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MetroStar Systems is featuring three veterans who have transitioned from the military to the civilian workforce. This mini-series will reflect their personal journey and their role with MetroStar. Our Technical Writer, Donna, is our second feature.
-- -.-- / -. .- -- . / .. ... / -.. --- -. -. .- .-.-.- That’s Morse code for “My name is Donna.”
Donna served in the United States Air Force as a Morse Systems Operator from 1989 to 1993.
“I had to have someone explain to me what a Morse Systems Operator even was,” Donna laughed. “It was very accidental that I got that job.”
During her basic training, she took a test that was similar to a foreign language exam. Her instructor told her she did very well on the exam and that her high school French classes could have been the reason why. That test led her down a unique military career path.
It wasn't until she was transitioning out of the Air Force that she realized her military role was not a skill often needed in the civilian world. As she flipped through a book that translated what her Air Force career would match up to in the real world, she became anxious about what was to come. She was told she could be a great 911 Operator, but that was a job she knew would not suit her well.
Donna had grown up in a military family. Her father was in the Army, her grandfather a major in the Air Force, and every uncle she had was also a veteran.
“It wasn’t even a question to join the Air Force,” Donna said. “I just knew that it was for me.”
Her deep-rooted love for the military made it hard to transition out. ‘The truth is the Air Force is in my blood, and this is where I belong,’ is what she had told her family when she decided to join, so her transition back to civilian life was an emotional one.
Her decision to leave came down to her wanting to start a family, but her husband was also on active duty in the Air Force.
“We wanted children, but we didn’t want both parents to be on active duty while creating a family,” Donna said.
She wanted to become a mom but was lost in what to do for her career. She moved to England to be on base with her husband and worked in the child development center there. When they returned to the United States, she finished her bachelor’s degree in social psychology and became a mom.
“I actually worked as a banker for a while because it was a job that I could easily get anywhere while my husband traveled to different bases,” Donna said. “Leaving the Air Force was way different back then than it is now because there are now way more resources and training classes to help you find a job.”
Her best advice is to pay close attention during the out-process transition classes. “It teaches you how to not get up and put the uniform on, not have access to military health and wellness benefits, and not have access to the base,” Donna said. “It also teaches you how to apply for jobs and write your resume.”
As a technical writer for MetroStar, Donna reinforces that you should always have others read and edit your resume. Grammar is in her blood almost as much as her love for the Air Force is.
A resume is important to landing a new job but having strong networking skills and using your online resources is just as vital.
Donna says the digital world is a game-changer for veterans who are in the transition process.
“It’s not just about putting your best resume forward, but it’s about your connections too,” Donna said. “Networking is the best part of the world we live in now. You can virtually reach out to almost anyone, and veterans are going to want to help you.”
When talking about networking, Donna mentioned that many veterans also have a security clearance, which means veterans may have strong resumes, or network connections, for a government job. She recommends spending the money to activate a security clearance, as it can open more opportunities for a veteran in a civilian world.
She told her dad she was a lifer, so when she decided to leave the Air Force her emotions were overwhelming.
“You come home after your last briefing, hang your perfectly steamed uniform, and place your perfectly polished shoes in the closet. The next day your alarm goes off and you realize you have nowhere to go,” Donna said. “It’s a freaky, scary feeling and it’s hard to even describe.”
She knows for many veterans there is a comfort in active duty because you know you’re getting paid and you know you have a job with benefits. If you do not have something in place after you transition out, then you may feel anxious, scared, and a bit depressed.
Donna smiled as she gave her last bit of advice. “Be ready to understand those emotions and reach out to your resources for help. This generation is much more open to discussing emotions and working with you to make your life better.”