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Noelle Wiehe

Relocation for Work

By Features, Resources

All that I was allowed to bring for a 12-week basic combat training and 14-week advanced individual training fit inside this carry-on sized bag. I remember I packed a favorite pair of black sweatpants, Army-approved undies, an eyeliner pen, a t-shirt and some tennis shoes. Screengrab courtesy of Noelle Wiehe.

When the military first takes your life into their hands, all you’re allotted is a bag with a change of clothes. I remember that for basic combat training, I thought I’d never packed so little for what would be the longest “trip” of my life. I felt the same when I deployed – only so much stuff fits in your small corner of the world inside a giant shipping container with sheets for curtains and a twin bunk bed frame to sleep on.

Now that you’ve hung up the uniform, the life of luxury doesn’t fit in a duffel.

Alas, we’ve chosen the hard work of the fourth estate, and with this journey comes the expectation of relocation all over again. I’ve had two professors at two separate universities warn me that if I want to have a career in the journalism field, I’m going to have to move.

At least in the military, we were tasked with making a list of our top three duty stations. That might not be the case in journalism. Depending on your situation, you might not have time to wait for a call from The New York Times, and the anchors in your hometown might not be passing on the baton anytime soon. Instead, you may consider moving to middle-of-nowhere Texas, where they need an eager and enthusiastic newbie to work as a general assignment reporter and cover stock shows held in an ag building (true story). Just like the military, though, if you embrace every opportunity, you can have a lot of fun.

The first and most important tip that I have for you when you land a dream job in a place you know nothing about is to network. As a service member, you were a part of the 1% of Americans who serve in the United States military, and now you’re a part of the 7% who are U.S. military veterans in this world. Use your connections. I’ll even give you a headstart: your best one could be right here within Military Veterans in Journalism. This incredible organization connects you to veterans of all branches on the same career path as you.

Noelle Wiehe, general assignment reporter at the Vernon Daily Record from November 2012-October 2013. I covered stock shows for the local high schools in my combat Army boots. Photo courtesy of Noelle Wiehe.

Another great resource is the people who hired you. I nearly took a job in Florida before moving to Georgia here, but the editor told me that if I was relocating, the apartments and houses open were few and far between because the area was still recovering from a hurricane. I took this advice and even considered purchasing an RV, but ultimately turned down the job.

Starting over brand new in a city or small town is hard, and only you know what you need to keep your sanity.

My start date and move-in date did not line up for my first move for journalism. So, I found a campground approximately an hour from the newspaper office so that I could start working and still have a place to shower and sleep until my apartment was ready.

You have to have a plan. And then, you have to have a backup plan.

Being adaptable is key – but hopefully, you’ve kept that trait in your veteran-hood.

The dedicated folks who make up Military Veterans in Journalism at the 2022 Convention in Washington, DC. Not only are these a great group to keep in mind for networking, but they’re also all a lot of fun. Photo courtesy of MVJ.

The 2022 Military Veterans in Journalism Convention, held in Washington D.C.My advice is to know what you need in a new place. One of my biggest priorities is building a way to make friends fast. Right after I lock down a job and a place to live, I’m looking up what recreational sports leagues there are and joining “Foodies of [insert new city]” Facebook groups to find hangouts.

The 2022 Military Veterans in Journalism Convention, held in Washington D.C.The career may not come with as many built-in friends as the military did, but that’s why Military Veterans in Journalism exists. If you’re considering a move and would like to pick my brain about some things, please feel free to email me. I’ve lived in nine states and one shipping container in the Middle East chasing this military journalism dream, and believe me, I’ve got more than these 600 words of tips for anyone who wants to listen.

Noelle Wiehe, the author of this article, joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted public affairs soldier. She followed her dream of telling the military’s story from outside the uniform, working in downtown Savannah as editor-in-chief at Connect Savannah before landing a fellowship through Military Veterans in Journalism to work for Coffee or Die Magazine. She is now seeking to continue her journalism passion. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

Graceful Transition

By Features

The author spending time with veterans in France. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I lost my dream job on a sunny Tuesday morning in February. 

I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. I was slowly removed from some corporate accounts, and my job had changed. I had gone from traveling to France to visit battlegrounds with WWII veterans and the Best Defense Foundation volunteers and tagging along in Kodiak, Alaska in Coast Guard members’ MH-60T Jayhawks to being assigned (and writing) less stories. I was losing enthusiasm.

Thus, the bad news came. I first saw my two editors taken out of the work communication channels. Then came my turn. The whole meeting only lasted a few minutes. I was asked if I had any questions, while my editor’s advice was ringing through my head: “Maintain professionalism.” Of course I’ve got questions, but none that’ll serve me here or offer me any solace. 

