Getting Hired: Developing a Professional Brand and the Impact on Career Resiliency

Getting Hired: Developing a Professional Brand and the Impact on Career Resiliency

The analogy of a career ladder is not reflective of our modern work world. According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, a better description is a career “jungle gym.” In a rapidly evolving world with frequent technological advances, having a solid, well-defined professional brand will prove invaluable as you navigate your career. To position yourself for success, it is essential to deliver a clear perception of your professional identity and be proactive in keeping your brand fresh. Regular maintenance and communication of your professional brand will build career resiliency as you navigate your career “jungle gym.”


A brand is an identifying mark or experience that distinguishes one organization or product from another. When people have an experience with a brand they form a belief about what they can expect from that brand in the future. They will make the choice to interact with or avoid this brand based on their needs and experiences. This is the foundation for a brand’s reputation.

This concept can be applied to individuals in their professional lives. A professional brand is something that identifies what strengths you bring to the table and what experiences people will have when working and interacting with you. Your brand speaks for you even when you are not present.


What three words would you like to have associated with your name? When developing your professional brand, utilize the ‘Rule of 3.’ Identify your top three strengths and your top three values. You likely have more than three strengths and values but sharing just a few that align with the industry, organization, or role you are looking to transition into will give enough clarity without being convoluted or hard to remember. Three will show you have a firm understanding of your relevance and provide you with talking points to ground the conversation and navigate your career trajectory.

Research and assessment are critical elements in developing your professional brand. You must know your purpose and the market in which you will be working.

Step one: There are a plethora of personal assessment tools available to assist you in understanding your strengths, values, and personality. Taking a strengths-based approach provides a solid foundation to build this professional brand. Industries and jobs will change and you will develop new skills and interests over time but your core strengths, values, and personality will remain. This combination is what makes you unique!

Step two: Document the roles you have filled, professionally and personally, along with what you did and did not like about them. This step can provide insights into themes that show your skills, values and interests over the course of time. Look to identify your priorities, communication style, and what you are intrinsically motivated to work on. Think about why you enjoyed different roles and the impact you had.

Step three: Research organizations and job postings to find what industries and roles fit with your skills, values, and interests. This step allows you to assess yourself along with positions that align with your strengths and professional purpose.

Researching and assessing yourself along with jobs and markets will help you define what is meaningful and prepare to communicate this coherently on paper and in person. A focused delivery of strengths, skills, values, and interests is the foundation of a memorable professional brand and will provide impact even when you are not present.


Be intentional about developing and delivering your professional brand. Key spaces for presenting your brand are on paper via resumes and cover letters, virtually via LinkedIn, in person while networking and interviewing, as well as in the workplace on a daily basis. What are you known for in your department and what it is like to work with you? No matter where you are, your professional brand is at work. Be positive and proactive in presenting and communicating your brand every day.

After you develop your brand, how will you maintain it? Industries shift, organizations adjust, and roles change but your brand endures. Professionals need to be evolving, advancing, and developing along with the world of work. A continual process of research and self-assessment, understanding what makes you unique and valuable, and delivering this professional brand in a modern context will provide the foundation for your career and a platform from which to navigate your professional trajectory.

Assessment Resources:

Military Spouse Volunteer Spotlight: Craig

May 2019 Spouse Spotlight Craig Wymer photoIn honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, our Volunteer Spotlight for May is Craig, an Army spouse. Craig is unique; he is a Hire Heroes USA volunteer and also used our services as a client. Craig has faced many of the same job search challenges that other military spouses experience. He knows the frustration of having to start over after each permanent change of station (PCS). Through it all, Craig has remained optimistic; he says that “I have grown through these experiences, and am a better professional from my interactions with clients and the Hire Heroes USA staff.”

As a volunteer, Craig assists clients with mock interviews and mentoring. He has even planned two fundraisers for Hire Heroes USA that raised several thousand dollars! “I enjoy helping others with their professional development, career changes, resumes, mock interviews, and representing Hire Heroes USA at fundraisers and community events,” he said. Because he is an Army spouse, he can empathize with the struggles that military spouses encounter and help them in a more personal way. Craig is also a major proponent of networking; he believes that meeting other professionals in person at local events is one of the best things a veteran or military spouse can do in their job search. When he’s working with a client, Craig will often seek out networking events in the client’s area to help them get started.

