The Morning Formation Podcast

The VP of ACP & The Military Spouse Career Takeover with Leslie Coffey

May 06, 2022 KP Season 2 Episode 20
The Morning Formation Podcast
The VP of ACP & The Military Spouse Career Takeover with Leslie Coffey
Show Notes Transcript

We are calling our shot! It’s the military spouse takeover where Act Now Education is helping 1,000 military spouses launch their careers…This is a podcast special.

I have an active-duty military spouse who's an extremely active member of the military engagement community. She’s volunteered for Hiring Our Heroes, served as the director of Service2Software, served again as a Director for Vets2Industry, and is now the Vice President of American Corporate Partners (ACP). Join me on this podcast to hear all about Leslie's organization and the Military Spouse Takeover with Act Now Education!

Connect with Leslie on LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/leslie-coffey/

American Corporate Partners Website:
http://www.acp-usa.org/

Act Now Education Website:
www.actnoweducation.com

KP:

This episode is powered by act now education, go to www dot ATT now education.com For free comprehensive educational resources and opportunities for active duty veterans, military spouses, and children. Warriors fall in, we're calling our shot this week. It's the military spouse takeover Act. Now education is helping 1000 military spouses launch their careers. Folks, this is a podcast special for the morning formation. I have a guest from our military community, who's an active duty military spouse. She's extremely active in the military engagement community as well. Over the years, she's volunteered for Hiring Our Heroes, served as Director of service to software, served again as a director for best to industry and is now the vice president of American corporate partners, also known as ACP. Today, I'm joined with Lesley coffee. Leslie, I want to say thank you so much for giving me the time and opportunity with everything else you got going on to be here with us today.

Leslie Coffey:

I'm just honored to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

KP:

Lesley. You know, I first met you back when we were on clubhouse, which is an all audio app. And some of the deepest connections that I've had with this community started off in clubhouse on just an audio app. I really appreciate all the times that you would join us on Fridays for the military mix up when that was going on. Providing all the resources and advice and support out there for our community. I really appreciate you doing that. And for those out there who have never spoken to before, don't know who you are and just hearing about you for the first time. Would you mind telling us a little bit about who you are? And a little bit about your background?

Leslie Coffey:

So um, yes, so I'm originally from Louisville, Kentucky. And that's where I met my service member. He's been serving for 28 years, and I've been a part of 26 of those we actually met at a bus stop in high school knowning since I was 14. And those 26 years we've been stationed everywhere from Fairbanks, Alaska to the Mojave Desert in California to El Paso on the border in Fort Hood, Texas, and Clarksville, Tennessee, coastal Georgia, all over the place. And now we JBLM in Washington now we're currently stationed at the United States Military Academy at West Point New York. So several several moves later.

KP:

Wow, that is quite a journey throughout your life. And all this coming from small town Kentucky. Well, I don't know a small town, but small in reference to the rest of you know, I live in Los Angeles. So you literally moved every everywhere, all over the place. And 28 years later, here you are. Let's see. Would you mind talking to us about your overall motivation for the career that you've had the career journey that you've been on over the years?

Leslie Coffey:

Yeah, so my motivation is really just giving back because community I've been serving. And also to help my peers, you know, all those moves that I mentioned, there's even some in there that I failed to mention. But of those moves, the Army has always made my decision for me to resign, even one, so my own career center, and had to interview and find my replacement, which was probably one of the most challenging things I've had to do for my career. It was, one thing I can equate it to is like interviewing for stepmom for your kids, because I built that place. And, you know, just having to find a replacement was really difficult. So, because of that, because this was the first move in 26 years, so the army didn't make my decision for me to resign. And, quite frankly, that was because of COVID. Because I could prove that I could do my job and produce regardless of the location, then that's why I really want to do what I can to help my peers and those coming up behind me.

