Former Army Sgt. Nicholas Dutter, a Suffolk alumnus and onetime “Soldier of the Month,” remembers returning home from the war in Iraq to face another battle – finding a job.

Dutter recalled the long road to satisfying employment as he prepared to speak at a free, daylong seminar, “Marketing Your Military Service,” hosted by Suffolk University on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011.

Support for veterans

The program, offered in collaboration with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, is geared to helping veterans entering or returning to the work force to access the Massachusetts’ resources available to them.

When Dutter returned from Iraq, he found that “‘blowing up stuff’ doesn’t look too good on your resume,” he said.

After six months of borrowing money from his family and living off of credit cards, Dutter finally landed a job as a barista at Starbucks. It took him only two months to work his way up from making and serving coffee drinks to becoming a shift supervisor.

Career options

Dutter eventually enrolled at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School and earned a master’s degree in Finance then worked hedge funds from July 2007 until October 2010. He was doing well but admits he wasn’t particularly happy in his chosen profession. Dutter missed the military and began looking for an opportunity to help other returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, Dutter accepted a job with the Home Base Program, a partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital dedicated to improving the lives of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury and their families.

As a veteran outreach coordinator, Dutter’s role is to speak about Home Base Program services in community settings and to connect with veterans who are looking for a place that can help them overcome personal challenges.

Importance of networking

“I’m the middle man between the veterans the clinical staff,” said Dutter. “I absolutely love my job; it’s very meaningful and rewarding. I tell the veterans my story, how I had anxiety and was short-tempered when I returned from the war, and they can relate to what I’m telling them.

“I’ve been in the same combat environment as them, seeing the worst that life has to offer.”

Dutter emphasized the importance of networking when it comes to veterans hunting for jobs. “You have to go to dinners, fund raisers and any community event you can,” he said. “You have to meet people in person, face to face, and exchange business cards. You have to make yourself known and demonstrate that you really want to work.”