October 29, 2009
Emma, a successful corporate consultant, hasn’t let military life stop her from climbing the corporate ladder. Although frustrated at times, she has advanced from one job to the next as she supports her spouse. She attributes her success to military-life skills: constantly making new friends, making adjustments, overcoming fear, and embracing change.
Emma married as she finished her B.A., and applied for an entry-level job at a local rental car company as a Management Trainee. The job had “crazy long hours.” She wanted a change, and took a job as a Liability Claims Representative with a long commute from base. The position led to an eventual promotion to Senior Claims Administrator. Shortly thereafter, her husband was transferred to the Midwest, but she was determined and crafted a plan.
“The company I worked for outsourced some of their claims to a third-party administrator. I noted their address as the paperwork crossed my desk.” She knew she had skills they could use. So she contacted their corporate office, found an old co-worker employed there, and filled a similar job to the one she left at their liaison office near her new duty station.
Emma used the same strategy with their next move, contacting a larger company that was buying her previous employer, and making a lateral job change from management to training.
“I was excited to be doing something new; using my extensive background in the insurance and making improvements in the new company,” said Emma “I learned new skills: PowerPoint and Six Sigma ‘BlackBelt’ training .”
“It’s not just military families that have to keep their job skills fresh and adapt to change,” Emma concluded. “With the recession, people have to go where the work is and learn new skills attractive to companies seeking efficiency.”
Natasha, whose husband just returned from Iraq, noticed the same thing. While deployment hugely impacted her home life, it didn’t impact her career as significantly. She did have to ask a neighbor to take her kids to school, but she notices civilian colleagues doing the same when their husbands travel. The big difference is that military wives are too stressed to focus on improving job skills, says Natasha. Yet she advanced from Customer Service Representative to Claims Associate Adjuster and is working toward Senior Adjuster. She hopes to transition into real estate someday, perhaps remodeling investment properties with her husband.
Judy, has managed to have a fulfilling career alongside her husband’s 26-year military career. He is now a Commandant of Cadets for 700 ROTC students and she is a corporate trainer for a bank. She attributes her achievements to making the most of each location and looking for work that excites her despite the inevitable headaches of military life. Judy enjoys conceptualizing new curricula, implementing instructional design techniques, and facilitating professional development for her clients. She uses skills acquired through her career that began as a trainer for the Job Assistance Centers for the Army, then led to managing Profit Centers for staffing companies, and acquired general business experience from starting up new centers.
“During my husband's deployments, I managed a Job Assistance Center, had two elementary school-age children and oversaw family support for 300 families,” Judy explained. “The key to juggling multiple roles lies in effective time management, delegation, and being a realist, not superwoman!”
Military Life Prepares Us For Corporate America
Meeting New People:
Regardless of your degree, you need customer-service and people skills. Judy says being a military spouse makes it easy to “work with new people, adjust to varying business needs, and connect with clients.” The same social skills used for volunteering in a church and community are needed in the corporate world.
Natasha shares that in this economy, trainers must communicate the value of learning to senior management, continuously presenting cost–benefit analysis for their work. Emma agrees, “Getting trained in Six Sigma is a transferable skill and many companies are now looking to increase efficiency.”
Taking On Challenges:
A training career provides creativity, innovation, and personal expression. Judy says, “Developing a successful curriculum or training plan for 138 employees is like winning the Super Bowl!” Natasha adds, “Accept challenges because a good career will push you to learn and achieve more, not only at work, but in military life.”
Corporate Training Resources:
Organizational Development Network: www.odnetwork.org
American Society of Training and Development www.astd.com