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Making the change from military life to civilian life

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Editor’s Note: This guest post comes from U.S. Army Veteran Daniel Sotoamaya, who shares how Grow with Google and the USO helped his transition to a civilian career after serving in the military for 20 years.

I entered the U.S. Army at age 17, and I had no responsibility except for myself. I left as a senior leader, married to my wife Jen—who is also a veteran—and co-parenting six children. When transitioning to civilian life, I needed to learn how to support my family without the military’s familiar structure and security, and I eventually found a job with the help of Grow with Google and the USO.

In honor of National Veterans and Military Families Month, I want to share my story so that other veterans and their families don’t feel isolated as they navigate this life change. My story starts back in 1998 when I met my wife at U.S. Army training at Fort Lee, VA. While waiting to go for a group run, we said hi, exchanged comments about the weather, and headed off separately. I didn’t see her again until a year later when reassignment brought us together. Eventually our friendship evolved into dating, and we got married and had our first child. 

During the 20 years I served in the Army, my career grew. I was promoted to Sergeant First Class (E7) and was assigned to bases all over the U.S. and Europe. Our family grew too, and Jen, who had served for three years, stayed at home to care for our kids. I credit Jen for her support, strength, and patience through my multiple combat deployments in Afghanistan, and during my transition to civilian life.

As I prepared to leave the military, it was my primary responsibility to find a job to support our family. Even my kids could see that getting a job became my full time job. We all felt the pressure of my need to quickly figure out my next role. The job search process was stressful, not only for me, but also for my family. I didn't want to have a gap in income after my military career ended, but I also didn't want to settle on a job just for the paycheck.

From my years serving in the military, I knew I brought leadership, a strong work ethic, and management experience to the table, but it wasn’t easy to translate what I did in the military to civilian jobs. My family worked with the USO, the country’s top military support organization, for ongoing support and guidance throughout my transition, and along with resources from Grow with Google, I felt equipped to look for a job. When I searched “jobs for veterans” on Google and entered my military job code (92Y), I found jobs that matched the skills I used in my military role and aligned with the values I gained while serving.

Today, I have a full-time role as a Customer Center Supervisor, using skills learned in my 20-year military career. The Army prepared me to move decisively, so I’m able to quickly make sound decisions that are in the best interest of my company and our customers.

Approximately 250,000 veterans—many with families—leave the military every year, and I hope that sharing my story will make their transition a little easier.

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