Balancing HR Career with Life as Military Wife

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 23, 2015
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Edna Ortiz

​Edna Lugo, SHRM-CP

Advancing her HR career has not been smooth sailing for Edna Lugo, SHRM-CP. Her husband’s career in the U.S. Coast Guard has meant uprooting their family more than once, and she has found that employers are hesitant to hire someone who likely will be moving in a few years.

“I wish employers would see we [military wives] could offer a lot in the few years we have” with an organization, she said.

Lugo, her husband and their two children will move from Louisiana to Alabama shortly after she returns from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Before that happens, though, she’s looking forward to her first Annual Conference. She is one of five recipients of a new scholarship the SHRM Foundation awarded in 2015. The nearly $2,500 scholarship enables HR professionals who have been unable to experience the Annual Conference because of lack of financial support to attend. It comes with full-conference registration, four nights’ housing at a conference hotel and a $500 travel stipend.

Moving the family twice during five years of marriage has allowed Lugo to empathize with military veterans who must start over in the civilian world after their tour of duty ends.

Lugo had built her career at a company in Florida before she met her husband. She had started as a trainee and, over 11 years, worked her way up to branch manager, moved to the corporate office and became an HR supervisor, and was promoted to regional HR manager. She loved working for the organization and had her eye on a Group HR Manager position. She was pregnant with their second child when the Coast Guard transferred her husband to a small town in Louisiana in 2012.

She was “crushed” that she would have to leave a job she loved because there was no transfer opportunity. She searched for a position for three months, scared that she would join the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Through networking with a SHRM chapter in Louisiana, she landed a temporary HR position in local government that led to a full-time job. While grateful to have a job, she found it “humbling” to be underemployed and earning half the salary to which she had become accustomed.

“It’s hard to get the pay or positions that we’ve had in the past,” the HR specialist wrote in her scholarship application about the challenge military wives face.

Lugo had never networked until she and her family moved to Louisiana, but she plans to continue the practice at SHRM chapter meetings in Mobile, Ala., and hopes it will lead to a new job.

She is excited to be attending the conference—she downloaded the conference app weeks beforehand—and to meet HR professionals from Alabama. She wants to increase her knowledge of talent acquisition, compensation and benefits, and to become a more well-rounded manager, she said. Lugo is interested in attending concurrent sessions that are strategic and global in nature.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.

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