Richard Dzenowski: Eyes on the Prize

U.S. Navy Veteran

The PAVE program keeps you in its sight...even after you’re in a job to see how they can help you.

Navy veteran Richard Dzenowski was thrown into an entirely new career field after the nation was attacked on September 11, 2001.

Dzenowski, whose enlistment in the Navy in 1996 began with processing message traffic back and forth to bases, was transitioned immediately into information technology. He began working with Navy servers and computers as a desktop support technician.

“After September 11, I was given a toolkit and fiber testing equipment, and was told, ‘We’re now at war. Welcome to your new job in IT,'” Dzenowski says.

A family crisis leads to years out of work. PAVE steps up to help.

After leaving service in 2004, the eight-year Navy veteran believed his vast IT experience in the Navy would no doubt be a source of job security well into the future. And it was for some time, as Dzenowski worked in jobs including help desk support and desktop support technician.

But shortly after accepting a job as a senior analyst with a contractor for the Army, Dzenowski learned that his wife’s previous in-remission cancer had returned. Since he had no ability to telework, he was forced to leave his new position to care for his family. 

“By the time my wife’s cancer had gone back into remission and I tried to get back into the job field, it was 2013,” he says. “The government was in the middle of downsizing and furloughing, and contracts were not awarded. The job market was bad, and there weren’t a lot of opportunities in Texas at the time.”

Other job placement companies only gave me the bare minimum, often times I was just forgotten....but (PAVE) kept with me up to the point of receiving a job offer.

While collecting unemployment, Dzenowski would not give up on his quest to secure a job. He applied for jobs every day, but with each response from an employer came the dreaded comment that he was overqualified.

Unsure of where to turn, Dzenowski learned from his stepson’s father – a member of Paralyzed Veterans of America – of the San Antonio office of Operation PAVE (Paving Access to Veterans Employment), a nationwide program that provides one-on-one career counseling and assistance to veterans and their families.

Dzenowski was connected to PAVE counselor Susan Sprayberry, who immediately stepped in and helped him tweak his resume and translate his military skills into civilian terms. But unlike other job placement companies Dzenowski had worked with in the past, he could immediately tell that Operation PAVE was different.

“Other job placement companies only gave me the bare minimum, and often times I was just forgotten,” Dzenowski says. “But Ms. Sprayberry kept with me up to the point of receiving a job offer.”

Humble to a fault, he simply wants a job with no expiration date.

Dzenwoski’s work with Operation PAVE did not stop there, as his current position as a consultant with APEC will terminate after just two years. He is currently working with Sprayberry to secure permanent employment.

But even when he does secure that permanent job, he knows that the PAVE program will continue to stay with him. That’s part of Paralyzed Veterans of America’s and PAVE’s mission to be “partners for life” in ensuring veterans and their families not only find employment but maintain and find fulfillment in it.

“The PAVE program keeps you in its sight for an extended period of time,” Dzenowski says. “They continue to follow up with you even after you’re in a job to see how they can help you.”

For Dzenowski, the dream job simply looks like one that does not come with an expiration date. Above all, his dream for his career is to secure a civil service position with the federal government, a goal he imagined would be far easier given his nine years of military service. “I’ve applied for civil service jobs multiple times, but when you apply, you’re just one of many who are standing in line to get in,” he says.

Dzenowski is hopeful that an upcoming hiring conference will open up new doors. On April 15, Operation PAVE, along with the Hiring Our Heroes Foundation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will host the Wounded Veteran and Caregiver Employment Conference at the Norris Conference Center in San Antonio. While unable to attend, Dzenowski has put his confidence in Sprayberry to push his resume to the more than 20 employers attending the conference.

Still, Dzenowski remains humble about his employment prospects, particularly when it comes to putting our nation’s wounded and disabled veterans at the top of the list for open jobs. Above all, he hopes employers have the willingness to see the value in those heroes. “At any time, I would give up my place in line to help out of one them,” he says.