KP:

You know, I honestly think you'd be an excellent military leader yourself. Because a lot of us a lot of us that serve. That's the one thing that we do is we we mentor and we coach and we legitimately care about those around us those who we serve with when you're working in any type of environment where you have the the strong potential of depending on others to have your back. You kind of grow sort of a new family of sorts. And I feel like that's kind of what you've done over the years. Whenever you've PCs and got stationed at a new place you you grow those relationships and those deep ties and then you've got to say goodbye in four years or so, and move on to your next place and socialize and meet new people all over again, from different cultures, different parts of the United States or parts of the world. So that's the fascinating part about our community in general. Over the years as a you know, you've worked in the military engagement in transition space for so long would you mind describing any career pain points or issues that you've seen over the years specifically with being a military spouse

Leslie Coffey:

specifically being a military spouse is exactly what he talked about. So when you move to a new location, you don't have the built in network and you know that over 80% of positions come from your network, they come from somebody referring you, somebody willing to put their name on the line to bring you into their organization. Well, when your military spouse, when you get there, we can't even identify who our emergency contact is for our kids. I mean, that's one of the most difficult things is when you're starting the school year, they asked you for three, I can't even figure out one emergency contact to put down less alone, no, somebody professionally, that can would be willing to refer me for an interim position. And that's where 80% of positions come from, or more than that, is from referral. So I would say, you know, those are the biggest challenges. First of all, you're going to, I'll give you one move example, Fairbanks, Alaska, there's the heart of Alaska, which is the size of three Texas's to El Paso, Texas, which was on the border. And it really, you need to be bilingual to get a position there, in all honesty. So, you know, from moving from one to the other, I didn't know anybody, I didn't know anything about El Paso. I didn't know anybody there. And because every position I looked for required you to be bilingual, I just at that point, decided to pursue my master's. So you know, that was a decision because I didn't want to gap. So I wanted to continue to progress some way. So always had to reinvent yourself. Starting from scratch, and you know, we've had six moves in eight years, so four years wouldn't have been even really nice.

KP:

Wow. Wow, that is a lot. Actually. You know, I'm used to every four years or so. So some of those moves are shorter than others, right.

Leslie Coffey:

18 months, 10 months. But yeah, the last few have been about 18 months.

KP:

Wow, that's a lot of shake up when it comes to someone's personal and professional life. And it's, that's what that's what a lot of folks need to understand when it comes to being not just a military service member of military spouse, and the kids included, I was a military brat growing up. So I grew up part of my life in Hawaii. And then I moved temporarily, for a short amount of time before my dad retired, I moved to Kansas and Fort Riley. And then I, my dad retired and all of a sudden I found myself in the middle of Ohio. And it was quite a quite a culture shock, quite a difference. You learn really quick, how to be resilient, how to be social, how to adjust and, you know, overall, as your you know, as your time as an ACP senior management, would you mind describing your experiences so far and the impact that you've seen from the organization?

Leslie Coffey:

Well, I can start by saying that I am actually one of the very few on staff that is actually alumni of the program. And the whole reason why I joined, the whole reason why I joined is because I see our program. And what we do is a gift that I always give this community that I've been serving for 26 years, but I've been here I've been with ACP for a year now we've grown by 37% in the past year, which has been phenomenal. And that just means that many more lives that we can touch and change. And we currently have about 3500 in the program right now. And that in everybody's journey is completely customized, completely different. So what that means is 3500 success stories of individual things that we get to celebrate every single day. And there's so moving, like some of the things that we hear just makes you want to help more and more.

KP:

Yeah, I think it's great in today's in today's day and age with the internet and the technology that we have I got out of the Army in 2007. And I you've heard me say this 1000 times probably but you know, the hottest thing on the Internet back then was MySpace. Thankful thankfully, we've we've progressed into having LinkedIn clubhouse, we have Facebook, we have all these other new social media platforms out there as well. So you know, ACP can really help you. It sounds like ACP can really help you connect professionally. But then also socially, when it comes to hey, you know, you spoke you spoken to Lesley coffee my husband's now getting stationed in in New York. So she can, you know, you're going to be able to give that other person some insight on what it's like to PCs, what it's like to move to that new duty station. So I think it's also a great place to connect with folks as well. And I think some of the best parts about ACP is that, you know, it's it's free, right?

Leslie Coffey:

Yes. Yeah, we were nationwide nonprofit. We've actually been around since 2008. So we were just came in and after you separated, but 23,000 have come through our program that we've completely free days why nonprofit?

KP:

And you guys serve service members, military spouses, is there any group that I'm missing out of that?

