career fair also extend to family members. Spouses searching for jobs also can make connections and grow their network.

“No one succeeds in the military on their own,” Erik says. “You have the people to your left and your right, and the family support network. So, we want to honor that and give those people the same opportunities that we give to the veterans.” 

A pathway for career growth

While Sam moved his family back home so his children could be closer to their grandparents, he also found a career home at UPMC. That quickly became apparent after a conversation he had with Erik.

“He said, ‘I'm in health care. I'm at UPMC. I'm not leaving,’" Sam remembers. "And I said, ‘Oh, that's great.’ And then I get hired here, and I feel the same way. I'm at UPMC. I'm here, and I'm not leaving."

The reason, Sam believes, is the vast opportunity for career growth at UPMC — both within your current department and by exploring new avenues.

For example, someone with a finance background could go into finance. Or they could pursue a role in supply chain management or the insurance division.

“I would say UPMC would be your career, but it doesn't have to be in just one area, and that's what's great about UPMC," Sam says. "You could fit in anywhere.

"There's a lot of opportunity even within. Not just to advance, but also to be educated, to learn new things, and to learn new skills as well. That's exactly what it is. When you come to UPMC, rarely does anybody leave here. They stay here for the rest of their careers.”

Committed to the veteran community

Erik describes UPMC's commitment to veterans as “We go beyond saying, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

UPMC was recently named a top-10 Military Friendly Employer for 2024. The distinction recognizes UPMC for meeting or exceeding critical areas of commitment by recruiting, hiring, and training veterans and military spouses.

More than 1,600 UPMC employees self-identify as veterans, with about 300 to 400 veterans applying to UPMC each month.

Erik or Doug Ickes, the Military Programs manager, personally reach out to each applicant. Doug says veterans often mention how quickly UPMC responds — something they do not always experience with other employers.

The message, Sam says, is simple: “You're welcome with open arms. We want you to come here. We want you to be successful.”

He urges veterans to take advantage of events, like the Pathways for Veterans career fair, and the doors they can open.

"Definitely take opportunities to come to things like this, to network, to be open to what the city has to offer because Pittsburgh has a lot to offer,” Sam says. “I encourage you to come to UPMC because you'll love it.”

At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means helping veterans and military members succeed in their careers.

Learn more about programs, events, and opportunities UPMC offers to veterans and their families.

Pittsburgh (KDKA): UPMC career fair helps veterans find jobs.

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