The second semester of my senior year at Denison University in Granville, OH, was the opposite of my peers. I had enlisted into the United States Army on February 22nd. I was scheduled to report to Basic Training June 22nd, a little less than a month after graduating. Instead of stressing out applying for jobs like my friends, I was working out to get into the best shape of my life. When my roommate screamed about not being accepted into a graduate program, I jokingly said, “Join the Army; they won’t reject you.” At that time, I never thought I’d be in their shoes years later, scrambling to find work, but that was my situation when I left the military. Looking back, I can laugh at the irony, but during my transition, there wasn’t much to laugh about.
The Army makes all soldiers who are transitioning take a two-week, intensive course “preparing you to succeed” in the civilian world. The program is designed to train, educate, and prepare soldiers for jobs outside the military. It consisted of workshops, speakers, and a curriculum, and it helped me build a resume that turned my military experience into workforce applicability. Companies would meet us on base and talk about how they were “veteran friendly.” Well, I applied to every one of those companies and never heard back. Sure, there were jobs available on post, but I wanted a career outside the military. It was frustrating to see how limited the options were. I served my country but didn’t find anyone wanting to help me. So, I left the program with a resume, a tap on the shoulder, and “good luck.”
In October last year, I was in a position I never thought would happen. I was in Savannah, GA, where I had no connections and no job. I spent every day and night searching the Internet for jobs—if it paid, I applied. I kept waiting and never heard back following over 250 job applications. After a month of searching, I wondered why employers rejected someone with two degrees from a top liberal arts school who was in a special operations unit in the Army. In November, I finally landed a part-time job, hoping to continue seeking a full-time job.
At this point, I decided to get my residential real estate license, working on the online course in my off time. I finally finished the course and was ready for the state exam. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the ropes about preparation, and I failed. Three weeks later, I took the test again, and I barely passed. I thought now someone would hire me, no problem. Yet everywhere I interviewed, they said that they wanted someone with experience. It was as if people looked at my time in the military as useless.
My breaking point came when I was still working part time in March. I hit rock bottom and called my family to discuss what I should do: move back home to Oakland, CA, and look for work there or start applying for jobs in a new city. I knew I wasn’t going to move home, so I started to hone in on what city I most wanted to be in. I heard that people who went to Denver never left. So I started reaching out to anyone that I had a connection with there—alumni, alumni, school friends, and family. I had almost instant responses and headed to Denver four weeks later for interviews. By the end of the week, I had been offered three jobs. Two weeks later, I was working for Cresa.
The Perfect Fit
This is where it came together. My Cresa colleagues Chris Crooks and Jeremy Melmed had already started forming a nonprofit as part of Cresa’s new Armed Forces Practice Group—Real Estate Careers 4 the Armed Forces (REC4AF). It seemed like my experience would be a big help, and I was thrilled to join the team. In short order, we were setting conference calls, making valuable connections, rolling out a marketing plan, and starting to see results. REC4AF is something I couldn’t be more passionate about. It’s a perfect opportunity to bridge the gap for veterans and their families who are transitioning into the commercial real estate workforce.
We want to eliminate the hardships I went through. We want to give veterans access to different lines of work in a dynamic industry. Working with Chris and Jeremy has been an unbelievable experience, and I know that we have created something special. But we need help. We need volunteers, donors, and companies that care.
The needs are substantial: Veteran unemployment is a national issue, with 53% of post-9/11 veterans experiencing periods of unemployment.
I am writing this as one of the statistics. Thankfully, I made it through the darker times to be in a position to mobilize our industry and fulfill our mission of helping veterans and their families.
The military is an unspoken brotherhood of trust and knowing that the person to your right or left will be there for you. Being in the US Army has developed my character and work ethic and taught me valuable skills. And while it has been a rough journey to Cresa, I’m now here and ready to make a difference. We have created a ripple, and now we need to make waves. Please join us.