An Army veteran and military spouse, alumna shares challenging transition to civilian life, career
There aren’t a ton of 36-year-old interns out there, and Sarah Sattelberg was keenly aware of her unique status three months prior to earning a communication studies degree from Campbell. Her career path still very much an unknown, Sattelberg took to LinkedIn to pen a succinct, yet impactful post on the struggles of military spouses making the transition to civilian careers.
“My career was dictated by where the Army sent us and how long we would be stationed there,” she wrote back in February. “From 2012 to 2020, we moved five times. While I worked at every duty station, had some great positions and am a veteran, my resume doesn’t necessarily make sense in the civilian world.
“So I decided I might as well start at the beginning.”
The post connected with both friends and strangers, topping 3,000 likes and more than 400 comments in the days that followed. Military veterans and spouses said they empathized with Sattelberg’s situation, and those who didn’t were quick to offer their support and — in several cases — job offers.
“Military or not, there’s a lot of people out there who are deciding they want to go for a completely different career than the one they’re in or had before,” says Sattelberg. “Making that transition at an older stage in life can be a little weird and very stressful. [The response] showed me I’m not the only one doing this.”
The post caught the attention of 2004 alumna and fellow communication studies graduate Katie Smith, a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Smith shared Sattelberg’s words with the Office of Alumni Engagement, who coincidentally had an opening for a new director.
Two days after she walked the stage at Barker-Lane Stadium on May 14, Sattelberg started her first official day as the director of alumni engagement. While she received several interview requests and even a few offers in the days and weeks following her post, Sattelberg says working for Campbell seemed like the right fit at the right time.
“I enjoyed the feeling I had as a student at Campbell, so when I started looking at job opportunities, Campbell aligned well with what I was looking for,” says Sattelberg, who originally hoped to find communications work in the nonprofit sector. “This position also offered a lot of what I enjoy doing — working with people and engaging with them to see how we can better support them. And then our mentorship programs and the events we host — I love the idea that I won’t be doing the same thing every day. This position has a little bit of everything.”
A native of Twin Falls, Idaho, Sattelberg grew up in a family with a rich military history — her grandfather and his four brothers were all pilots in the Air Force; one of them killed in action during WWII. Her stepfather is a Navy veteran, and her uncle was in the Army. Sattelberg was a sophomore in high school on Sept. 11, 2001, and that attack on U.S. soil pushed her toward joining the Army after graduation.
“Seeing the tragedy unfold, it just made me want to do something about it,” she says. “And having the patriotic military family connection, I think it just fueled that desire even more.”
Sattelberg joined with a career in military medicine in mind. Her initial deployment took her to Korea for two years — she had expected the Middle East — and eventually she landed in Texas at Fort Hood, where she met her future husband, Sgt. Maj. Ryan Sattelberg, who served in five different deployments in Iraq, as well as Bosnia and Kosovo. His career as a non-commissioned officer sent the two and their three children all over the country — from 2012 to 2020 alone, the family moved five times before finding a home in North Carolina.
The moves were necessary for her husband’s career, but for Sarah, it meant for a convoluted resume — a too common problem for military spouses, she says, especially when trying to transition to a “civilian career.” The LinkedIn post was a combination of sharing her testimony, educating hiring managers on military resumes and a little bit of venting her own frustrations as a 36-year-old intern nearing graduation.
“Even when I didn’t have a job, I was involved in my community and actively engaged with the Association of the U.S. Army [a nonprofit educational and professional development association serving the Army and supporters of a strong national defense], which has close to 100,000 members,” Sattelberg says. “In the civilian world, it’s hard to explain that responsibility clearly.”
When her husband retired from the military in 2020, Sattelberg was ready for her “time to shine.” Her new title at Campbell is an exciting step for her and her family.
“I’m really enjoying my role,” she says. “I love meeting new people and hearing their Campbell stories. And I like our team, which is really important. We’re really trying to make connections that are meaningful to our alumni and to this institution, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”