Acting on a professor's suggestion, Pizzo enrolled in New York Law School and graduated last May, immediately scoping out legal, business and financial firms. He had military training. He'd handled stressful situations, managed projects and operated with limited resources. He had two degrees. He figured that was a good foundation for a promising career.
Some 75 resumes later, he's still looking. Businesses, he says, see his credentials and conclude: "'It would be risky to assume you could apply those skills in an office setting.'"
One potential employer, he says, surprised him by saying: "'You're a little old to try to start working in the banking industry.'" The 29-year-old, he suggested, might be uncomfortable taking orders from a younger boss.
Pizzo senses trepidation, too, from prospective bosses, who may be leery of his wartime experience. "I think they're probably concerned, or at least it's in the back of people's minds that I won't be able operate in their landscape, maybe because of things I've seen."
Pizzo figures he'd have a better shot if he'd gone the traditional college-work route, and made connections along the way. "It would be rare to find five people on a base who know five people on Wall Street," he says.
When he recently lobbied in Washington with other members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a colonel told him companies are eager to hire veterans and mentioned one financial firm. Coincidentally, Pizzo had already applied there. When he came home, he had a rejection letter.
Pizzo presses on, certain he has much to offer.
"Whoever gives me the opportunity," he says, "will hit the jackpot."
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: www.iava.org
Joining Forces: www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces
Hiring Our Heroes: www.us.chamber.com/hiringourheroes
National Energy: www.NESI.biz
Sharon Cohen is a Chicago-based national writer for The Associated Press. She can be reached at features(at)ap.org.
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