[Note from MOAA: The following is a commentary by our newest team member, Eryn Wagnon, serving as a fellow through the Hiring Our Heroes program.]
My husband's journey through his military career has shaped what my career journey has been and will be in the future.
Our first duty station was Fort Stewart, Ga., (Rock of the Marne!) where we stayed for about three years. While stationed there, I was fortunate enough to complete my graduate degree in social science, which was a great distraction from the constant NATO rotations, NTC trainings, and gunneries that separated us for most of our time there.
After saying a bittersweet goodbye to our Desert Rogue family at Fort Stewart, we both were onto our next stop in our career adventure.
My husband would be progressing onto his Captain Career Course at Fort Gordon, Ga., which meant we would only be stationed there for six months. As a recent graduate, I was eager to jump into a career but unsure of how to begin with only being at our next duty station for six months.
Through networking, I was able to find a job as an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina-Aiken. I genuinely enjoyed being able to teach but knew it was not where I saw myself in the future career-wise. I knew that once we were done at Fort Gordon, I would want to transition into a career doing research and implementing change to policy and legislation.
When we finally got our orders for Fort Meade, Md., after what seemed like an eternity, I was elated. Being close to Washington, D.C., the mecca of research and policy jobs, was a career jackpot.
However, that excitement dulled as I applied for what seemed to be more than 100 jobs. Filling out applications became a daily chore that had no fruitful outcomes. I was frustrated I couldn't easily network in the area because I had never been there. I also was not feeling confident because I was trying to make a career change from academia to the private sector. I felt stuck and afraid that I would not be able to continue my career, so I turned to what I knew best: the military spouse community.
Military spouses are the masters of creating Facebook groups. I am a member of a handful of spouse group pages. I was scrolling through one of my favorite groups, the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network, and saw someone posted a flyer for the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program - a six-week paid fellowship with a company in your career field of choice.
I immediately reached out to Elizabeth Garcia, the program manager for the Maryland/Washington, D.C., area to see whether she could find a fit for me. After meeting in person, she was positive we could find an opportunity that would help move my career forward and not just be a filler.
The day after Elizabeth put my bio out to companies Hiring Our Heroes works with, I received three interviews. This is when I was introduced to the Military Officers Association of America.
I was offered a fellowship at MOAA to conduct a program evaluation of their award-winning military spouse programs to assess needs of military spouses and effectiveness of programming. Additionally, I would be able to participate in advocacy efforts for military family issues. While in graduate school, I naturally gravitated toward military sociology focusing on military families and because I wanted to transition into a more applied career, this could not have been more perfect.
I am four weeks into my six-week fellowship here at MOAA and have been loving every second of it. In just four short weeks, I feel like I have accomplished and learned so much. I have evaluated and recommended solutions for military spouse programming, written articles, attended Hiring Our Heroes Amplify, and advocated for solutions to obstacles military families face.
This fellowship has given me the experience and skills to continue a career in this field. I greatly appreciate Hiring Our Heroes, MOAA, and my fellow military spouses for playing such a supportive role in not just my career journey but also those of other spouses. Now, as my husband progresses through his military career, I am confident I have the tools to progress through mine, and most important, I don't have to do it alone!