By USO Staff
Married in California five years ago, U.S. Army Sgt. Bryce Hankla and wife Laura have been traveling for his military service ever since — with four moves so far. Pulling up roots so frequently can lead to many challenges for spouses, especially in finding and maintaining meaningful employment. While standing alongside their service member spouses, they can struggle with establishing careers of their own.
Thankfully for Laura and the approximately 50,000 service members and spouses who have completed USO Pathfinder® Transition Program since the program’s inception in 2015, the USO’s partnership with Coursera brings opportunities for professional development and education to service members and military spouses no matter where their service takes them.
Coursera is one of the largest online learning platforms in the world, offering professional certifications from many of the world’s best-known companies in fields that include information technology, marketing, sales development, education and data analytics.
For the Hanklas, three years in Hawaii has been their longest assignment so far. Laura was determined to find employment upon arrival and secured two jobs as an executive legal assistant. While working for these two different law firms simultaneously, one of the firms promoted Laura to social media coordinator.
“That’s where my interest in digital marketing began,” Laura said.
“They didn’t have a presence on social media, and the business side of social media and the strategy of it appealed to me,” she said. “I had always enjoyed social media, such as posting pictures of our travels and helping to keep my family and friends connected. Now I wanted to learn more about the marketing aspects of it.”
Laura learned about the Coursera program, offered in partnership with the USO, while in Hawaii. After her husband’s next assignment took them to South Carolina, she chose to pursue the Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate with Coursera. Although students have 12 months to complete the certification, she completed it in just three months, from September to November 2021.
Following her certification, she undertook an internship with the U.S. Army in which she applied the skills she learned to managing social media for her husband’s battalion.
One of the greatest advantages of the program, she says, is the flexibility.
“Completing the certification from home made it so easy. When you are in a very small town or have to move frequently, finding opportunities for in-person education is difficult. For example, right now we are sharing a car, making online learning ideal, rather than in-person classes.”
The Coursera program is so convenient that Laura is now working toward a Project Management certification as well, while her husband participates in year-long training for the U.S. Army Prime Power School for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at their latest duty station, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
“The closest big city is St. Louis, which is about two hours away, so I’m focusing on finding a remote position. After I finished the social media certificate, I was excited to put even more skills under my belt. I know we will continue to move from now on, so I want skills that I can take with me,” she said.
Laura recently interviewed for a corporate marketing position that she says she wouldn’t have otherwise applied for without having earned her social media certification.
“I encourage every spouse to take advantage of these opportunities. There are so many types of certifications, and you can complete them at your own pace. You will also have a USO transition [specialist] you can talk to about your goals, and they will guide you and check up on you throughout the process.”
The USO’s partnership with Coursera is part of the USO Pathfinder® Transition Program, which is available to service members and military spouses throughout their time in service. Each participant is paired with a USO Transition Specialist who develops a personalized action plan for them, with everything from financial readiness guidance, to educational resources, to advice on how to dress for a job interview.
“I would absolutely recommend the Coursera certification program,” Laura said. “Some military spouses think they can’t go after professional training or higher education because they have kids or they move all the time, but the resources are there and people who want to support you. Looking back, the USO has always been a constant presence and a great help to us.”
The USO’s Coursera Partnership
Coursera connects service members and their spouses to high-quality educational opportunities with certifications from some of the world’s best-known companies:
- Google IT Support Professional Certificate
- Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate
- Salesforce Sales Development Representative Professional Certificate
- IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate
- Arizona State University TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Professional Certificate
- Making Transition a Transformation – a USO Course on Coursera, created alongside Coursera, Cory Boatwright and Freedom Learning
These free professional certifications play a key role in the USO Pathfinder® Transition Program, which provides customized support at any time in a service member or military spouse’s career, including action plans, programs and resources focused on job-seeking, education, financial readiness and mentorship.
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