Leslie Coffey:

Yeah, so active duty Coast Guard, Reserve National Guard, anybody who's served at least 180 days post 911. So you could even come through now even though you got out in 2007, and active duty spouses, Goldstar spouses and spouses of disabled post 911 veterans.

KP:

Okay. Yeah, that's it's really fascinating. And do you know offhand approximately how many? How many folks in our military community ACP has helped over the years? Or how many people recurrently? Helping?

Leslie Coffey:

Yes, so 23,000 have officially completed. Actually, that's since we started keeping data in 2010. We launched in 2008. But we really didn't start keeping track until we figured out we were on to a good thing. Something that is very niche in 2010. So 23,000 come through. And we currently have about 3500 in the program. I wanted

KP:

to underline the whole free portion on that one there. But also want to underline too now this is for everybody, no matter where you're stationed. Correct? Yeah,

Leslie Coffey:

globally, we just actually, I was talking with a colleague of mine, on Friday, or I guess I shouldn't say the day of the week, sorry. I was talking with a colleague of mine the other day, and right before our call, he was just with a military spouse in Japan. And he was helping her to, you know, figure out who he was going to pair her with, as far as a mentor what she was looking for, to help her with her career needs in Japan.

KP:

Outstanding. And I think that's really important. You know, I was stationed at 25th in Hawaii at the time when I transitioned out. And that was a big problem, because the rest of the world is on the east coast and, or on mainland. So I would get phone calls, hey, can you come to this, this interview in Baton Rouge? And can you be here, like tomorrow or in two days? And I'm like, No, I'm in Hawaii right now actually ended, I have to put in my leave. Like, there's a lot of things that I have to do at the time I was a battalion staff officer. And you can't just pick up and go whenever you want. When you have that responsibility. And being military, it's hard not to finish your duties. And I think that was one of the challenges too, was I was trying to finish strong. When there was a certain time of my transition, I should have started facing outwardly and focused on myself. And I didn't do that. And, you know, let's see, that's why I'm here is because I don't want folks to make the same mistakes that I did the same pitfalls that I did over the years. And it's really nice to speak to folks like you who have the same type of passion as well. I wanted to ask you, you know, for military spouses out there that might be listening to this, and they're kind of on the edge, and they're not really sure if ACP is for them, or they they may not think too highly of themselves, career wise, when it comes to, you know, having a career versus just a job. What would you say to those military spouses to consider ACP? Yes, so

Leslie Coffey:

that really hurts my heart a little bit to hear, because I understand. And I can tell you, I understand, because for so many years, even actually, before my CP mentor, my CP mentor was a huge influence to launch me out of this. But for years, I was SO and SO spouse, or I was so and so's mom. I have four kids. They're all in sports. And you know, so I'm the glorified taxicab driver. So it's, you know, hey, you're so and so's mom. And Oh, you're so into a spouse, right? I didn't have my own professional identity. And that's exactly what my mentor helped me to own. And first of all to discover, because we did a lot with career exploration, but also to own and it was the first time where somebody was pouring into me, specifically, where I had always been pouring into the community or to my family, and just trying to figure out that role and just trying to put together Mosh posh, whatever I could come up with as fast as I could obtain a position in this situation, it was you know, a mentor pouring into me, and, and it's one person dedicated to my career success in my journey only and quite honestly, it was a little awkward at first, like it took some adjustment, but once I figured, you know, kind of accepted it and move past my own inner voice my own inner critic, then, you know, that's when it really took off.

KP:

I think that's very well said and yeah, it is really is really unfortunate. I was a little surprised. The I recently spoke to some military spouses and I had kind of heard that We were, he was like, Well, I don't know if this is for me, or I'm not a great speaker, or I'm not this I'm not good at. And I'm like, Yes, you are like you are good at all that stuff, stop putting yourself at a different level than then outside of the military. Now's the time to start focusing on your career. Because there's so many options out there for for folks in the, in that specific space and in a specific category. You know, and I want to ask you, Leslie, just with all your experiences and everything, you know, how, how do you think military spouses can, can overcome the obstacles of career advancement? You know, while serving in active duty, it can be really, really challenging at times.