Craig knows firsthand what Hire Heroes USA can do for a client; “I know that the services that Hire Heroes USA provides… can help clients with the direction, coaching, and development that they need.” Through every move, every interview, and every event, Craig has remained a steadfast supporter for Hire Heroes USA and one of #AmericasMVPs.


Make a gift to support our Serving Spouses program.


Employer Insight: Military Spouse Employment

Employer Insight: Military Spouse Employment

My name is Kelly and I am a military spouse. When I married my husband, a United States Airman, I didn’t realize how much his status would affect my career and my ability to find meaningful employment. I have always put a high level of importance on my career. After our first move to Arizona, I struggled to find a job and ended up taking a position doing something I didn’t enjoy – payroll. It was a struggle for me to sit at my desk and stare at spreadsheets or input data all day. When it was time to move again, this time to North Carolina, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t accept a job I didn’t love. However, the only jobs I would get callbacks for were in payroll. I remained unemployed for more than six months, which was the hardest time of my life. During this period, I stumbled upon Hire Heroes USA and signed up for their services. I was assigned a Transition Specialist who helped me with my resume, interview skills, and branding myself on LinkedIn. I eventually networked myself into Hire Heroes USA and was offered a position as a Transition Specialist. I now serve as the Manager of the Serving Spouses Program, a program designed to help military spouses find employment and address their unique needs. 

Looking back on my journey, I wondered why military spouses tend to settle for less than they deserve regarding employment. Military spouses often find themselves unemployed, underemployed, or working in jobs that are unrelated to their career field. An annual survey conducted in 2018 by Blue Star Families, a partner of Hire Heroes USA, found that unemployment and underemployment are the top obstacles to military families finding financial security. The percentage of military spouse respondents who indicated they were unemployed (not employed but actively seeking work in the past four weeks) increased to 30% in 2018, and 56% of working spouse respondents reported they were underemployed. Frequent relocation was cited as the primary cause of underemployment.

As a career counselor who works with hundreds of military spouses across the country, I have learned that military spouses face similar challenges when finding employment.


  1. Interview Bias

Ageism and racism are problems in the hiring process, and so is “military spouse-ism.” It is illegal to ask a candidate if they are married but military spouses will still get asked in an interview about their marital status or if and when they will move. Military spouse job seekers don’t know if they should share that they are a military spouse or keep it to themselves due to the negative biases they face from employers.

  1. Excluded from Veteran Hiring Programs

Corporate America has done a great job of creating veteran hiring initiatives that have made a huge impact; veteran unemployment rates have dropped in recent years.  However, military spouses are often not included a company’s veteran hiring initiative. This decreases the opportunities available to military spouses even further. For veterans, flexible employment opportunities that work with the demands of the military lifestyle are important; they are also critical in solving military spouse unemployment and underemployment.

  1. Résumé Gaps + Short Term Jobs

Frequent moves due to changes in duty station, caring for children during deployments, and having to re-obtain certifications that don’t transfer from state-to-state are a few reasons why the military spouse unemployment rate is four times higher than the average civilian rate. These challenges require a unique approach. Military spouse résumés don’t always tell the full story of a person’s qualifications and because of that, they are rarely given a chance to show their skills.


  1. Hidden Talent Pool

Military spouses are an untapped talent pool for employers. They are dedicated, dependable, educated, adaptable, resilient, and flexible. If you give a military spouse a problem, they will be able to come up with a solution. Military spouses tend to be more highly educated than their civilian counterparts; they also volunteer more and are proven to be more civically engaged than civilians.

  1. Look Past the Resume

If you are a recruiter or hiring manager, give a military spouse candidate a chance to explain their qualifications. Don’t disregard a candidate if they have lived in a number of locations or have gaps in employment. Military spouses are often able to stay in a location for more than three years, as changes in duty stations are not necessarily a given. If you are concerned about employee retention, keep in mind that many civilians are now voluntarily changing jobs every 3-4 years. This means that military spouse employees may actually stay longer than a civilian counterpart.

Additionally, military spouses may not include volunteer experience on their resumes. This can be a huge asset that sets them apart from other jobseekers.

Bottom line: speaking with a military spouse in an interview setting will provide a better picture of their skill sets and abilities. View the candidate’s unique situation as an opportunity, not a barrier. Give a military spouse a chance!   

