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: Pam Campos
What: Political Strategist // Executive Director, Common Defense
Where: Jersey City, NJ
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I’m a political strategist working at the intersection of peace and security, democracy, and justice. Simultaneously I’ve served as Executive Director of Common Defense since 2016. Previously I worked in international development, as a social entrepreneurship consultant, advisor on diversity & inclusion, and political organizer.
What factors were most important to you in transitioning from a military to civilian job?
The most important factors to me were community and mentorship. Transitioning isn’t linear and it is compounded by loss of identity, community, and a difficulty translating experiences from such a unique sector like the military to civilian life. It’s important to not feel like one is alone in the process of charting new paths. I also think it’s a bit jarring to realize that while one was serving in the military, doing a job very few will ever do, the rest of my peers had also done things I hadn’t — finished college, figured out internships, etc.
What did your company do to help ease the transition, and how have you felt supported working here?
My transition relied heavily on leaving active duty to go to school. The added balancing act of transitioning to college and a civilian job is often lost by many. I made my transition a bit easier by working for the VA as an auditor and it was helpful to find other veterans, particularly women veterans and veterans of color who shared in my experiences.
Do you believe your military background has provided you with any unique perspectives or talents that aid your career today?
Absolutely. As an intelligence analyst in the military, I was well trained in understanding the big picture of complex problems while also not losing attention to small details. Additionally, the military gifted me some tough challenges which made me ever-more resilient and sharpened my leadership skills — especially under pressure. This all has been very important in my daily work as a political strategist and movement leader.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
Check email, ensure email I needed to send are out.
What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?
I most enjoy traveling internationally with my partner and learning new places, people, and cultures.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
The career move I’m most proud of is believing in myself enough to not limit myself and ask for what I deserve and am worth. This year in particular I’ve been honored to speak at conferences in Europe that build on my vision of building a transnational movement that eradicates racism and hate.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other women veterans, who are looking for jobs right now?
Put in the work to really learn and build yourself. Know your strengths and what you want to improve. And if you don’t know find ways to find out. We are mostly powerful when we are grounded and confident in who we are and where we are going.