By Danielle DeSimone
For Jason Baum, a comforting aspect of serving in the military was that he knew his purpose. His grandfather had served in the Army, and his father and uncle served in the Navy, and so it seemed only natural that he would follow in their footsteps and join the military as well. He specifically chose to serve in the Coast Guard because he “wanted to be part of a life-saving service.”
However, after serving in the Coast Guard for 20 years and retiring in 2019 as a Chief Petty Officer, Baum struggled at first to find his purpose in the civilian world.
“It’s hard to make a transition [from military to civilian] when nobody understands who you are,” Baum said. “In the service, everybody knows who you are … they know your responsibility.”
Adjusting to this new civilian life was a challenge for Baum, but the process of finding a job as a veteran became much smoother once he found the right support through the USO Pathfinder® Transition Program and its partnership with Google.
Finding the Perfect Path with USO Pathfinder and Google
While still serving in the Coast Guard, Baum recognized that working with computers and in cybersecurity was the path he’d like to pursue when he eventually left the military. Later, in the weeks leading up to his retirement, Baum was struggling to figure out how to translate his years of experience as an electronics technician in the military – maintaining everything from radios to radars – into a civilian cyber security job.
“When you try to promote yourself to civilian counterparts and you try to explain what you’ve done throughout your military service … they really have no clue, and nor do they really have any desire to understand,” Baum said. “That was a very painful point … in terms of finding a new career.”
That’s when he received a call from the USO.
“The USO found me. They actually reached out, and I’m not sure how they did that, but they knew that I was in transition,” Baum said.
Somehow, word had traveled through Baum’s military community that he was searching for a job in preparation for his transition out of the military. The USO took the opportunity to reach out and help him with the process by connecting him to the USO Pathfinder Transition Program.
This program extends the USO experience to active duty, Reserve, National Guard and military spouses by offering professional development services throughout a service member or military spouse’s career, particularly when they transition out of the military and settle into their civilian communities. With the help of one-on-one sessions with a USO Transition Specialist who assists the service member or military spouse in creating a personalized Action Plan, members of the military community can take full advantage of services and resources that are the best fit for them.
For Baum, that meant diving into the world of cybersecurity. The USO Transition Specialist on the other end of the phone worked with Baum to identify his skills and experiences that would best translate to a civilian career, and they quickly suggested that Baum enroll in the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program, in which participants can learn the basic and intermediary ins and outs of IT support and technology.
Among the many other opportunities offered through the Pathfinder Transition Program, this certificate can be especially helpful in assisting participants in their job search in the IT workforce. An added bonus: the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program is offered virtually, offering even more flexibility to service members who are stationed all over the country – and the world.
“It blew my mind,” Baum said, explaining how his USO Transition Specialist easily showed him how naturally his work in electronics would fit into a career in IT.
Baum quickly went to work on earning his Google IT Support Professional Certificate.
“I went and I tried it,” he said. “And I’ve been happy ever since.”
Baum went on to receive further education in cybersecurity and, today, works in technology for Motorola Solutions. Although it was Baum’s work experience and abilities that earned him the job, the USO Pathfinder Transition program helped pave the way to finding a career in the civilian world.
“I can say thank you only so many times, but it blew my mind that [the USO] had this program. I had just thought that I was kind of on my own, but they gave me that helping hand to put me on the right path with Pathfinder,” he said. “I am very happy and grateful.”
How the USO Helped Baum Stay Connected to Home Throughout His Career
Helping Baum with his career path wasn’t the first time the USO had reached out to the Coastie. Baum recalled that the first time he heard of the USO was actually the day he joined the service.
As Baum traveled across the U.S. on his way to bootcamp, he was delayed by storms and stuck at his connecting airport at 4 a.m. Baum and his fellow service members slept on the floor outside of the USO airport lounge until they were awoken just a two hours later by the sound of jangling keys. It was bright and early, and the airport USO employee was opening the doors of the lounge so that Baum and his fellow service members could have somewhere a little more comfortable to sleep, as well as make sure they were all set to make the final leg of the journey to bootcamp.
Throughout the years, Baum would continue to utilize USO centers as a place to relax.
“They’re just the most pleasant people working there, and it’s always nice, quiet and peaceful at every USO that I’ve been to.”
But Baum was most struck by the USO’s support when he was on deployment during the holidays in the Bering Sea, where the USO would send him and his fellow Coasties USO Care Packages. It was these care packages that reminded him of home and connected him back to his fellow Americans, giving him even more meaning to his service.
“You would get this box filled with things that you might have otherwise taken for granted, except for when you’re gone for so long and on a ship, and here you get some cookies, or you get some snacks that you might have missed from home. We also usually got little letters – I loved the letters, especially when they came from kids, when you’d see that a classroom wrote letters [all together],” Baum said.
“Those were by far the most inspirational, because you’d sit there and read it and you’d really realize what you were doing this for.”
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