From trained medical staff to 5th grader
by J. Arango
(Jacksonville, FL, US)
I served the U.S. Navy from 2001 to 2006 as a Hospital Corpsman; it was the perfect opportunity to give back to my country and earn some characteristics that come with the territory.
I had intended to spend five years in the service, and after a few tours (two of them to Iraq), some years out at sea, and a lot of hard work and military education, I left to rejoin the civilian world. I was hoping to find a good job, finish school, and move on with the rest of my life.
For the sake of my horror story, I must state I was mentally ready for this transition, as those life changing moments that often came across life in the military were positive ones, regardless of how sad or incredible they were.
Before I left, I ran a small-sized pharmacy (inventory needed to be done weekly), was responsible for the medical department's inventory (something expires daily), ran a team of 10 first-response trained individuals, and kept up with the health and well-being of 367 crew members - anything from a strictly medical issue to testing the ship's water or health inspections.
As there were only two of us, I worked 14 hour days with a smile on my face - modesty aside, I had aptitude and love for the job, and my crew knew it.
When I left I honestly thought I would have a decent job the very next day. People had offered me jobs left and right during social settings, but none to be taken too seriously. A mixture of this and the confidence in my abilities led me to believe I wouldn't have to take much of a pay cut.
I had some savings set aside, but as a 25 year old, I liked traveling often and never saved up more than a couple of grand at a time before going on the next trip; quite honestly, I never expected to struggle financially.
Three months later I found myself broke, insanely stressed, and still unable to find a job that paid even half of my military pay (I was an E-5). I tweaked and straightened and beautified my resume over and over, but no one seemed to respond to it.
I had solid people skills, wore suits and remained very well groomed, never had a problem looking a person in the eye, and made friends often, so I refused to believe it was my social skills keeping me from landing a job.
I had a few buddies talk to their bosses about me, but no lead got me anywhere. No one seemed to care I was an exemplary military man, that I had revised the jargon on my resume too many times to count in order to make it user-friendly, or that I was happy and willing to accept an entry level position; I did not have a college degree.
Some college yes, but getting a degree while serving becomes impossible to a good majority of us. Four months later I finally walked into Dillards, where I was hired as a Sales Associate, making minimum wage.
This situation with veterans is talked about everywhere. It's been on the news and the blogs. College is
nearly unattainable to certain careers in the military (keeping in mind some work a bit harder than others, or don't have the option to be non-deployable).
I spent my entire military career learning, getting certifications, qualifications, etc., but because it has no true civilian equivalent I had to dub it "life experience", instead of preparation in order to be a better civilian.
At Dillards, "selling" their credit card is the biggest plus. Within three months of working there, I had attained more credit card sales than the whole store combined the year before, bringing that particular store to top ten in the east coast, a step up from their previous position in the high 20s.
Two months later I received a job offer from Merrill Lynch, where I started as a temp (retirement brokerage normally requires a bachelor's to be hired directly), and was offered a full-time position two weeks later.
I spent two years as a retirement broker, going to school full-time. I was nominated top broker for my last 4 months with the company, but the manager called me in one afternoon to correct my schedule, asking me to take less classes in order to accommodate the new schedule. She had a Bachelor's and two Master's, but had a difficult time understanding why I would quit after this conversation.
So far, not having a degree had been the most hindering aspect in my professional life; how in the world would I consent to taking less classes in order to work more?
So here I am, a semester away from getting my Bachelor's. I haven't worked in a year, but I get by with the GI Bill help. I must say it doesn't feel uncomfortable being in a place where everyone is starting from scratch.
Concluding, I can't think of a solution for this problem, and I can't say I'm happy to shed some light on the "whys". I do know I felt unappreciated because of my lack of degree, which proves that I have the ability to learn at that level... but what about the knowledge you gain when in order to treat people as a Healthcare Provider you have to read as much as you can by yourself, attend a couple of schools a month to get some qualification, and have weekly meetings with a panel of doctors to learn the newest and the latest?
What about when you're all that's standing in the middle of chaos when a bunch of crew members are victims of one of the million things that could go wrong on military setting, and the only people that can help you save lives are the ones you've trained yourself?
Or when you have two seconds to make a decision before a life slips from your hands? What about keeping an entire medical department together, which takes excellent recordkeeping and organizational abilities?
GIs are not gauged by their capabilities more often than not, but what the employer visualizes that branch of service as - a depiction that is inaccurate more often than not.
I am aware this part of the site is to keep things funny with horror stories, but let's say mine is more like Sleepy Hollow and less like Scary Movie. :)