Stephanie Dennis's grandfather served in the paratroop infantry in World War II. "I didn't know him well, but his stories started me thinking," she said. Not only did Dennis decide to major in European history, focusing on the World War II era, she also served for more than four years as a U.S. Navy Corpsman.
"I thought I wanted to do something in the medical world, but I wasn't sure what. I love taking care of people," Dennis said. She was stationed in Bethesda, MD, at what was then the National Naval Medical Center, and was also deployed to the Persian Gulf in March 2002 on the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship. "We treated allied service men and women, but mainly Iraqi prisoners of war," she said.
"When I was stationed Stateside, I worked in a post-partum delivery ward. Part of my job was to educate new moms. I discovered I enjoyed educating people. I came out of the military wanting to be a teacher," she said.
While completing her bachelor's degree through American Military University, she worked in the laboratory at a hospital and a medical clinic. Then she put her medical and teaching interests together as a training specialist at Memorial Blood Centers. That in turn introduced her to the field of project management: "They use it every time they implement a new system," she said.
Genesis10, a national consulting firm with offices in the Twin Cities, placed Dennis as a project coordinator as part of its Veterans Outreach program. "I love what I'm doing -- it's bringing everything about me into one job," she said. "I get to help people, teach them to do things, make sure things run correctly. I work with people in the entry level, management, and owners of companies. I'm learning to be comfortable talking to all different varieties of people."
Are you still interested in a teaching career?
Because I like my job as a project coordinator so much, I'd like to look into starting teaching night classes or online classes. I would like to teach history. I'll complete my masters' degree in European history in November 2012. I'm open to teaching medical knowledge -- anatomy, physiology -- because I'm so well versed in it.
What is there about European history that appeals to you?
I like how nations were able to rise up from the worst economic depression and the patriotism that came out of it for America. I decided to join the military before 9/11, but I didn't get in until after. Some of it was patriotism -- giving back to my country. My family has a military history -- my dad was in the Navy, my brother is in the Army, my grandfather's brothers were all in the military.
What advice would you give other veterans about starting a civilian career?
The biggest thing is: Create your résumé to work in the civilian world. We get so technical when we start talking about what we used to do. For example, I say, "I was a Navy Corpsman, which is a mix between a medical assistant and an LPN." There are resources that will help veterans determine how many credits their experience was worth. Also, don't be afraid to take something part-time or temporary. We all want the permanent job because we're used to structure, but finding something that helps you make it through shows you're out in the workforce. It looks good on the résumé.