My story is firmly grounded in my family – in an Air Force father and a like-minded mother. As they raised a handful of kids in locations across the country, their strength and sacrifice instilled a value in me that informs both my career and personal life today: a sense of service.
That sense of service led me to nine and a half years of active duty service with the US Army and just over three years as a reservist. That sense of service led me from multiple bases in the states to Germany, Japan, and Panama overseas. And that sense of service led me to serve my fellow servicemen and women in the military personnel field.
In that role, some days were better than others. Some days, I handed military families their permanent change of station (PCS) orders. Other days, my staff and I prepared casualty feeder reports about the wounded. But every day, I was proud of my work, proud that I could serve the individuals who put their lives on the line to fight for their country every day.
When I transitioned from military to civilian life, my career continued along the same path. As a Veteran of a Foreign War (VFW), I was hired through the Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) as a Recruitment and Separations Officer (RSO) for the Department of Defense (DOD) in Japan. When I returned to the states, I welcomed new career opportunities that strengthened my skill set and my ability to serve others: Supervisory Administrative Coordinator (SAC) at Walter Reed; Commissioned Officer Student Training Program (COSTEP) Manager at the Surgeon Generals Office; Scientific Recruitment and Training Specialist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Program Manager and Student Educational Employment Program (SEEP) National Coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
My experience as the HBCU Program Manager and SEEP Coordinator led to my current position with the BLM: Branch Manager for National Recruitment and Retention Programs. On paper, the Branch implements strategies for recruiting and retaining a talented and diverse workforce. In reality, the Branch provides me and my staff with an opportunity to work with people – to match people with the right job and to support people in their current jobs. As we build our new programs for veterans and veterans with disabilities here at the BLM, the Branch provides me with an opportunity to bring my own experience full circle: service to others, to include fellow military veterans.
As a seasoned professional, what is my advice for a veteran who is transitioning from the military to civilian workforce? First, know how your military experience aligns with the skills needed in the civilian workforce, and understand the special hiring authorities that you have earned as a veteran. That tip landed me my first civilian position. Second, have confidence in and promote the strengths that come from a military background, such as leadership skills and adaptability. In several instances, I was selected over other well-qualified candidates because of those skills. Third, look for positions with opportunities for personal and professional growth; take on new challenges. And finally - once you find success, reach out to other veterans. Share your story within your own organization."