Navigating the Job Market: The Milspouse Edition
Ever since I was young, I had big aspirations for my career. At age five, I knew I was going to be an artist. By age eleven, I wanted to be a journalist and magazine editor. At fourteen, I was convinced I was meant to be an emergency room physician. From sixteen forward, I had it right— I wanted to be (and eventually became) a graphic designer.
As with any new relationship, my aspirations shifted a bit when I met my husband. He is on his second active duty enlistment in the military, and I’d be lying if I said his career didn’t throw a few roadblocks into the path of my career plans. I’m not alone, either. Military spouses face unique challenges when it comes to their professional careers.
For starters, you can’t choose where you live, and military installations aren’t always situated in prime job markets. A career is hard to establish when you know you will be moving every two or three years. A resume full of short-term jobs usually requires an explanation to potential employers. Balancing a job, your spouse’s absences, long and unpredictable work hours, and family is not an easy feat, but— ask anyone in this unique situation— it can absolutely be done!
The hard and simple truth is this: you have to work to get work. It takes time, effort, and know-how. If you’re anything like me, there probably has come a time when you’ve felt stuck. Lost. Maybe like you’re just ready to say “I’m done” and throw in the towel. But listen— don’t give up. There are so many resources out there for military spouses. The trick is just finding them and using them to your advantage!
Here are some tips on things that have worked for my friends and me.
Rework your resume. Chances are, if you’re looking for jobs, you already have your resume good to go. But are you getting any calls back? Have you had any interviews? If not— rework it. Switch up the order of your skill set; add community service; ask your spouse or an experienced friend to look it over; and by all means, check for spelling errors! A refresh may be all you need to catch the right person’s eye.
Use social media to your advantage. There are so many ways to get your resume and profile out there for prospective employers to see. After all, you know you’re fabulous… why wouldn’t they want to hire you? You just have to get your qualifications in front of them! If privacy is an issue, create separate public profiles on your favorite social networking sites just for your career search. Join new sites, too, especially ones that are job-search specific or created to show off your resume. Reconnect with old classmates, colleagues, friends, and relatives to see if they have any connections or know of anyone hiring.
Consider a portable career. Portable careers are such a great option for military spouses. Even with all the moving we do, relocating doesn’t have to mean the end of your career if you’re able to take it with you! Your talents, skills, and ambition are all you need to get started. When I left my full-time design job to move to be with my husband, this is the option that worked for me. I was reluctant to leave a position I loved, but I loved my husband more and being with him was my first priority. Regardless, I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t following my own career path and working on my own goals. After leaving my job, I started my own freelance design business. It was a portable career because I could talk to clients online and work from my home. After a year of freelancing, I went back to corporate employment when I knew we would be stationed where we are now for a couple of years. That’s the beauty of portable careers— they work with you.
Know what is yours. As a military spouse, there are options available that were created just for you! When I moved from freelancing back to corporate work, I found employment with a company in the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). This is a great resource that partners Fortune 500 companies with military spouses. They know our situation and are full of opportunities! USA Jobs is another great source for employment opportunities. That site often lists jobs in or around military installations (great for when the surrounding job market isn’t exactly stellar). Lastly, the Department of Defense offers priority consideration for competitive civilian personnel positions through the Military Spouse Preference program. These are all worth checking out if you’re on the hunt.
When in doubt, volunteer. Not only does it keep you active (and look great on your resume), but I have met several spouses that got their job through the connections they made by volunteering, be it at their spouse’s duty station or out in town. Just getting out there and networking puts you in place to meet the right people and be the first to know if a position opens up. Or, if volunteering isn’t your thing, take a few of the free classes or workshops on the installation (usually listed on your installation’s website). The more people you meet, the more likely you are to make the right connection and score the perfect job.