She served 21 years in the Army, was a battalion commander in Iraq, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and holds a masters’ degree in administration. Yet, after five months, Marlene Carter is still looking for a job in the Tampa Bay area.
Carter starts every morning, including most weekends, at the computer searching websites and checking email for leads.
“It’s no longer the little ‘Help Wanted sign’ in the window where you could go in and meet your future employer and dazzle them with your personality and hunger for a job,” Carter said. “You’re on a computer and you’re having to use words and hopefully the right words they’re looking for to get that job.”
At first, she had a hard time finding the right words to describe her military experience, education and management skills that fit into a civilian job application. Carter said she’s like many in the military who “don’t brag” about their work and instead “just do it.”
“That’s one of the biggest things I had to learn,” Carter said. “My first resume was hilarious. My husband was like ‘you’re not going to get a job with this. You haven’t shown what you’ve done.’”
Using tips learned at employment workshops for veterans and advice from one-on-one job counseling, Carter rewrote her resume. She has made it into the semi-finalist pool for four jobs and has had one personal interview since starting her job search in July.
Congress just passed and President Obama signed into law new tax incentives to encourage the hiring of veterans. Carter hopes it will help. She said it is not an unfair advantage in this tight job market because veterans still have to have the skills that an employer needs, but she added it’s nice to have their service recognized.
Carter retired as an Army lieutenant colonel with the Military Police. Her background includes commanding a battalion of Army criminal investigators in Iraq. Her agents started the investigation into abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.
“In fact, I got to visit Abu Ghraib because I had agents literally living there,” Carter said. “I sat on a board where we had to look at the different prisoners being held there and make decisions do we keep them are they a terrorist threat or where to do they go from the prisons.”
Yet, Carter not interested in doing civilian policing. She would rather use her management and administrative skills or work with children. She has broadened the types of jobs she’s looking for and lowered her salary expectations. Carter also attends job fairs, participates to training workshops and networks with veterans groups.
“It’s been a little disappointing at times,” Carter admitted, but then smiled. “You just have to, next morning, get up with a positive attitude and apply, apply, apply.”
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