David Riggs: Making a Difference

U.S. Air Force Veteran

The dream job for me is something that is purposeful…and makes a difference to other people.

More than 21 years of service in the military helped Air Force veteran David Riggs discover he had a unique set of skills in human resource management. 

“While my primary job in the Air Force was in communications, I learned to do a lot of different things throughout my career, including education, training, supervision, mentoring and quality control,” Riggs said. “My career in the Air Force really got me interested in pursuing the field of HR management."

After retiring from service in 2008, Riggs went on to make his dream career in HR a reality. He obtained a degree in HR management but faced several setbacks when it came to translating his degree into his first civilian career. Compounding those setbacks was a service-connected knee surgery as well as other physical and emotional challenges.

After setbacks and surgeries, he finally sets out to find his dream job.

“It’s been a struggle to rebound from the knee surgery and various physical and emotional cycles,” Riggs says. “But I have a supportive family and was not afraid to ask for help, and I discovered there were certain triggers. That helped me to manage it all better.”

Now, Riggs is on a quest to discover his dream job. He currently works as a part-time faculty instructor in human resource management at the University of Phoenix San Antonio campus. While thankful for the part-time position, he is still hoping to secure something permanent and full-time.

Combining passion with purpose, his ideal career also helps veterans.

It was in the quest for permanent, full-time employment that Riggs met Susan Sprayberry, an employment counselor with Operation PAVE (Paving Access to Veteran Employment), Paralyzed Veterans of America’s award-winning vocational program that provides free one-on-one job counseling and placement assistance to veterans, their families and caregivers, and specializes in assisting veterans with disabilities seeking to re-enter the workforce.

Riggs has since worked with Operation PAVE to secure that dream job, which he identifies as one that would enable him to combine his passion for HR management with his legacy of service both in the military and nonprofit organizations. They have to have a purpose and be doing something both in the military and nonprofit organizations. He volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and Operation Homefront and various other veteran organizations.

People often tell me that the dream job is staying home and doing whatever you want, but most military members I know are highly-driven.  They have to have a purpose and be doing something.

"I volunteer with organizations that focus on military families and helping them with their needs,” he says. “I’m trying to give back in whatever way I can because I was helped when I got out of the military.”

The ideal way to give back would be serving veterans looking to make the transition from military service to civilian life, Riggs says, adding that he’d particularly like to help veterans hone their skills in tailoring their resume to a specific job field.

“You feel bad asking for help when you were the one providing protection for the country and then are on the other side needing help,” Riggs says. “You feel bad asking for the help and then discover it was not what you needed, so then you don’t ask again. I have friends who have done that.”

While new to Operation PAVE, Riggs says he has great hopes that his experience with the program will be different in helping him tailor his skills to a particular job and ultimately land fulfilling employment.

“People often tell me that the dream job is staying home and doing whatever you want, but most military members I know are highly-driven,” Riggs says. “They have to have a purpose and be doing something. The dream job for me is something that is purposeful, gives back to the community and makes a difference to other people.”