When Atlanta resident Chaquita Loveless joined the Navy at age 19 in 1990, she wanted to see the world, she wanted to train for a profession, and she wanted to serve her country. It never crossed her mind that she would ever have trouble finding a job.
Imagine her chagrin when, 23 years later, with the service, the training and the world exploration behind her, the hardest thing she had to do was find fulfilling work outside the military.
With thousands of former military men and women, many of them African American, pouring into the work force, employers need to be prepared to reach out to them with support and employment. Just in 2012 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that more than 20,000 new African-American veterans are unemployed.
“I don’t think employers have a good understanding of how well the skills we learn in the military can translate to work outside,” she says. Having risen through the ranks in the service from E-One — “the lowest of the low,” she says with a smile — to Senior Chief Petty Officer and then Chief Warrant Officer, job hunting out in the world was a “humbling experience.”
Now, after going back to school to get her Bachelors in Business Administration, Loveless has found work she enjoys with a team of veterans at the Bobby Dodd Institute AT&T call center. “We’ve turned this center into the Number One international Call center for AT&T,” she said proudly. “It’s what we do.”
“In the service,” she continues, “We learn integrity, discipline, time management, and accountability. Our mantra is ‘teamwork makes the dream work.’”
Service men and women also learn flexibility, she added, noting that through her key job in the Navy was information systems and satellite communications on board aircraft carriers like the U.S.S. Nimitz, she could also shift skills easily and has even driven a ship.
“I guess I just want to ask employers to give some thought to us this Memorial Day. Let us get our foot in the door,” she says. “Let us show what we can do.”