Leslie Coffey:

Yes, I would say, you know, don't be shy and think that you have to go this alone, reach out, you have an entire tribe that would love to help you. And you know, even though you may be moving to a location where you don't know anybody, again, this whole community, chances are, I've been to 10 or 12 duty stations, I probably know somebody there and could introduce you as well as the rest of us. And that's actually something that ACP is launching with Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we're launching a specific spouse engagement support group on Facebook, so that they can go in and they can just ask these kinds of questions. And then, you know, in then we can come in with guidance and recommendations and our best practices, and help them and encourage them.

KP:

Yeah, that's, that's actually fascinating to have the interactive space for folks out there. And it's made so many other social platforms, very successful to have that that connective space. And it's great to hear that ACP is also doing the same thing. And for anyone out there that's listening right now. Let's see if they're interested in in signing up for ACP, what would be the first steps that they would take?

Leslie Coffey:

Go right to our website, ACP dash usa.org. And then there'll be a apply now button, and then you can select if you are a veteran, or if you're a military spouse, and we'll take it from there.

KP:

It's outstanding. You know, and at the beginning of this podcast, I talked about the military spouse takeover. Would you mind talking about this, this outstanding campaign that's taking place right now between academic education and ACP?

Leslie Coffey:

Yeah, so this really makes my heart so very happy. I can't even put it into words. In because I benefited from my HCP mentorship in the middle of the Mojave Desert before remote work was a thing they officially launched ACP for military spouses in 2018. on Veterans Day 2018. Before then I known about it and I, I've been in transition. So I'd always shared it, but it wasn't available to me. So when they announced they were going to make it available, spouses actually put a countdown app on my phone, so I would be one of the first to apply. And the result of mine mentorship was a 67% increase in pay. In the Mojave Desert before remote work was the thing which, if you've never been stationed in Fort Irwin, California, the closest Chick fil A is like 96 miles. So that's what I consider civilization. But my mentor really helped me with she helped me with salary negotiation gave me templates and wording and emails and, and career exploration, lots of things because she's on the Forbes coach council. So she's been on the other side of hiring desk for so long, so she could help me stand out as a candidate. But Jay and I spoke because my founder in February, he started of course, he hears myself and others on the staff that are military spouses. He understands the unique challenges as a male spouse journey. And he made a pact that he wanted to help 1000 military spouses, so who better to, to join in with then than j. And of course, I have no education, because you all are just movers and shakers, and doing all the things I just love it.

KP:

Acknowledged occation has no lack of passion, that's for sure. When I when I joined academic education that was I was quite enthusiastic about it after going through the interview process and hearing like what some of the team members from academic education, had to say as far as why they were there. Basically had me all in as far as joining that team. And it's great to hear after this entire episode listening about ACP and all the great things that they've done, to see these two titans kind of come together and build a campaign like this. And going back to what you talked about with salary negotiations. I had an experience with that too. And I, you know, I want to go back and re highlight that you said 67% pay increase after using ACP, right?

Leslie Coffey:

Yes. So you know, at the time, I hadn't even started really making a dent in my student loan Suzanne master. So when I had student loans for that, and even before my journey for undergrad, I went to seven universities as a military spouse. So that's something that I talked about enough is every because I'm super ancient, so online school wasn't a big thing then. And so all my moves, I had to, you know, transfer credits, and start I took Cal went three times, and 4.0 every time but they would say, Oh, it didn't include whatever, whatever. It's all money. But I was able to fund my undergrad with scholarships for grad school, there wasn't really a lot of scholarships, so I had student loans. So when we were in the Mojave Desert, like I had drowning in student loans, we had car payments, I got, you know, four kids and, and I was really underpaid. And, you know, so it was like robbing Peter to pay Paul. And, like, I mean, I, I get it like this thing spouses are going through, and trying to provide for their families and trying to also have that work life balance, I get it. And that's why, you know, really so passionate about it, because I don't want them to struggle as much as as we did. But with that, you know, with that increase, all my student loans are gone. Now, cars are paid off, you know, we're saving for retirement, and, you know, just really, really unfortunate. So that is the impact it had on me. And that's why I want to give this as a gift to all my peers.

