How to find and keep a career when you are a military spouse
Being a military spouse can be fun, exciting and challenging. The majority of us support our service members in all their endeavors. We encourage them to aim high for promotions to the next rank and follow them around the world — all for the betterment and progression of their careers.
However, that doesn't mean we don't want careers of our own.
In the midst of supporting our spouses, some of us lose out on our own career goals. Many times I have sat and thought about how I had to stop school because we were PCSing and something as small as an internet glitch had me put my educational aspirations on hold. I've also heard countless experiences from fellow military spouses with high level degrees who have given up great careers to follow their husbands around the world.
Career plans derailed?
A 2004 study by the Rand Corporation revealed “military wives are less likely to be employed than civilian wives, and earn an average $5,500 to $7,400 less a year." Is it really necessary for military spouses to give up career goals and opportunities that we worked so hard to get? Do we really have to accept rejection when an employer won’t hire us because of being a military spouse?
As much as you love and support your significant other, you must realize that you are still your own person. Just because we are military spouses does not mean we don’t have our own goals and aspirations too. Uncle Sam utilizes our service members, so turn the tables and make use of the life Uncle Sam has given you.
Make it work for you
It’s understandable in an area dominated by military personnel that it is hard not to be recognized as a military spouse. However, if you have a feeling that a potential employer might reject you based on frequent relocation, then keep your military affiliation low-key. If all else fails, make the fact that you have moved to various regions and countries work for you.
Susan Hoppin, founder of the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN) says," A combination [skills] resume as opposed to a chronological resume will allow you to highlight your skills and achievements in a more prominent manner. When the question does come up, use your varied experience to your benefit by talking about how you've been able to gather best practices from a variety of different organizations and experiences."
Tap in to available resources
Many military spouses don’t know about the vast resources that are available on the internet to help them find money for education or locate businesses that give military spouses hiring preference. Making use of the time you are home to find these resources will help you to be home much less in the future because you will be working. If you are seeking financial aid for school, use grants such as MyCAA and keep an eye open for scholarships open only to military spouses.
Most military installations have a community services building where you can go and sign up to volunteer at different locations around your military base. Volunteering is a good way to keep your career skills fresh. Volunteering on base can also put you in the forefront for what can become paid full-time positions in the future.
Network, network, network! You should also make use of organizations such as the NMSN, which helps military spouses to balance their own career goals and the military life at the same time. The NMSN also holds Spouse Summits where you can network with potential employers in an environment where they understand your lifestyle.
Lastly, I know most of us assume work-at-home jobs are scams, but in this day and age telecommuting and portable careers are where it’s at — especially for military spouses. For those who are seeking interaction with the public, Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces initiative has partnered with Convergys to hire military spouses in customer service positions from home. Also, websites such as Elance.com offer opportunities for at-home positions as writers, virtual assistants, social media directors and more.
No matter where you live, you can always have a career. Military spouses just have to hustle a little bit harder than everyone else.