Much of my life has been dedicated to the Army. When I was in the eighth grade, I wrote an essay about how I planned to join the Army for two years. And I did just that when I was 17—but I stayed in for 26 years. My military service enabled me to leave my hometown of Flint, Michigan—which at the time had a rapidly increasing unemployment rate—to travel and accomplish professional goals that I likely couldn’t have otherwise. I’ve been stationed in Korea, Germany, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar, to name a few, as well as various U.S. cities like Fort Worth, Washington, where I met my husband of 14 years, who’s also in the Army. Together we have four children.
In 2011, years before I retired from the Army as a Master Sergeant, I began to create a five-year plan (that was slightly deterred by a deployment) to prepare for my next phase. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Human Resources in 2012 from Baker College, and I returned to pursue my master of science in Industrial/Organization Psychology, which I completed in August 2018, the same month I officially retired from the military, two months before my 44th birthday. It was a busy time, especially since my family and I had moved to El Paso, Texas, that July.
I owe some of the best years and experiences of my life to the Army. But I didn’t want my military experience to be the pinnacle of my life; I was ready for new challenges.
After spending some time volunteering, I began to crave a greater purpose. That’s when I clicked on the job posting Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS) advertised on Indeed. I had also met a couple of WOS Client Service Managers (CSMs) at a job fair, and their commitment to veterans was invigorating, so I decided to apply.
After an interview process, I was selected for the cohort in project management and information technology (IT) in October 2018. Going through the 14-week program with my cohort peers was like sitting before a firehose; I was inundated with information about corporate communication and mentoring—both of which were extremely useful in helping me to develop my soft skills—and IT. In December 2018 and January 2019, respectively, I passed the CAPM (certified associate in project management) and the ECBA (entry certificate of business analysis) certifications.
It was a tough experience for me, not least because I had been afraid of an unfamiliar subject like IT. But that was the point—I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. And WOS gave me a safe space to do so. I found myself learning how to build databases, which I never imagined I could do. My fellow cohort peers, some of whom were also veterans, helped make the experience easier. We helped each other by translating military phrases into the new professional lingo, for example, or by discussing how we had tackled projects in the military and how that applied to our current responsibilities.
My CSMs were instrumental in helping me adjust to the new verbiage and infrastructure, which differs from the military. When I got down on myself, they would lift me up by telling me exactly how I would be an asset in a professional setting—words of encouragement that I needed to hear as a career veteran.
Through the WOS program, I feel as if a whole new world has been opened up to me. I’ve been able to step away from the institutionalized military structure and explore new territory as a civilian, and I’m really enjoying it.
The benefits of my WOS experience extend far beyond my exciting new career. My personal life is now more stable. In July 2019, my husband is deploying to Korea for a year, and it comforts him—and me!—to know that I have a support system and purpose while he’s gone. I’ll be working as a WOS consultant at Prudential, in a place where I have people that are dedicated to helping me acclimate to my new responsibilities. My transition into the civilian world couldn’t have been more seamless, and I owe a large part of that to WOS.