  1. Include military spouses in your veteran hiring initiative or create a military spouse hiring initiative

Many companies are recognizing that military spouses make great employees and are coming up with unique ways to retain them. Organizations such as Hilton and Deloitte have created programs specifically designed to hire more spouses. For example, Deloitte connects new military spouse hires with a military spouse ambassador.

Giving newly hired military spouses an organizational contact, who shares a similar background or who has a genuine interest in their professional development, will help them assimilate more easily into a company. Through a military spouse initiative, military spouses can lean on each other and utilize company resources to not just have a job but a rewarding career.


There are a lot of resources available for military spouses looking for professional work – if you know where to look. Hire Heroes USA‘s Serving Spouses Program is dedicated to combating the specific employment challenges men and women face because of a partner’s service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Hire Heroes USA is committed to tackling military spouse unemployment and underemployment with robust, personalized resources like dedicated Transition Specialists who are often military spouses themselves, resume assistance, job sourcing, and employment workshops – all tailored to specifically to address the needs and concerns of military spouses. Over 1,800 military spouses have found new careers with assistance from Hire Heroes USA since we first began working with spouses. That number will only grow as the Serving Spouses Program continues to serve the silent ranks: military spouses.

 Sign up today at

Written by Kelly Kelly and Camille Inman

Erin’s Story: Not Your Typical Military Spouse

IMG_3197Erin Johnson is the Director of Development at Hire Heroes USA but she’s also so much more… she’s a Navy veteran, a military spouse, and a breast cancer survivor. Read on to learn about how she dealt with the unexpected turns her life took after she joined the Navy.

I never thought I would be a military spouse, at least not in the traditional sense. I met my husband the day I reported to my first duty station aboard USS SAN JACINTO (CG-56). I was a newly-commissioned Ensign in the Navy, and he had just promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade, two years ahead of me. Once he transferred off the ship, we started dating, got married and were immediately co-located to Hawaii–the first of many moves. Since I was active duty, I was among the lucky 13 percent of military spouses enjoying the benefits of moving together where jobs awaited us both in our new location. I figured it would be this way until I retired after 20 years of military service. I was wrong.

An unexpected cancer diagnosis at my eight-year mark put a major dent in my career plans. After a full year of aggressive treatment, and a follow-on year of awaiting a medical board decision, I was officially LT Erin Johnson, USN (Retired.) Less than two months after receiving my DD-214, we moved across the country, from Seattle–where I was surrounded by my family, friends, colleagues, and medical team–to Washington, DC, where I knew no one, and had no job. I was happy to support my husband in his career, but I also wanted a career of my own. I felt frustrated. I felt alone. I felt overwhelmed.

It took nearly a year of searching to find a job that mattered, and another two years after that to really discover my calling. I was fortunate enough to find a career that allows me to dedicate my passion and advocacy for military spouse employment to truly make a difference, and an employer who supports my status as a military spouse by allowing me to work–and lead a IMG_3469department–remotely. I had never heard of Hire Heroes USA when I needed help finding a job, but I sure wish I had–it would have made things so much easier for me.

It’s safe to say that I’m not where I thought I would be, and I didn’t get here on my own. I know what it’s like to feel alone in a new city, to feel overwhelmed at a lack of career prospects. I know, because I’ve lived it. It doesn’t have to be this way–from one military spouse to another, I’d love to help.


Make a donation to help military spouses like Erin.

Hire Heroes USA Making Strides in Helping Military Spouses Find Employment

Hire Heroes USA Making Strides in Helping Military Spouses Find Employment

Hire Heroes USA, the premier nonprofit providing free job search assistance to U.S. military members, veterans and military spouses, is celebrating military spouses with a new campaign benefitting the organization’s career assistance programs, including its growing Serving Spouses℠ program. The America’s MVPs campaign launched this week and will conclude on May 10, Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Campaign donations will support Hire Heroes USA’s free career programs for veterans and military spouses.

The unemployment rate for military spouses is four times the national average and 56% of military spouses identify as unemployed or underemployed despite having higher education than most civilian employees. Frequent changes in duty station, gaps in employment, and certifications that don’t transfer across state lines are just a few of the barriers military spouses encounter when seeking employment.

“Military spouses serve this country in their own, very important way,” says Christopher Plamp, chief executive officer of Hire Heroes USA. “These men and women deserve all the support we can provide to ensure that they have meaningful employment during and after their service to our country as a military spouse. Serving Spouses has become an integral part of our mission and we are helping more spouses than ever before.”

