By Erica Beal
As a Navy SEAL spouse of more than 16 years, maintaining a meaningful career while our family endured nine combat deployments for my husband has proven to be the most challenging aspect of military life for me, personally. Like so many fellow military spouses, I not only wanted to contribute to my family financially, but I have also always had professional aspirations that were important for me to fulfill.
I have been blessed with an ever-evolving career in the energy sector, but it surely didn’t come without its unique set of challenges, particularly within this male-dominated industry. As I juggled my responsibilities as a proud mother and ambitious professional, I learned many hard lessons that have served me well now as CEO of the professional services engineering firm I founded in September 2019.
The primary pillar of our three-prong social responsibility program is anchored in our Impact Now program that commits to mentoring, training, and hiring military spouses and veterans into the energy industry. One of the most impactful messages that we convey to military spouses emerging or re-entering the workforce is to feel empowered to chart their own career path, one that is unique to their goals, lifestyle, and long-term aspirations.
Whether a participant sees a future with our company or not, we work to instill purpose-driven values and encourage a strong mindset as they embark on their employment journey:
Get clear on your vision
As challenging as it can be for military families to predict the next 2, 5 or 10 years, we often encourage participants to start with an outcome-oriented goal and a big-picture vision for their professional future. Considerations like remote vs in person work, level of flexibility and positions that best complement their unique skill set and experience are all important factors when setting a vision for the future. Don’t forget to celebrate the little wins along the way as they build momentum and keep your sights set on long-term success.
My undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship from Baylor reflects the desire I’ve had since I was young to innovate and bring ideas to life, but I knew I needed to “cut my teeth” in corporate America before establishing a business in the utility sector. In my time as chief executive, I have become even more convinced that a clear vision will serve you well regardless of the career level you’re in (and being prepared to pivot where necessary).
Surround yourself with the right people
We often become the products of our environment, and that certainly rings true when forging down our career paths. There is so much value in networking with leaders and peers in the industries or organizations that you seek to join, therefore take the time to foster authentic relationships with others.
It is also critically important to strengthen the support group around you: your family, partner, mentor, childcare options, and friends. Holding down a career as a working parent, especially as a military spouse, is constantly challenging and you’ll appreciate the support from every corner.
Seek to be a servant leader
“Service before self” is oftentimes a mindset that comes more naturally for military families. I founded AVIVV on a foundation of servant leadership which means we prioritize the collective positive impact of the firm on our people and our community.
We believe strongly that no mission is accomplished alone and that each and every employee can be a leader. Having a servant leadership mindset helps acclimate to new teams and accomplish the mission as a unit.
Trust your ability
It can be so easy to compare ourselves to peers or friends who seemingly have what you want. Everyone has a “day one,” meaning we all start from the beginning and learn as we go. If you’re not where you wish you were, know that through hard work, small wins and consistent efforts, you will soon be on a path to where you wish to be.
Erica Beal is the founder and CEO of AVIVV, a professional services engineering firm serving the energy and utility industry throughout the United States. Erica is a proud military spouse to a decorated Navy Seal and mother of two boys. She has built her business on a foundation of servant leadership and a commitment to hiring and mentoring military spouses and veterans to reduce the 24% unemployment rate within the military community.