We’re With Meridith: A Military Spouse Who Furthered Her Career With the Support of the USO Transition Program

By Kayla Clark

Meet Meridith, a military spouse, travel enthusiast, mother of two, credentialed project manager and professional educator.

Meridith originally grew up in the Oklahoma City area and attended the University of Oklahoma for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She describes herself as an “educator at heart,” as the teaching profession has always run deep in her family. She is passionate about sharing the things she has learned with others and enriching their lives in some way. Whether through a quirky historical anecdote or insight gained from an adventure or experience, she absolutely loves seeking and sharing knowledge.

Meridith, an educator who has always been passionate about her profession. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Meridith has also always loved to travel.

“I got the travel bug as a teenager after visiting my brother who was stationed in Germany, and I have sought it out ever since,” she said. “I love it because it is such an insightful way to learn about yourself and the world around you. I feel enriched anytime I get to explore a new place, local or abroad, and experience something new. These things likely led me to my first career as a social studies teacher.”

During her time at the University of Oklahoma, Meridith worked at a local hardware store part-time to bring in some additional funds. It was there that she met her spouse. Throughout the years, the two built a beautiful relationship, and it was then, as they were both finishing up their academic programs, that he realized he wanted to join the Navy. After many thoughtful conversations, the two made the decision to not only get married, but to also take a leap of faith and join the military community as well. They’re now celebrating their 11-year wedding anniversary this summer.

Meridith with her husband, a service member in the U.S. Navy. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Becoming a military spouse can be both an exciting and daunting new chapter of one’s life. While many military families experience moves overseas and create memories that will last a lifetime, it doesn’t come without many sacrifices and time away from their service member or loved ones back home. In addition, these consistent moves provide an added difficulty for spouses wanting to maintain and advance their professional careers.

What I like most about being a military spouse is the opportunity to meet so many wonderful and diverse people from all walks of life and experiences,” Meridith shared.

“The most challenging aspect is definitely the professional and personal impact of moving often. While recent legislation has improved professional outcomes for spouses, we are still often put in a challenging position with the efforts and costs associated with transferring certifications and finding gainful employment.”

Over the last few years, Meridith and her family have served on an overseas military tour in Portsmouth, England. It has been an incredible experience for their family. Her spouse worked with the British Royal Navy, so they were able to truly experience life there as locals without the larger U.S. military presence. Both of her children enrolled in a British primary school, and their family took every opportunity to travel and explore. While it was an amazing opportunity, it wasn’t necessarily easy.

Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Meridith’s family have spent the last few years living in England while her husband worked alongside the British Royal Navy.

While I adamantly believe this was a highlight for our family personally, myself included, it was the most challenging time for me professionally. Since we were not near a U.S. military presence, it was very difficult to look for work … I spent a solid year applying for jobs on a weekly basis, hundreds of them, for nothing to materialize,” Meridith said. “After going it alone for over a year, I realized it was time to look for help.”

Meridith began reaching out to some organizations and resources specifically built to support military spouses. It was in one of those seminars that she heard about the USO Transition Program.

The USO Transition Program is a free program for all service members, Reservists, National Guard members and military spouses, and one that can be utilized again and again, throughout their entire time serving in the military.This program provides clients, such as military spouses like Meridith, with personalized support and connection to resources for employment, education and professional mentoring.

After connecting with a USO Transition Specialist, Meridith discussed some professional goals she wanted to accomplish, focusing on upskilling to assist her in transitioning out of the classroom and providing her with more opportunities to branch out into adult education. With the help of the USO Transition Program, Meridith was able to complete her Google Project Management Professional Certificate, go through a project management professional certification course and got connected to professional mentors, who helped her gain the confidence to step out of her comfort zone and apply to jobs she was really interested in.

Photo credit USO Photo

The USO Transition Program is for both service members and military spouses, offering all members of the military community the opportunity to further their education and careers.

As Meridith’s family’s time in England was coming to an end, she began applying for positions in their next duty station of Rhode Island which led her to apply for an Instructional Systems Specialist, a GS-12 role within the federal government. She applied for the role and, within a week after interviewing, she was offered the opportunity. Meridith actually ended up moving to Rhode Island ahead of her family to start her new position.

“My biggest piece of advice for other military spouses is to keep at it! When I would hear those words myself, it was hard not to roll my eyes in frustration. Of course I wanted to keep going, but it is hard to do so when you are so disheartened with rejection and doubt at every turn,” Meridith said.” As much as I felt that I believed in myself, I didn’t realize how valuable it was to have other people, outside your family, believe in you as well … [The USO Transition Program] held me accountable and provided helpful resources and experiences to help see me through the finish line of my professional goals.”

Meridith also had words of advice for other military spouses navigating these same waters.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a military spouse, you are absolutely going to face challenges that others will not, but we also have incredible resources at our disposal which can help get us through it.”

With her family’s time overseas now coming to an end, Meridith has already moved back stateside to begin her new role. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Meridith has been working in her new role for a couple of months now and is doing well. She is learning a lot and has grown in her career both personally and professionally. Her family is set to join her in their PCS move in the coming months.

The last six months [with the USO Transition Program] have been vital in my transition out of the classroom to civil service,” Meridith said. “Your dream job is out there. You just need to have the confidence in yourself to see it through.”

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