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The Power of a Leap of Faith: A CareerCircle Career Journey

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Featured Image: text reads career journey: veteran to top recruiter, Daniel Pugh CareerCircle Career Journey

As one of CareerCircle’s recruiters, Daniel Pugh spends his days scouting for talent from our pool of skilled candidates, preparing candidates for their interview process, reaching out to past members to learn more about their experience, and more. But his career journey actually started with over 6 years in the Air Force and a hearty dose of imposter syndrome to contend with when it was time to reenter the civilian world.

From High School Graduation to Air Force Security Forces

When Daniel graduated high school, he faced the same question we’ve all faced: What do I want to do?

“Do I go to college? Do I take out a student loan which sounds very scary? What degree do I want? Do I join the military? Do I go straight to work? I didn’t know,” he shared. One of the things that he knew was that, while he loved his hometown, he wanted to explore. “I knew that I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted to do something. I just didn’t know what and I was okay with that. But I was going to take a leap of faith to find out what that was.”

When most of us hit this stage in our lives, we look to the people around us to help guide us. Daniel looked to his family for that guidance.

Coming from a military family, Daniel knew that joining the military was a stable option for him. He understood the roles and responsibilities and it would allow him to get some skills that he wouldn’t get otherwise. But, as most military family members know, there’s always a bit of competition between what branch would be best. While his father was in the Air Force, his grandfather was in the Army, so teams began to spring up with suggestions of which branch he should go into. Even his friends had an opinion based on what branches they were interested in going into!

After taking the ASVAB, he decided to follow in his dad’s footsteps and enlist in the Air Force. 

“I started out in the Security Forces, mainly because it was something I was interested in doing and it was immediately available. It didn’t hurt that the beret looked really cool, too. There were positions available on every base which would let me travel the way I wanted to,” he shared. He completed his training at Lackland Air Force Base and was stationed at F.E. Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In his time in Wyoming, he started out as an RFL (Response Force Leader) before transitioning into his daily role as an FSC (Flight Security Controller). To say his day-to-day was high pressure is an understatement.

“I wasn’t even 21 yet. I was 20 years old, became an E4, and then from that position was responsible for billions of dollars worth of critical weapons systems that were vital to national security. If I had a bad day at the office, based on the type of report, it would go straight to the Pentagon or the President’s office just because of the nature of the situation,” he explained.

In his role, he had to be perfect. He had to follow direct rules and checklists and there was no room for error.

He loved what he did and he was really good at it, which meant that his first duty station became his final duty station. Despite wanting to travel, Daniel spent his military career at F.E. Warren, where his skills could be used most effectively. When it came time to reenlist or move on, he had to take another hard look at what he wanted to do with his life and his career.

“I had a great time, but I wanted to go explore. I wanted to go see the world. Due to my duty position and due to the fact that I did very well, if I continued in the military I was going to have to stay stateside and I realized that I just didn’t want to do that. So I made the decision to transition out of the military.”

A tip for youSometimes the job you’re good at isn’t the right job for you. That doesn’t mean the time in that role was a failure, it simply means that you are ready for the next step on your journey.

Making Leaps of Faith a Way of Life

While his first leap of faith was joining the military, his next, and more intimidating one, was leaving.

When going through TAP (Transition Assistance Program), Daniel realized that he had no idea how to apply for a job, build a resume, or interview, but he knew he had to figure out how to transfer his skills from a niche military background to civilian work. As he shared, “I can’t just Google, ‘I worked in the military to protect nuclear weapons, what do I do as a civilian?’ I needed to get some personal help.”

That’s where Ethan Parker, his best friend and Aerotek recruiter, came in.

“Ethan was a huge mentor for me because he understood how to go ahead and take those transferable skills and transition them into different opportunities that I would actually be interested in.”

After working with Ethan, he realized that he really enjoyed working one-on-one with people and helping to coordinate projects, troubleshoot problems and, ultimately, be the person you can come to when a problem needs to be solved.

“I never would have realized that those skills were something that I already had or that they could transition into a software and tech support role without working with Ethan. Having that one-on-one support from him as a friend and a recruiter was incredible,” Daniel explained.

