We had an opportunity to connect with a recent graduate from GWU’s Elliott School of International Affairs and Former Logistics Officer in the United States Marine Corps Kerstin D. Caesar. We talked about her goal is to move to Yangon, Myanmar to head my church’s development nonprofit there, and find pure joy.
- When you transitioned out of the military what were you most afraid of during your transition? And how did you work through those fears?
I was most afraid of entering into an entirely new career field that did not relate to my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). I worked through these fears by applying to jobs I hoped for in this new field, trying to connect my skills as a Logistics Officer while applying to graduate programs in case I needed further credentials.
- What did you do well during your transition?
I went to as many networking events and job fairs as I could to meet people face to face. I then made sure to follow up with whoever I met with an e-mail and LinkedIn connect.
- What did you do poorly during the transition and more importantly what did you learn from that failure?
I filled out almost 100 job applications online varying from waitress to logistics officer to international development practitioner over the course of 4 months. I heard back from maybe 10 of them with a rejection e-mail, and from 1 to set up a day to shadow in a warehouse at a private Logistics company. Once I was accepted into the international development program at The George Washington University for that upcoming fall, I decided to not do the day of shadowing for the Logistics company. Online applications took an enormous amount of time and energy to customize my resume and cover letter 100 different times for the reality being most places hiring receive more online applications that they know what to do with. I learned to make networking a priority and only if the person I connected with told me to apply to a specific job or if they had a tie to the hiring team, then I would share with them the Requisition number of the position I applied to online so that they could hopefully bump up my application to the top of the pile.
- What do you miss most about the Military? And do you stay connected to anyone in the military?
I miss my Marines! I’ve never met anyone who works harder and with more passion than US Marines. I realize that having a mission-first work ethic and such pride in that mission is something I took for granted in the military and now miss in the civilian world. I do stay connected to some of my enlisted Marines and to some of my peers who went to the Naval Academy with me.
- What made my transition a lot more difficult was the complete change in the career field?
Not wanting to do anything related to my MOS or work for a large military-friendly company, I found that my service and resume did not have nearly as much value in the field I was looking to work. I have since learned to translate my military experiences in a more comprehensive manner, but what I learned in graduate school and in the internships, I did during that time has been most beneficial in breaking into a new career field.
- Anything else you would like to say to a soon-to-be transitioning military member?
I’m still looking for work in the International Development/ Humanitarian field working with conflict and security teams, youth development, and/or education development. My recommendation for those just transitioning who desire a career change, is to do as much pro bono work, research, shadowing etc. as possible while still active duty so that you’re making connections in this new field before you even get out. I’d also say it’s important to expect at least 6 months of job searching without a salary so to be smart when making your budget!
- What are you doing now?
I graduated from GWU’s Elliott School of International Affairs in May 2020 and planned on moving to Yangon, Myanmar to head my church’s development nonprofit there. Due to the global pandemic, I have been job searching, serving at my church, and babysitting a lot!
- Tell me about your Christian and humanitarian service
Part of my testimony is finding true freedom, peace, and joy in knowing God more through experiencing the Holy Spirit, the love of Christ, and grace of the Father after leaving active duty. Finding my church, Antioch DC, here in Washington has given me the community and family I always wanted and looked for in the military. After questioning my existence for years while on active duty, God found me from far away and proved His everlasting love for me (Jeremiah 31:2-3). Doing life with such authentic people who live openly imperfect lives, yet praise Jesus in every action, thought, and word spoken, has been the most healing and fulfilling decision I’ve ever made. Dreaming in 2010 about being on a FET (Female Engagement Team) engaging with local women and children sparked a passion for helping those living in extreme poverty and conflict-ridden countries. It is my desire now to live out that passion by not only helping through physical aid but helping through sharing the radical and transformative truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.