Davor Strbac arrived in Australia as a refugee in his teens, after fleeing civil war in the former Yugoslavia during the early 1990s. Determined to give back to the country which had given him so much, Davor joined the Australian Army as an Electronic Warfare Operator in 2005.

Over the next eight years Davor served with the Australian Signals Directorate and the 7th Signals Regiment. For his outstanding work during Army Recruit training in Kapooka he was awarded the Soldier of Merit Award.

“I look back at my military career with great pride,” explains Davor. “Serving in the military is like being part of one big family. In the Army, there is no I in team and we all succeed and fail together. I enjoyed the challenges and the complexity that came with my role.”

Medically discharging in 2013, Davor found rejoining civilian life a hard adjustment. During this time he leant on his family and friends and began the “daunting” process of looking for employment.

“I applied for 70-80 jobs over a period of 12 months,” says Davor. “I was pushing really hard, trying to secure a role and be the breadwinner again. Unfortunately, things didn't work out the way I expected, and so I became a stay-at-home dad and my wife returned to work.”

Looking after his two young children during the day, Davor managed to secure a night job stacking shelves at a supermarket, but he longed for a role with more fulfilment.

It was Davor’s wife, then a Suncorp employee, who saw a group security officer position advertised and insisted he apply. Despite his misgivings, Davor was successful in his interview and joined Suncorp in 2014, in an entry level role as a security officer in the physical security team.

“It took a long time to get that job but I never lost hope,” explains Davor. “I always thought an opportunity would present itself, and that’s one piece of advice that I would give to veterans, is not to lose hope. When you leave Defence, you can feel like you left a community behind, but that can be replaced with your family and friends, your own support network.”

Six years and two promotions later, Davor now leads the physical security capability for Suncorp, he is also a founding member of the organisation’s Veterans, Reserves and Defence Families Advocacy Group and is actively involved in Legacy fundraising activities.

For his never give up attitude, perseverance and contribution to veteran employment, Davor was named Veteran Employee of the Year at the 2020 Prime Minister’s Veterans Employment Awards.

Now as a hiring manager Davor has recruited ex-Defence members for his team, naming their reliability, problem solving and drive to succeed as key characteristics that sets them apart.

“Veterans possess important skills such as leadership, teamwork, and dealing with uncertainty and change, all skills which are transferable and highly sought after in the corporate world. From my time in Defence and now in the private sector I have learnt how important it is to have personnel on your side that are competent but most importantly share these core values.”

Transition tips

While Davor now has a job he loves, he is well aware that it doesn’t always come easy. “It was a challenge going from working in a top-secret facility and being trusted to handle highly classified information, to realising that in the private sector none of that mattered. You have to rebuild yourself and you have to prove yourself all over again.”

However, through preparation and hard work Davor believes it is possible to find meaningful employment. His advice to transitioning Defence members is to start looking for employment opportunities early, and not after discharge, like he did.

”Whilst you are still in service start engaging with people outside of Defence, start upskilling yourself and understanding how your skills could translate into the private sector. Be clear on what role you are after and how you could make a difference in that space.

“Importantly, start networking, I can’t emphasise that enough. Talk to anyone, go to transition seminars and set up your LinkedIn profile, that's a great way to get visibility and get in touch with people.

“Then practice your interview skills and make sure your resume is befitting of the role that you're applying for. You can't use the same resume for all roles. It just doesn't work, it's not going to get the attention that it needs. Prepare, prepare, prepare!”

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