He applied for a role as a Commissioning Agent at General Electric and, given that he had never done an interview before, he ended up staying up the whole night before Googling what happens in an interview, what to wear, what questions to prepare for, and more.

He landed the role and enjoyed his time at GE, but unfortunately was let go in an initial round of COVID layoffs. It was time for another leap of faith.

“I was 26, 27 years old at the time, and I have a lot of experience, but I still really don’t know what I want to be. I thought, ‘Well, let’s try something new. I’m going to work at a warehouse. Maybe I can learn more about physical labor roles and dive deeper into that operation process and support people from that angle.’”

It didn’t take long to realize that while a warehouse job had sounded appealing, it wasn’t the right fit for him. Once more, he was left trying to define what it is he wanted to do. Then Ethan reached out.

“Ethan had continued to be a huge support and he was working here at CareerCircle at the time and called me and went, ‘Hey, you would be a very good recruiter.’ and my immediate reaction was, ‘No way.’ I had talked to a lot of recruiters in my life both in the military and out of it and I just thought there was no way that I had the skills for it.”

Daniel had a hard time seeing how any of the skills or passions he had could be transferred into recruiting. He had dealt with imposter syndrome before when he was first leaving the military again and it hit him again when he was presented with this new industry to look into.

A tip for you: BetterUp suggests when facing imposter syndrome, “Making a simple 2-column list — on one side, “Evidence that I am inadequate” and on the other side, “Evidence that I am competent” — can help bring perspective.” Focusing on objective fact is critical for combating that negative inner voice.

But ultimately, Daniel’s previous leaps of faith had served him well, so he decided to take one more. He started working on his resume and in that time took the opportunity to learn all he could about what he needed to know to start on a career in recruiting. He looked up what the different types of resumes are and when each should be used, what types of interviews there are and how to help people through them, what employers and hiring managers are looking for in recruiter partnerships, and more.

When he had worked through learning on his own, Ethan reached out with an offer to apply for a CareerCircle recruiter position that had opened up. While Daniel didn’t feel quite ready or qualified, he did what he could to quiet the imposter syndrome and applied.

“I was a nervous wreck,” he shared when recollecting the interview with CareerCircle Managing Director, Kim Sneeder. “I was sitting there thinking there’s no way I’m going to get this. She actually ended up asking me what I thought I would struggle with going into recruiting and I didn’t even try to lie, I just straight up said, ‘Resumes.’ They had been a bit of a nemesis for me since I left the military and I knew they would be a big spot for me to learn.”

Thankfully, here at CareerCircle we care less about resumes and more about a 360° view of candidates so Daniel’s honesty did nothing to dissuade Kim that he was the right person for the role.

Daniel ended up taking the job with CareerCircle because he loved the mission we have to look beyond resumes and help people find the skills they may not even realize they have. He wanted to help bring those skills to light for other people in the same way that Ethan had helped bring them to light for him. In fact, he was most recently awarded our Top Recruiter Award given to those who have produced only the most stellar results for the recruiting team, so we say he made the right choice!

Building the Right Support for Every Step

“The advice I give to everyone when it comes to job searching is to use the resources and connections that are available to you. I look back now and I wish I had used those resources more readily,” Daniel shared when asked what advice he would pass to job seekers today.

“One of the ones I really wished I had used, and still might in the future, is the free education from my time in the service. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to go back to school so that’s not valuable to me,’ but in reality, I should have taken the opportunity as soon as it was offered.”

He now works with his candidates to make sure they know about all of the often free resources that are available to them, like our Resume Builder and 1:1 Coaching.

He also works with candidates to be the support that he needed on his own career journey. As a veteran who has worked in vastly different roles and faced imposter syndrome at every turn, he is able to understand where his candidates are coming from and be the mentor that they need.

“My dad has always said to me that the most important thing I can be is happy,” Daniel shared when asked how people have supported him in his journey. It’s clear that Daniel has taken that advice to heart and found a role that not only makes him happy, but allows him to bring that happiness, support, and compassion to CareerCircle members. 

As you move forward in your own career journey, remember that no matter how many transitions you have to face, taking that leap of faith could be the thing that makes your life happier than you could have imagined.

When you’re ready to move on in your own journey, you can join the CareerCircle community here.