KP:

That's awesome. Leslie, you know, 28 years in the military, moved all over the place had PCs moves that were as short as 18 months. And you've seen a lot of people come and go, you've you've interacted with so many folks over the years, and here you are reaching back, serving as Vice President of an outstanding and Evon outstanding organization, and you're paired up for the 1000 1000 military spouse takeover going on with act no education. For the specific launch date of this now, which is going to be six May. That is a very special day. It is it is it's a Military Spouse Appreciation Day. And so it's really important for us to to understand that. If you're a military spouse, listen to this, you know, make sure you take care of yourself. But let's just talk about the four kids, the sports, the taxi, mom, everything going on, right? You got to make sure you invest in yourself. And I think ACP is a great way for you to spend that time in the evenings or whenever you have free time of working towards your own career. But also to when I want to talk talk about this to Leslie, like the mentors for ACP can also offer a little bit of guidance when it comes to goal setting. Or when it comes to journeys, right. And so if you don't, if you don't know what you want to do, I mean, would you say that it would be a great idea for a military spouse to sign up for this to help kind of clarify that vision on where you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?

Leslie Coffey:

Yeah, so interestingly, 86% of those that come to us have no idea what they want to do on their career path. So you don't have to have that figured out. That's exactly where I'm at that Career Clarity. That's the thing that happened with me, career exploration, my mentor called it window shopping, like we have documents, I still have everything that she provided me and we're just going around and and and talking and exploring all different paths and introducing me to people and they're telling me you know, what a day in the life looks like and their position. And you know, as quickly I would be like, Hey, that's not for me, or wow, that's really cool. I could see myself doing that and and by the way, I'm you know, I'm in the nonprofit space with my undergrad as finance and I don't do anything with so so you know, don't get don't self select out of opportunities, or get yourself in a situation where you think you you have to stay a certain path that the mentor can really help you with some of that assess self assessment and figuring out you know, what really lights your fire.

KP:

Right, exactly. 100% and I want to say this to everyone out there. You don't have to be a sharpshooter when it comes to figuring out your journey, your career journey anyways, because I'm all over the place my undergrad is in is in criminal justice. My MBA is in project management. I have an MSA in organizational leadership. I'm all over the place. Right. So I really haven't used any of those degrees specifically. But, you know, the one thing that I tell people you know about that specifically, is it's not a good idea to have a straight line path unless it's a very technical job that you have to, it's kind of good to kind of go out and have these different experiences in different categories in different industries, along your along your journey, because like when it comes to project management, for example, you know, a lot of people wouldn't quite understand like, what would they have to do with my current position, but you learn a lot of things in those in those studies that you can actually apply to many different industries out there. So the fact that you're all over the place, you know that that kind of builds character is what I like to say. So you don't have to be a sharpshooter, I think it's important to have clarity, ACP is the place to go. If you don't know, you know, what you want to do. Get that clarity by talking to an ACP mentor, sign up for the military spouse takeover. And Leslie, before we finish off the podcast today, is there anything specifically that you'd like to tell our audience out there? Is there any suggestions or advice or, or nuggets of knowledge that you'd like to share, to help inspire folks?

Leslie Coffey:

Well, I'd love to just piggyback on what you were saying about not having blinders on. And being specific in a certain path, I would say give yourself permission to play, give yourself permission to play in the space dabble in some things. And you're you absolutely take nuggets from all of these positions. And if you feel like your resume is like a pinball machine or something, and it's all over the place, we can help with that we can help you to pull out what's relevant, and help it to go towards you know what your goals are. But something else that ACP offers, aside from the one to one year long, customized mentorship is even if you have a specific MIT mentor for a year, that's really there as a safe sounding board and in guidance, but we also offer what we call one off conversations. So if you're completely exploring, and you want to know what it's like to work in sports, you know, we can connect you with somebody with Major League Baseball, or the meds or is like six baseball teams, or, you know, you want to learn what it's like in broadcast and whether it's new score, or ESPN, or, really, we have 36 areas of expertise. So 115, corporate partners, even higher education, you want to know what it's like to be the Director of IT for University of Texas, or Harvard. They're also mentors in our programs. So you let us know just what interests you. And we can start aligning conversations to see really how they got there. And you know, what a day in life looks like for them. Wow,

KP:

see no more, because you know, what, I honestly did not highlight that either some of your mentors, I because I reached out to several mentors to have this conversation. And, you know, I was able to get scheduled, some scheduled some were a little too busy during this these next few weeks. But that mean, the career level of some of your mentors, is so impressive. I mean, like you just mentioned Major League Baseball, ESPN. I mean, that's, that's something I mean, these are not just people who, hey, I want to sign up as a mentor. And these are folks that actually have very, very high level standing career positions, and are volunteering as ACP mentors, like you can't reach any higher than this.

