I spent 12 years in the Army. In the latter half of my military career, I was a 92 Fox, petroleum specialist, in the Quarter Master Corps. I led the mentoring, welfare, and career progression of over 70 employees. I managed the 3-5 service support platoon, PQAS (Fuel Laboratory) operations, JP-8 (Fuel), and ammunition distribution operations for the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB). My platoon tested all the fuel for the Army National Guard, the Marine Reserves, the Coast Guard Apache and Blackhawk helicopters that were at the airfield. I was responsible for the welfare and condition of over $20M worth of organizational equipment. However, after several years of active duty service, I was forced to medically retire due to the epileptic seizures I experienced. My transition out of the military was unplanned and swift. That break set me on the path of relaunching/pivoting my career.
We caught up with Stephen to dive a little deeper into his story and the advice he has for other veterans navigating career continuity..
Since your transition out of the military was unexpected, how did you determine what lies ahead?
As a first step, I understood an education was necessary to take me into the next stage of my professional life so I decided to go back to school full-time. I used the time as a "stop gap" while I figured what I wanted to do. Three years later, I graduated with a Degree in History that led to a short stint of teaching students in public schools. I quickly determined that, that was not the right career path for me. Thanks to my network, I applied for a Sales Consultant role at an automotive group. I used my coaching and mentoring skills to the Sales Consultant role. I counseled customers on product selection based off their individual needs and practical utility with an overall 98% satisfaction rating from clients. I was also the Brand Ambassador to the Land Rover/Jaguar line of vehicles, represented the dealership at community events. Even though I was quite successful and enjoyed the work, eventually the long hours started taking a toll on me. And I started looking at other options.
Tell us a little bit more about the work you do at Still Serving Veterans?
After leaving Auto sales, I coincidentally stepped into the office of Still Serving Veterans one day and I recalled they had provided me assistance sometime ago. I had a revelation while I was there that I wanted to work for this mission driven organization and help other Veterans like me. I inquired about open positions and told them that I'd like to do something where I feel like I'm making a positive impact on people's lives. Fortunately, they were hiring for a guide to coordinate the employment side of the business. My skills and experience were a match! They took a chance on me, and I've been here ever since. I have mentored over 100 veterans and their families with career search assistance. I lead the operational delivery, compliance, and productivity of the team through weekly training and client workshops. I am filled with purpose each day and I could not be happier!
What advice do you have for other veterans navigating career continuity?
- Honor your values. Realize that you hold the solution to many problems you face. The answer is not in extrinsic situations.
- When you find yourself stressed, find constructive and healthy ways to take care of your mental and physical health.
- Explore your strengths and find something that you're good at. Think back to when you were young and the things you liked to do; where others said you excelled. Find the skills you possess that are marketable; if you aren't sure what those are, learn something basic that can earn you some money.
- Stay in good physical shape. You don't have to be a professional athlete or anything, but engage in physical activity on a regular basis. It clears your head and keeps you fit. There's a reason why the military wants you to do PT (exercise) in the morning. Sound body, sound mind, sound spirit.
Did this story motivate you or inspire you!?
Do you have a relauncher success story of your own to share with us and the rest of the relauncher community? Sharing your inevitable success is a great way to give back as your story will inspire and motivate other relaunchers, especially if your story is not the typical story that is told.
It is our hope that all relaunchers are able to see themselves reflected in relauncher success stories as we all know how important representation is. We respectfully ask you to share only the details of your relaunch you are comfortable sharing, but to indeed share your story with us so we can be sure to document and feature a more diverse population of relauncher experiences, backgrounds and identities.