In addition to providing its core one-on-one career assistance services, Hire Heroes USA has planned a series of events to serve military spouses this year. On May 1 Hire Heroes USA hosted a panel discussion focused on military spouse employment, featuring military spouse panelists and representatives from partner employers and organizations. Upcoming events for military spouses this year are below: 

  • June 6: Serving Spouses Webinar on Conquering Networking and LinkedIn as a Military Spouse
  • June 25: Serving Spouses Virtual Federal Transition Workshop for military spouses interested in landing federal positions
  • July 9: Serving Spouses Virtual Career Transition Workshop which will teach military spouses how to navigate the job search process

Since the inception of Hire Heroes USA’s Serving Spouses program in 2018, the organization has helped nearly 1,900 military spouses find meaningful employment. For more information about Hire Heroes USA’s programs and services for military spouses, or to support the campaign visit


About Hire Heroes USA: 
Hire Heroes USA is the leading veteran service organization specifically targeting the issues of underemployment and unemployment among veterans. Funding for the nonprofit’s services is exclusively through private grants and public donations. Hire Heroes USA has earned 
Charity Navigator’s highest possible 4-star rating for a fourth consecutive year and it also has a GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency. For more information about our mission, services and how to get involved as a corporate partner, employment partner, donor or volunteer, visit and follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.




Serving Spouses: Kelly’s Story

As Military Spouse Appreciation Day draws near, we are sharing stories and information about the challenges and successes of military spouses – America’s MVPs. Hire Heroes USA is working to help sustain and support these men and women as they overcome barriers to gainful employment; to that end, we have created our Serving Spouses program.

Serving Spouses is Hire Heroes USA’s career assistance program for military spouses. It is comprised of resources tailored specifically to help military spouses succeed in the civilian workforce. Each spouse client is paired with a Transition Specialist who will guide them through their job search from start to finish, staying in touch along the way to coach, listen, and encourage.

The Serving Spouses Program Manager, Kelly Grivner-Kelly, is a military spouse herself so creating tools and resources to help spouses overcome job search challenges is near and dear to her heart. We asked Kelly’s husband, Air Force Staff Sergeant Jonathan Kelly, what makes Kelly his MVP. He said, “She inspires me on an everyday basis. Her hard work and dedication to the veteran and military spouse community are unmatched. She’s one of the most caring people that I’ve ever met and her passion for helping others is why she’s my MVP.”

To find out how you can help support America’s MVPs as they look for meaningful employment, visit our campaign page!

Read Kelly and Jon’s love story below, in Kelly’s own words:

I am proud to be married to my hero, Staff Sergeant Jonathan Kelly, who serves in the United States Air Force.  Our love story began when we met through mutual friends. One of the first things I said to him was, “Hey my first name is Kelly and your last name is Kelly. We should get married.” Here I am five years later with the name Kelly Kelly!

My husband joined the Air Force in 2012 after following in the footsteps of his family members. Both of his parents served in the Navy and his great-grandfather was the first-ever Navy Frogman, John P. Spence. The military is what his family knew best and Jon was eager to serve his country. Jon and I married in May of 2013 and moved cross country the same weekend. I still remember when Jon got the call that determined his first duty station – Tucson, Arizona. Until that moment, I didn’t even know where Tucson was. I soon found out I would be moving to the desert and although I was nervous, I felt ready to take on the adventure with my best friend and husband. The transition of leaving my home, career, and friends behind was not easy, but I have no regrets.

I once read an article that said every military spouse has a box of curtains from each house they lived in. The curtains never seem to fit the windows once you move to a new location, but you keep the curtains anyway because they each tell a story.

The past five years have been filled with ups and downs, including employment, unemployment, and deployments, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. I have met some of the most wonderful people at each of my husband’s duty stations. People have come from all over the United States to serve their country and to serve their loved ones in the silent ranks of being a military spouse. When I look back at the adversities my husband and I have endured in just five years of marriage, I realize that I need to give myself a little more credit for developing the strength and perseverance I have now.

It takes a strong person to be a military spouse. Believe it or not, every single one of us is strong. Sometimes we don’t know it and sometimes we don’t feel it. It’s like that old saying, “You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only option.” For me, being a military spouse meant choosing a life full of unknowns but knowing that I didn’t want any other life. I always try to remember that if you have each other, everything else will fall into place. Houses and locations can change but love will stay the same.