Job Envy: The Marine Vet Creating Business Solutions For Companies With LinkedIn

career
Paul Darnell, pictured, gives a presentation on how to use LinkedIn to a group of recently separated veterans.
Photo courtesy of Paul Darnell

Full name: Paul Darnell


Location: New York, New York

Job title: Sales development specialist at LinkedIn

Branch of service: U.S. Marine Corps

After separating from the Marine Corps in 2008, Paul Darnell, 28, knew only that he wanted to one day run his own business. Now he supports other businesses that use LinkedIn to become more dynamic and successful. As a member of LinkedIn’s sales solutions team, Darnell helps companies connect through individuals, allowing them to benefit from the same one-on-one connections that have made LinkedIn so popular with job seekers.

Darnell spoke with Task & Purpose about how his military experience led him to his career with LinkedIn.

His time in the military

Darnell enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004, when he was only 17 years old, in part because he wanted to learn to be a good leader, and to do that, he knew he had to first learn how to follow. After boot camp and basic combat training, Darnell went to radio school at Twentynine Palms, where he was trained as a multi-channel radio operator before receiving orders to Okinawa, Japan. After two years in Okinawa, where he was able to experience the wealth of culture in the Asian Pacific, Darnell returned stateside and was based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, serving as a color sergeant with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force until his separation.

“Joining the military was the best decision of my life. I can attribute the majority of my success to the time I spent in the Marine Corps,” Darnell says. The qualities of a good businessman are also those of a good Marine, he explains, and his four years of service prepared him well for corporate work.

“Discipline is important in all facets of life,” he says. “In the Marines, we learn a break in discipline could cost lives; while the stakes are not as high in the business world, the mentality still exists — if you falter, the mission will fail.”

On going to college after the military

Darnell (front, right) says his time in the Marine Corps was the best decision of his life.

After separating from the Marine Corps, Darnell wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do, but he knew he needed to go to college to do it. After twice being rejected from Michigan State University, Darnell started at the University of Michigan - Dearborn, but knowing he wanted more, applied to Columbia University in New York.

“In my capacity as MEF Color Guard, I was assigned to New York during Fleet Week, as I had to lead all the ceremonies during the celebration. It was during that Fleet Week that I met a fellow Marine who encouraged me to apply to Columbia University,” he explains. “I distinctly remember laughing, thinking to myself that there was no way Columbia would accept me, especially after having earlier been rejected by Michigan State. Thankfully, I was wrong.”

As a Marine who’d been trained to always be the best, Columbia’s prestige appealed to Darnell, who felt a special sense of accomplishment after having earlier been rejected from Michigan State.

Darnell, whose ultimate goal is to one day run his own business, studied economics, which he believes helped him acquire the skills he needs to achieve that goal. But more than that, Columbia opened up a whole new network of people who could help him.

“Columbia had a strong veteran and military presence, so I was able to stay connected there, but it also allowed me to expand from that community as well,” he says. “I joined several clubs and participated in different things, and I was no longer fully identified by being in the military.”

By branching out, Darnell says, he was able to form the connections that would later help him achieve success in the business world. “Every job I have been offered or opportunity I have had can be attributed to the network I have cultivated in the military, at Columbia, and here in New York,” he says. “I cannot stress enough the importance of meeting like-minded individuals and creating a strong and wide-reaching network.”

Finding a career with LinkedIn

Following graduation, Darnell spent a couple years working in finance, but it wasn’t the right fit, so a friend suggested he apply at LinkedIn. “A good friend of mine from college was working at LinkedIn, and she encouraged me to apply and helped me with the process,” he says. “To prepare for my interview, I researched the company and studied its business as much as I could; I knew that even as a veteran and an Ivy League grad, I still had to distinguish myself from the many other very qualified individuals.”

Now, as a member of the sales solutions team, Darnell’s ability to adapt and react quickly, especially in his fast-paced job, is key. But he also relies on his military training to get the job done. “Attention to detail is drilled into our psyche from the first day of boot camp,” he explains, “and this is a skill that’s invaluable in the corporate world.”

His advice for transitioning vets

For a successful transition, Darnell says you need to get out of your comfort zone. “You spend your enlistment constantly being challenged and overcoming those challenges. Don’t take that away from yourself when you get out,” he says. “Don’t just go to a school close to home because it feels safe, for example. Go to a school where you can get the best education possible to help you achieve your goals.”

Darnell also advises veterans to make good use of their networks, especially the network they developed in the military. But don’t just ask for a job — ask for advice. The people in your network are more than willing to share the knowledge they’ve gained if you ask. “There are great men and women who have gone before us and helped us out,” he explains. “We are part of the world’s biggest family, and for the most part, we do everything we can to support our military family.”

“Do not become complacent, and never be afraid to ask for help,” Darnell says. “No one ever got anywhere without guidance and help, not even Marines.”

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.

Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.

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