Leslie Coffey:

So like, the CEO of Campbell's Soup is a mentor in our program, the president of Oxy the chairman of Johnson and Johnson, but don't think it's overwhelming or that you shouldn't, that you'd be wasting their time because I failed on some of that with my mentor. So please learn from me understand that they are volunteering, because they want nothing more than to give back and to see you succeed. So, you know, don't think that oh, I'm not at that level. That is not the case. I can tell you, I just had a webinar with the director of human resources for HCA health care, and there's a huge conglomerate of hospitals. And she started off as an actress first in New York City. And then she was a recruiter for a law firms. So the everybody started somewhere and her journey was not straight, so they can talk to you about their own journey and how they got to their level. So you know, you can just have these conversations, you're learning from them and just understand our satisfaction rate for those that come through our programs. 97% But for the mentors, it's 99. So they get more out of this a lot of times and even the veterans or spouses like they just love it. They just want to help and that's exactly why they're volunteering.

KP:

That's, that's awesome. I don't know. I think the moon the stars in the sun all day. And when they got Lesley coffee, ACP enact education along with this takeover that's happening on the sixth of May. I, it's absolutely fascinating Leslie, I can hear in your voice, your overall passion for what you do, which is, I think is awesome. You know, and it's one of the reasons that I'm here. With the morning formation podcast, you know, I hold down a full time gig and I have a family and I have a lot of things going on and volunteer for academic education as well. So at the end of the day, what drives me what makes me get up in the morning for things like this is to hear folks like you out there also reaching out to try to make a difference in our community, because I think it the career transition portion of it all and, and just simply fitting in, I really believe will help our community out when it comes to a lot of things that hold 22 a day. 22 suicides a day, just keeping marriages together. There's so many things that this kind of fingers out and touches when it comes to our specific community. So I love what you're doing. Leslie, thank you for being who you are overall. And if anyone out there has been listening to this episode, let's say they're interested in contacting you, or whether that be through email or on your platform is how can they do that? Yes, so

Leslie Coffey:

the easiest place for me is probably going to be on LinkedIn. But for ACP, right, ACP dash usa.org. And I have to say, I think where this partnership is really going to blossom, as you will provide all of these free courses and certifications and training. It's what do they do next with those and that's what the mentors can help them to highlight it in their resume to make them marketable, to help them interview prep interview ready, and then that salary negotiation once they get the offer.

KP:

Amen. I mean, you have so many organizations out there from start to finish, you've got you know, vets, the industry, you've got act now education, you've got ACP, you've got everything from getting the certifications, getting the notifications that the certifications are available to getting the mentorship through ACP, and then finishing it off strong by actually getting the the career placement that you want. And so firstly, I just want to say thank you for joining us on the morning formation podcast today. I really hope we can do more in the future. You're a a Titan, in this community. And, and thank you for being who you are.

Leslie Coffey:

Thank you so much for the invitation. I just love it. And I love everything you all are about. So thank you for getting back to our community. We can each one reach one together.

KP:

And I gotta throw this jab in there though. I saw that you're a university Kentucky fan, which my dad my dad is as well, but I'm sorry, I'm Ohio State.

Leslie Coffey:

Rival so that's okay. You're not lovable. You're okay.

KP:

Yeah, Louisville is a tough little school, that's for sure. But anyways, yeah, love, love the whole regional competition that we got going on in the Midwest, my heart is still there, because my parents are still there. So But anyways, six may we're launching the military spouse takeover. We're helping 1000 military spouses launch their careers. This is a this is really the act now education meets ACP, you know, out there to help folks elevate their careers. And so if you're a military spouse, active duty military spouse, you're listening this right now. Go on and get signed up right now. You can go to act now education. You can go on the Facebook account, the Facebook groups, you can reach out to Lesley reach out to me, we'll lead you in the right direction. So, Leslie, thank you so much for joining us today and everyone out there who's listening. I want you to stay tuned, stay focused, and stay motivated. Warriors fall out