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Starting my own business in my early twenties with a laptop, communal Wi-Fi, and student loans, I quickly learned that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know (and I didn’t know anybody).
With limited funds and even less finesse, I struggled to connect with other professionals in my industry. I felt subconscious about my company’s early stage status and was almost convinced no one would ever hire me to market their brand. I knew networking was really important (I mean, it’s in all the business books), but armed with just with a well-worn Target suit, a couple dozen self-printed business cards, and an almost maxed out credit card, I wasn’t exactly positioned to network with the pros, or so I thought.
Few professional communities experience the un- and underemployment rates of today’s military spouses and caregivers.
At present, over 90 percent of military spouses are un-/underemployed, earning a mere fraction of what their civilian counterparts are able to bring in.
As a recently transitioned military spouse, I can attest that the job outlook doesn’t exactly improve when your family moves into the veteran community, especially if you’re tasked with post-war caregiving.
Such realities are the unfortunate plight of many members of the current military community. Some studies cite the ever-growing civilian-military divide, others blame poorly constructed workplace policies as the source of such widespread discrimination.
While I hope the employment struggles of today’s military and veteran families will resolve through effective community and government initiatives, the reality for many military spouses is that they need a job, like, yesterday.
Throughout the majority of my life, I’ve lived with an extreme level of social anxiety – like projectile-vomit-all-over-Brooks-Brother’s-suits-at-an-industry-networking-event level of anxiety.
I love meeting new people in small settings and learning about other’s life stories, but a tech conference filled with abrupt, in-yo-face “Let’s connect!”, “What’s your valuation?”, “Who’s on your client list?” makes me want to ditch the whole event agenda, hole up in my hotel room, and Wikipedia local historical sites.
It’s that bad.
I began my entrepreneurial journey in the era of boom or bust tech-based startups. The markets had crashed, national employment was in the crapper, and this thing called the internet was exploding almost overnight.
The popular business gurus hailed as the poster boys of success were the extremely extroverted, snake oil salesmen peddling “success” to all of us nearly-bankrupt professionals like a crack dealer cruising Beale Street.
Freshman Welcome Week was really stressful. I didn’t really want to be there, I didn’t have any friends, and I had no idea what the heck I wanted to study. The expectations of what the whole college experience should be vs. what I was feeling created quite the dilemma.
The dichotomy of experience was only magnified when the Student Body President championed from the Welcome Week staged podium, “Welcome to the best years of your life!”
I recall looking around, into the faces of the cheering mostly-eighteen-year-olds, and feeling my stomach twist. I was not happy. I did not want to be here. I was pretty sure I was going to hate college.
Reflecting on my undergraduate experience, I mentally jotted off a few things I wish I’d known as an incredibly lost, quite naïve college student.
Some things are pretty straightforward, like wishing I’d joined ROTC, majored in Economics, dated my now-husband sooner, and landed a McKinsey & Co. internship.
Remember Raymond Tusk from House of Cards?
The Koch-inspired billionaire who headquartered his company in Missouri (of all places), lived in a modest house with his wife, and spent his free time roaming the Ozarks bird watching? Despite living thousands of miles away from politic power houses and industry hubs, Tusk’s enterprises extended their reach into international markets from the Show Me State, all the way to China.
While I’m not much like Gerald McCraney’s House of Cards character (we exist in totally different tax brackets), we do have one similarity – running a business from the middle of nowhere.
Throughout business school, I carefully researched up and coming metro areas and startup communities, trying to identify the “perfect” place to headquarter my consulting firm. Continue Reading…