In tears, a little angry, and a little hurt, I was left to face the hard truth: it was time to move on.

I read an article that referred to something resembling my response as “threat mode.” It sounds most accurate for how I immediately went to job boards searching for a description most closely matching the dream job I was just relieved from. It’s got to be out there, I thought.

Removing my mark on company property. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I had to purchase new equipment. My company requested mine back. So, I commenced removing the stickers, wiping my files, and undoing the past year I’ve lived out with these pieces of technology. That night took a lot out of me. (Also, no one told me about the blow dryer method on stickers until after I’d scraped them off!)

Now, I spend some days buried in my laptop just searching job boards, messing with my resume, applying to jobs, checking my email, and updating my LinkedIn. Other days I let myself soak up some sun on a local beach to clear my head and regain some hope that I’ll be ok. I’ve worked so hard to have a solid career that it really knocked me down when it all went downhill. But it’s just a job.

After it happened, I was informed that my former employer had set me up with a career coach to get me back into the workforce. It reminded me remarkably of how the military sent me back into the civilian world with their Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program. 

A decorative pillow at a coffee shop in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

My instinct with this new resume and career path coach was to cry to her. But her job is not to be a therapist – instead, she is a coach meant to launch me into my new path. I recognized that and held in my grief for another time. She was here to help me look forward, not backward.

“Allow the road ahead of you to speak louder than the road behind you.” – Unknown.

A lot of people in my life are serving this purpose. They lived my whole past 18 months with me or through me. They don’t need me to tell them that I’m heartbroken or that it’s hard to make such a transition when you’d had such high hopes. No, they wanted to serve my future. They wanted to help me on my new adventure, and this was their opportunity to be a part of it.

I had so many people looking out for me. I had not been fired before, but I’d moved on to new jobs plenty. This time it was like I’d already set myself up. I had networked well over the past year and publicized my passion for my job. People reached out the second they heard the news, and I think that was the most helpful occurrence. 

The author on a Florida beach. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I got phone calls. I ran into folks who’d seen my social media post about being let go, and texts poured in with resources to use in my search for my new path. Some of the most notable were a colleague from my first-ever journalism internship 12 years ago and the folks at Military Veterans in Journalism.

I knew back in the summer of 2011 during my internship and in 2021 when I came across MVJ that I had found my people. They have the same passions, goals, and ambitions. They’re climbing ladders alongside me and helping me prop up my own when I fall down.

Every step of this journey, whether employed or unemployed, my fellow journalists and others I built these professional relationships with have been on my side. I fully intend to keep my journalism colleagues and MVJ in my pocket no matter where this journey goes.

My advice, from experience, is to give yourself some grace in these times. I followed through on the vacations I planned, took plenty of time for self-care, and called on friends when I needed them. Grief is a salty mistress. It comes in waves, and while losing a job isn’t comparable to a physical loss, it put me into a grieving cycle that I’m still in.

I am lucky I have a little time to figure it out yet. Time is money, though, so I’m constantly looking, hoarding the pennies I’ve got, and searching for the way I’ll bring in my future paychecks. I’m making sure that way is what I want.

I’m searching for my dream job again. We all go through it. At least, that’s what I hear.

Noelle Wiehe, the author of this article, joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted public affairs soldier. She followed her dream of telling the military’s story from outside the uniform, working in downtown Savannah as editor-in-chief at Connect Savannah before landing a fellowship through Military Veterans in Journalism to work for Coffee or Die Magazine. She is now seeking to continue her journalism passion. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

Blog post cover image for "Newsrooms Should Harness the Hiring Incentive of the WOTC". Dark blue diamond-patterned background, the MVJ logo, and the blog title in white text.

Newsrooms Should Harness the Hiring Incentive of the WOTC

By Resources

Newsrooms want to hire veterans. Or they should, anyway. 

Hiring veterans is a great strategy for employers: allowing them to gain high performing employees who are dedicated with an array of skills. Companies are incentivized to hire. 

This is important to know. It singles us out, but if you know this fact, you may as well harness the information and use it to your advantage. 

United States military veterans can leverage their service when applying to jobs thanks to the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash.

Whether a service member put in two years or 46 years of service, newsrooms are given what is called a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for hiring them as “targeted groups who have faced significant barriers to employment.” That credit can be as much as $9,600 per veteran hired.

