Season 2 Episode #37: The Importance of Career Research with Saquonna Duncan
With a US Navy career spanning 21 years, including 9 years serving active duty and 12 years in the US Navy Reserve, Saquonna Duncan shares her transition story and lessons learned along the way. Saquonna served in different roles during her military career, and it was her position as a career counselor that inspired her to start Advancing by Bounds, an organization dedicated to supporting transitioning service members as well as educating employers on how to target and recruit military and veteran candidates. Her path hasn’t been straightforward or easy, and she candidly shares mistakes she made along the way in hopes of helping others.
Saquonna earned her bachelor’s degree in criminology using Tuition Assistance. Toward the end of her degree, she completed an internship with the California Juvenile Justice Department with a dream of being a juvenile detention officer in New Orleans. Leaving active duty, she moved her family to Louisiana to start her next chapter. Saquonna failed to research the labor market and was shocked by how little her dream job paid compared to what she was earning in the military. Leaving the military can have serious financial implications for some, and a person must do a thorough financial analysis of their situation before leaving to better understand what they need to make at their next position.
Networking her way to a new role in HR with a law firm, she was set to begin her first day on the day Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Evacuating to Atlanta, she used a temp agency to land a role at Cox Communications in their legal department. Looking back, Saquonna regrets not negotiating a higher salary when her role became permanent.
While working at Cox, Saquonna served as a reservist and deployed to various locations worldwide. On one deployment, she learned project management skills and was excited at the thought of pursuing project management in the civilian sector. Saquonna admits she didn’t pursue her passion and returned to the safety and routine of her previous position. During her 14 years at Cox, Saquonna continued learning new skills. In fact, she used her GI Bill to earn an MBA and was disappointed that her newly acquired degree did nothing to help her get promoted.
Her realization that a degree alone wasn’t enough to land a better role led her to start her organization, Advancing by Bounds. She counsels transitioning service members that a degree should be paired with actionable experience. Whether a person learns skills through volunteer work, an internship or programs like SkillBridge, employers want to see experience to back up the book knowledge.
At Advancing by Bounds, military veterans and recently separated reservists and guardsmen can access career counseling. Saquonna gives each client personalized service to include Career Mapping. Her goal is to help people do the hard work to find out what they like and what might be a good job to showcase their skills. While it’s unreasonable to expect every person to love their job, she believes that a person should look for work that has likeable tasks. Career Mapping is a starting point, and at Advancing by Bounds, a person can also receive support in other areas like interviewing and learning how to upskill or reskill.
Head over to the Lessons Learned for Vets YouTube channel at https://tinyurl.com/llforvets22 to hear a bonus clip from Saquonna.
You can connect with Saquonna at https://www.linkedin.com/in/saquonnaduncan/
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