More than 60 percent of all high school graduates enroll into college each year across the nation, and the number has been steadily increasing annually. For one young Philadelphia native, college was the next logical step after high school and the option of serving in the Navy was far from his mind. Little did he know a chance encounter with a Navy recruiter would change the course of his life.
Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Lester Hamilton, assigned to Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Philadelphia, grew up in a household where college was the next step after high school. His older sister was already working on her master’s degree when it came time for him to select a college, and naturally he wished to follow in her footsteps.
“As a younger brother, I saw what my sister was doing, and there was no doubt in my mind that this is what I should do too,” shared Hamilton. “I graduated with a Bachelor's in Technical Management in Help Services, and it was time to put my degree to use and get my career going.”
But he realized quickly that just having a degree, fresh out of college, was not enough to have a fulfilling career. Every job he applied for would start him at the lowest level possible, regardless of his education.
“Every job told me I had to start at the bottom, and that's not what I was told when I was growing up,” said Hamilton. “I believed that you go to school, get a degree, and then get a great job.” Hamilton continued, “Nobody said you had to start at the bottom. I remember thinking that I didn’t have the college advantage I thought I would.”
Hamilton ended up working three jobs to support his household bills and student loans. Many jobs he hoped for required a degree and experience, but he lacked the experience. Hamilton struggled with questions like; how does a young college graduate manage with a low income and high student loan debt? Was his expectation that a higher degree would earn him a higher paying position unrealistic? Frustrated and looking for better life options, Hamilton came across a Navy recruiter.
“I ended up meeting a recruiter at one of the three jobs I was working. He wasn’t actively recruiting at the time, just shopping for his family, but we started talking and eventually I ended up at a recruiting station,” said Hamilton. “There, I figured that I was going to be able to have a better career, I was going to be able to fast track myself with military experience, instead of doing what everybody else does.”
Hamilton chose to work in the Navy aviation field. It was a set of skills he didn’t have, and something he found exciting. Learning about new tools or inspecting something and diagnosing a problem was fun for Hamilton. He said it was like putting a puzzle together. He also felt friendly competition with people who, unlike him, may have grown up with basic mechanical skills and knowledge. The opportunity allowed him to work in a diverse, fast-paced environment while soaking up all the knowledge that others had. During that time he also realized his true passion.
“Between my two previous commands, I earned many qualifications and additional responsibilities, which included command financial specialist. By doing these jobs, I really understood that I have a passion for educating people,” said Hamilton. “I realized how much I love teaching people, I love educating, and I love showing different perspectives.”
The Navy was helping Hamilton gain lots of experience, but it wasn’t until he had the chance to become a recruiter that he found something that really brought out his drive and passion.
“Recruiting was instantly the right fit for me,” shared Hamilton. “This job allows me to take care of people, be able to understand and show them how they can mitigate their circumstances, or give them a different direction in life. When you know how to help other people you can help yourself. I like being a liaison for growth. As in my growth and other people's growth. Helping people is probably one of the best things you can do!”
Hamilton shared that the most rewarding part in recruiting is helping young men and women pave a new path to adulthood, and seeing them take the oath of enlistment before shipping out to boot camp.
“As a recruiter, I am able to give these young men and women an opportunity to take advantage of what the Navy has to offer,” said Hamilton. “The most rewarding thing is watching people make the decision to do something different; to know that they're going to live a completely different life than everybody else. I'm super proud of everybody that I have put in the world's greatest Navy!”
Hamilton credits recruiting with helping him become a better communicator and organizer. By learning to better understand people and how he can help shape their future, he said he is experiencing personal growth and development himself.
“As recruiters and Sailors, it is our job not only to find the people who can be our future replacements, but to find the people who want to excel at their jobs, because that's what actually makes our Navy great,” said Hamilton.
NTAG Philadelphia encompasses regions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia, providing recruiting services from more than 30 talent acquisition sites with the overall goal of attracting the highest quality candidates to ensure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.
At the end of this year, Navy Recruiting Command will consist of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 26 NTAGs and 64 Talent Acquisition Onboarding Centers (TAOCs) that will serve more than 1,000 recruiting stations around the world. Their mission is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.
For more news from Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, go to http://www.cnrc.navy.mil. Follow Navy Recruiting on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NavyRecruiting), Twitter (@USNRecruiter) and Instagram (@USNRecruiter).