More with Less is What Vets Do Best
Jennifer Wilson loves a challenge. After taking a few ROTC classes in college, she joined the Army as an Aeromedical Evacuations Officer and learned to fly a helicopter. “Fewer than 10% of Army aviators are women, and I wanted to prove myself,” she recalled.
Proving Her Worth Through Leadership
A turning point in her career came when she attended SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, and Escape) C school to learn survival skills, evading capture, and the military’s code of conduct. Wilson was one of two females in a 79-person class with Army aviators, Rangers and Army Special Forces. As an O-2, she was assigned to lead a diverse team through rigorous field assignments.
“I was the most junior officer there, and I had to prove myself to my team,” she remembered. “I’d been taught to lead, but it was still intimidating. There was an introvert on the team who I coached and mentored throughout the school. Once my team saw that I would not let things get under my skin, they trusted me to lead them. On the final day of that course, an E-7 with 20 years of experience told me how his heart sank when he was assigned to my team, but at the end of the experience, he’d follow me into battle any day.”
Over the years, Wilson led and worked with diverse groups from all backgrounds. “It ran the gamut from leading an E-4 with young kids and a spouse at home, to working with an O-6 to confirm plans and operations. I learned to adjust my leadership style quickly and it taught me to see things from other points of view.”
Doing More with Less
Wilson believes the greatest skill veterans possess is knowing how to do more with less. After completing flight school, Wilson was asked to train and deploy a unit to perform medical evacuations at the forward operating base with the highest operations tempo in Afghanistan. “All we had was four helicopters and a tent to start running operations, so there was no choice but to work with what we had. We networked with everyone around us: we connected with a Marine hospital unit for food and mail distribution. An Air Force unit helped us with helicopter parts. We had to figure out sleeping quarters and how to safely bring convoys in. Halfway through the year, the base was shut down and we had to move to another location, so we had to start the process all over again.”
Whenever she struggled and thought, “I can’t do this,” she reminded herself to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get through each phase, and not to give up. That perseverance has served Wilson well in her career as a Senior Recruiting Partner for Bradley-Morris/RecruitMilitary. She interacts daily with veterans searching for their next step, and frequently counsels them on how to get there.
“I didn’t get the first civilian job I tried for, and I took it hard,” she recalled. “You’re going to get knocked down. You learn to dust off, get up and try again. You will find the right fit.”
Helping Fellow Vets Find Great Careers
That experience helps Wilson in her current role as Senior Recruiting Partner. She offered a few takeaways from her experience:
• You’re not above starting at the bottom. Be ready to prove yourself at a lower level before you can move up. You must prove to leadership that you can do it.
• Much of the recruiting process is about building relationships. “I have to know a candidate before I can advocate for them, so they must be willing to open up and help me. Companies and recruiters won’t do all the work for you.”
• Be prompt. “If a recruiter calls with an opportunity and it takes you three days to call them back, then how serious are you about your job search?”
“There will always be people who stand in your way, don’t believe in you, or tell you that you can’t. Step around them and do not let them get you down. Male or female, you CAN accomplish anything you put your mind to,” Wilson said.
By Chris Newsome