Veterans and those who love them make no shortage of sacrifices on behalf of this country. But one sacrifice that’s perhaps not as readily acknowledged is the obstacles both veterans and military spouses can face when building out their careers in the civilian realm. This Veteran’s Day, Fairygodboss and Getting Hired asked folks in the veteran and military family community to share the ways this identity has aided and at times impeded them professionally, as well as their No. 1 pieces of advice to fellow military community jobseekers.
Do you believe veterans and their families should have the right to build civilian careers free of obstacles and biases? Show your support and #Pledge4VetFamilies here.
Who: Carol Gee. M.A.
What: A Feast Of Words, LLC
Where: Stone Mountain, GA (a suburb of Atlanta)
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I founded the above company four years ago after retiring. Before starting my small writing service, I was employed at Atlanta’s Emory University for close to 22 years. This included 14 years in administration and the last seven as an editor at the business school there.
What factors were most important to you in transitioning from a military to civilian job?
When I began my civilian career, I had served in the military close to 18 years (eight on active duty and 10 while serving as an AF Reservist), so I brought a number of marketable and transferable skills to my civilian job. These included excellent communication, management, supervisory, time management and leadership skills.
Are there any challenges associated with that transition that people may not be aware of?
Most civilian positions are much different from the military. For instance, I was used to taking initiative to complete tasks, using common sense and finding solutions to problems. In my first positions, supervisors initially thought they had to spell out directions and ways to complete tasks. It wasn’t until I proved that I had the ability to find ways to complete tasks in a sure manner that they allowed me to take initiative.
I almost quit a new position when I discovered that students and staff all did their own things and that no one was accountable for their schedules, which meant we often had more students than places for them to sit and perform their duties. (The Center was newly founded; the supervisor, a physician and a scientist (MD, MBA), traveled extensively to secure funding for research grants).
It was another employee’s job to handle this, but she didn’t for whatever reason, and she didn’t remain the Center for long. I had a conversation with my supervisor expressing how whenever I left my desk, I would come back to someone sitting there, using my computer with sensitive paperwork pushed aside. Expressing my feelings about this, I suggested this could be handled by a strict schedule for student workers, and assigning them their own cubicles when they were working.
What did your company do to help ease the transition, and how have you felt supported working here?
My supervisor, a brilliant woman, listened to my suggestions and allowed me to implement new directives, which also included developing protocols for every aspect of the Center. Ensuring that all were aware of these protocols and how their individual tasks contributed to the Center’s mission enabled stakeholders to see how important order was to our overall success.
Do you believe your military background has provided you with any unique perspectives or talents that aid your career today?
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
When I was employed checking emails was my first task of the day. Because I was the department administrator responsible for the day-to-day operations, supervision of support staff, and student workers, etc. there were always messages, memos, files to review and address. Due to my supervisor’s extensive travel, email was the way she and I communicated about Center business. So the first thing I do today is check my emails. I read and answer those that need addressing.
Emails is also the way that new clients reach me. In addition, I also find my freelance assignments through e-mall. Once I finish with email I begin any new client assignments or work on current ones. The last thing I do in the evening is check my emails to see if there is something that I can address and check off my to-do list.
What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?
My husband, who is retired from the Air Force as well as a second career, and I both enjoy traveling. Although we enjoyed extensive travel while serving, we didn’t get to see much of the southern region. So we are enjoying visiting places in the south. I also am an avid reader and crafter.
I love repurposing and ‘upcycling’ flea market, and thrift store items into beautiful ‘expensive’ looking home décor. This included art work, pillows made from curtain valences, etc. This love lead to my recent book, Gilded Pearls (Vibrant Thoughts, Tips and Tidbits For A Full Life).
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Realizing my life-long dream of becoming a writer and published author. My brand is my books that women have fondly coined “girlfriend books,” written to entertain, educate and empower women. Also, written to heal, women constantly contact me to purchase one of my books for a friend that is going through something, an illness, separation or divorce, hoping to make them feel better for a time.
Upon completion of my master’s degree, I did a short stint as a mental health counselor where I saw clients, so I am most proud that my books make women laugh, remember a memorable time in their lives, or help women in some way. Today, my articles and columns also appear in a number of magazines both online and in print.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other women veterans, who are looking for jobs right now?
Be flexible. View any job offer as a possibility. As long as you are employed, you have a better chance to earn a higher position in that industry. Often new positions are discovered from a contact while on your current position. Throughout my lifetime because of military travels, I may not have always found jobs in my field, I always found employment that was still professional. Because I had college degrees, over the years these included temporary positions, substitute teaching, adjunct or part-time college instructor, which led to nearly 28 years in higher education at the university level.
In fact, it was while I was temping for a second time at my former university that a lady suggested that I might be a good candidate for a position that she was leaving. (Her husband had accepted a position out of state.) This led to my getting that position, as well as several promotions, and led to nearly 22 years at the company before retiring to start my third act as a writer and small business owner.