Cigna | Adapting to Change Quickly |
Published in the September/October 2012 issue of print Search & Employ® |
Jennifer Marie Pence is a talent acquisition manager at Cigna Corporation, a global health services company. Cigna provides an integrated suite of services such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, and vision care benefits; and related products, including group disability, life, and accident coverage.
Pence was in the Air Force from 1991 to 2000, separating as a staff sergeant. She spent her first three years as an avionics specialist – communications and navigation – working on C-5 aircraft at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Then she took advantage of the Air Force’s cross-training opportunity and transitioned to human resources specialist. In her HR role, Pence held positions in formal training, leadership development, relocations/outbound, and retirements/separations; and also worked as an HR generalist. She was stationed in Altus; Aviano, Italy; and Rapid City, South Dakota.
At Cigna, Pence is a member of the strategic recruiting team, which provides staffing and placement services to internal customers throughout the global enterprise. She started as a senior talent consultant for Pharmacy in September 2003. She added Behavioral Health in January 2005. In 2007, she transitioned to a direct people manager role, and has managed the Underwriting and Informatics, Enterprise Operations, and Clinical hiring teams.
Pence credits her early leadership opportunities and global experience in the Air Force for her civilian success. “My military career was highly rewarding, and I consider it to be the foundation of my professional and personal success,” she said. “The skills and opportunities I was offered in the Air Force at such a young age really molded me into the leader I am today. Moving from various bases and having rotational assignments, I was able to learn to adapt to change quickly and evolve my learning agility to better meet the needs and challenges of a corporate environment. Having global experience and working with a diverse workforce gave me the teamwork, collaboration, and partnering skills needed to drive results.”
The problem-solving skills she sharpened in the Air Force have also paid off. “In the military, you have to exercise critical, effective thinking every day,” Pence said. “I have used these skills throughout my civilian career, and we look for many of these capabilities when we acquire talent throughout our organization.”
She says networking is fundamental for anyone leaving the military and looking for a civilian career. “If you are a veteran transitioning to a civilian career, I recommend you network with different professional associations,” Pence said. “When I left the Air Force, I had no idea that there was a professional HR organization [Society for Human Resource Management], or that there was a certification you could obtain, which would make you a more attractive candidate in the applicant pool. The partnerships you gain through networking give you the knowledge and confidence to help you achieve a better fit when you make your transition.”
Pence also advises that veterans not sell themselves short. “Your competencies are transferrable,” she said, “and many companies see the value your background and experiences can bring to their organizations. Focus on your strengths and what you have gained from building your career portfolio and stay optimistic. A civilian career is right around the corner, and it can be a highly rewarding new chapter in your life.”