After serving 7 years in the US Army, I left with the hopes of finding a decent job and starting a fresh new life with my husband, also a vet, and 4 children in our home state of Florida.
It wasn't long before we discovered how difficult the transition back to civilian life would be. I applied for, perhaps, hundreds of jobs and went on several interviews in a very short period of time. Still, I was either overqualified or under qualified for some of the same jobs in which I held during my time in service. Even with both of us working and earning $8/hour, it simply was not enough. Once money and resources ran out, we lost nearly all of our possessions and were even homeless a few times over about 3 years.
Just before giving up hope, a friend of mine called and informed me of a career fair for vets in Washington DC. Having full faith and confidence in me, she bought me a train ticket and a new suit for the big day. I arrived to the job fair just as the doors opened early that morning and I left later that night with a job offer for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Program Support Assistant. Happily, I am now a permanent employee of the Federal Government. My current job duties and responsibilities are to provide administrative support to executive level nursing management within the Community Living and Rehabilitation Center - which includes timekeeping; coordinating meetings, trainings, and job interviews; maintaining employee files; and updating electronic databases. In the 9 months that I've been with this agency, I've received a Superior Performance Award and a VA Gold Pin Award.
My greatest takeaway from employment with the Federal government is: I love the fact that I can interact with my fellow veterans from many war eras; both employees and patients. Although I am generally extremely busy throughout the day, I am never too busy to stop and greet or converse with the veterans. My door is always open to them when they just need someone to vent their frustrations to or talk about the weather. My agency is appreciative, accessible, and resourceful!
I am also a year away from obtaining my bachelor's degree in psychology. I plan to pursue a master’s degree in social work ultimately becoming a homeless veteran outreach social worker within the VA.
My advice to those who are currently in this same situation is to hang in there. Work diligently on your resume and spend as much time as possible looking and applying for jobs. Keep your options open. If you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone to find a career, you will increase your chances of finding one. Stay prepared and flexible for opportunities that may come available. Know and utilize the resources available to you as a veteran; reevaluate your professional assets to define your true career goals. Lastly, take advantage of your Veteran's benefits. There are programs in place to help so that no veteran family should go homeless, hungry and without access to medical care as mine did. Most importantly, be patient and stay positive. Stay strong!!!