The credit available starts at $2,400 and can increase depending on the group and wages paid to the employee in the first year of employment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, it can increase by 40% of the employee’s qualified wages made in the first year, given a 400+ hours first year of employment.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal tax credit incentivizes increased diversity within the workplace. We know that diversity impacts the caliber of journalism. This general business credit, provided under section 51 of the Internal Revenue Code, The credit is available to employers up until December 31, 2025, under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.

Veterans aren’t the only ones who qualify a company for the credit. A newsroom who hires any person within one of the designated targeted groups could receive a federal tax credit per individual brought on to work.

Those in the targeted groups include:

  • Qualified recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
  • Qualified veterans receiving Food Stamps or qualified veterans with a service-connected disability who:
    • have a hiring date which is not more than one year after having been discharged or released from active duty OR
    • have aggregate periods of unemployment during the one-year period ending on the hiring date that equal or exceed six months.
  • Ex-felons hired no later than one year after conviction or release from prison.
  • Designated Community Resident – an individual who has attained ages 18 but not 40 on the hiring date who resides in an Empowerment Zone, or Rural Renewal County.
  • Vocational rehabilitation referrals, including Ticket Holders with an individual work plan developed and implemented by an Employment Network.
  • Qualified summer youth ages 16 through 17 who reside in an Empowerment Zone.
  • Qualified Food Stamp recipients ages 18 but not 40 on the hiring date.
  • Qualified recipients of Supplemental Security Income.
  • Long-term family assistance recipients.
  • Qualified Long-Term Unemployment Recipients.

Unlike your age, marital status, and proposed days off in the future, you should reveal your inclusion as a member of the targeted group up front to potential employers because you and they must complete some paperwork on the day or before you’re offered the job for the newsroom to qualify for the credit. 

There are also plenty of ways to connect targeted group members seeking employment to the companies willing and looking to hire them. The American Job Center assists interested employers in recruiting, hosting job fairs, doing skills assessment, and providing support during the transition to the new job.  

A state workforce agency such as the military’s Vocational Rehabilitation or Veterans Administration can predetermine a job seeker as qualifying as part of a WOTC targeted group.  The agency can note this determination with a Conditional Certification, ETA Form 9062. This cuts out a significant step in the process by alerting employers seeking to grow their workforce to the availability of the tax credit and providing a means for employers to request a WOTC certification for the prospective new hire. 

Both taxable and some tax-exempt U.S. employers are eligible to claim the credit. The difference is that taxable employers claim the WOTC against income taxes, while eligible tax-exempt employers can claim the WOTC only against payroll taxes and only for wages paid to qualifying veterans.

Veterans who served anywhere between two to 46 years can be considered a part of a targeted group eligible for a tax credit when hired by a company. Photo by Syndey Rae on Unsplash.

While I did say you, I wasn’t addressing all veterans who may be reading this piece. Not every veteran may qualify for this perk with their new employer, unfortunately. The IRS defines a qualified veteran as: 

  • A veteran who is a member of a family receiving assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, for at least a three-month period during the 15-month period ending on the employee’s hiring date
  • A veteran who was unemployed for periods of time totaling between four weeks to six months in the one-year period ending on the veteran’s hiring date
  • A veteran who was unemployed for periods of time totaling at between six months in the previous year ending on the hiring date
  • A veteran who is entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability and hired not more than one year after their date of discharge or when they were released from active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or
  • A military veteran who is entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability of any rating and unemployed for periods of time totaling at least six months in the one-year period ending on their hiring date.

A veteran’s spouse may also qualify for the credit, thanks to the Military Spouse Hiring Act of 2022. It hasn’t passed just yet, but if the act goes into effect, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit would include military spouses. According to the current law, the tax credit only extends coverage to qualified military veterans as members of those targeted groups, not military spouses.

Those factors which may make all of this null and void are the limitations: 

  • A qualifying employee must work at least 120 hours – or about three solid, full-time workweeks – during their first year with the company 
  • The tax credit is limited to W-2 employees and does not apply to 1099 or contract workers. 
  • Nepotism excludes a qualified veteran from earning their company the tax credit, as family members hired do not qualify. Business owners also cannot qualify themselves as WOTC employees. 

All things considered, the tax credit gives veterans another (yes, another) leg up on their competition when going out for their dream jobs – or just a job that’ll bring home the bacon. It is important to research the steps necessary to apply for the tax credit and to involve your employer. Consider it another page on your ILoveMe Book. Make an effort to scrape up the proper forms and bring up the tax credit if your employer doesn’t first. You’ll actually be getting them paid for paying you.

Noelle Wiehe, the author of this article, joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted public affairs soldier. She followed her dream of telling the military’s story from outside the uniform, working in downtown Savannah as editor-in-chief at Connect Savannah before landing a fellowship through Military Veterans in Journalism to work for Coffee or Die Magazine. She is now seeking to continue her journalism passion. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

The Journey to Military Journalism and Being Launched Into My Dream Job

By Features

My Google search history would expose that I was unhappy at my job in the months before I heard back on an application I’d put in for a fellowship with Military Veterans in Journalism.

I had been blessed by a hyper-local Savannah magazine with a chance to land on my feet after my jump from military service to the civilian workforce. However, the content and my lack of management experience left me unfulfilled and ultimately failing.

My mindset wasn’t healthy anymore. I was missing deadlines, one employee under me was getting away with neglect of her duties, and I wasn’t able to share my successes as much as I usually do. My mental health was back to that of an underachieving specialist – E4 – in the military. And I thought to myself, “This can’t be it…”

I can’t claim this clarity of thinking is always the case, but I knew I had to follow my own advice: “If you don’t like something, change it.” I needed a change. The day I got the call from Military Veterans in Journalism – I’m almost positive it was from Rich Dolan – to tell me I’d been accepted for the fellowship program was the catalyst to my next biggest and most rewarding adventure.

I always knew I wanted to work in journalism, and through my internships in college, I decided my passion was military reporting. I had worked for a small town paper in Texas, a shuttle company in Alabama, the Fort Benning newspaper and a town paper in Bluffton, South Carolina – and then I joined the Army. I joined because I wasn’t getting where I wanted to be, and I didn’t know as much about the military as I wanted to be a master of the craft I was chasing. I also felt the need to serve because of all my friends who always said they “could never.”

Through Advanced Individual Training at the Defense Information School in Maryland, I got a refresher on journalism and was thrown into the fire at Fort Stewart, Georgia. I covered a Rodney Adkins concert on-post and a massive military training event in my first week. I was back where I was supposed to be.

I respect those who serve so much more after having been in the uniform myself for several years and having spent nine months away from home on deployment.

I thought I’d be a shoo-in for a federal job when I got out of the military. Hell, I was already working one as part of my military career. I didn’t transition quite in time, though, and the agency had to fill the position before I was eligible to apply.

Despite this, I was able to continue to pursue journalism, but the content I was making wasn’t fulfilling for me. I remember thinking, “How does a military veteran get into military journalism?” It sounds so easy, yet those federal positions don’t take just anyone who applies, and not all the newsrooms I was hoping to work for had openings when I needed them. 

I started my research to answer that question at just the right time and landed on this organization: Military Veterans in Journalism. I had found my people through a simple Google search. I only wished it happened sooner. The stars aligned just in time because I was eager to get to writing about the inside from outside of the uniform.

I got in touch with Rich and Russell, then saw the opportunity for a fellowship. I was familiar with the concept, as I’d done internships in college, but I wasn’t sure if the idea would be a step down from my full-time career goals.

Ultimately, the reward of being launched into my dream career was worth the risk of giving up an unfulfilling job. I applied as fast as I could and heard back down the road. Russell told me I was within the top three applicants, so he asked me, “Where do you want to go?” Coffee or Die was my top choice, and I was placed with them.

I worked up my resignation letter for my job and worked out a home office to work from so I could start with the magazine. While working from home was already quite an adjustment, I wasn’t prepared for the amazing remote work opportunities that came my way.

During a very fulfilling six-month fellowship and another six working as a paid employee with Coffee or Die, I traveled to 18 locations. I went to Montana, France, Atlanta, Alaska, Colorado and Arizona, among others. 

When I go on these trips, it’s just me out there getting the story. And when the magazine is spending the money to send me, they want as much content as possible. That’s all on me – and I refuse to fail. I’ve had a blast gathering content in all new ways and learning more about this world than I ever thought I would. I even forged a knife during one assignment.

I didn’t realize how much I had left to learn, though. Through my fellowship, I worked under two senior editors who taught me the magazine’s unique style and helped me learn about branches other than the one in which I’d served. My writing has improved, and my confidence has, too. I also learned a new skill, videography, during my remote work. 

Nothing comes easy, but if you decide what you want and work hard for it, your hard work will pay off. If it doesn’t, you’re not done yet. I think it’s amazing that the exact group I wanted to be a part of had an entire organization already created. It was like someone was thinking about it before I had the chance to.

Noelle Wiehe, the author of this article, is an Army veteran and the military & first responder beat reporter for Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a passion for sharing stories of heroes and people who are far more interesting than they think they are.