Service members checking in at the airport

It’s Not You; It’s Me: Explaining a PCS to a Non-military Boss

As military spouses, we are no strangers to sacrifice. We often sacrifice date night for overnight duty – or six months of date nights for deployments, and we follow our service members to itty bitty map dots in support of their careers, knowing full well that the towns surrounding military installations are not always booming with job opportunities that justify our employment experience or that hard-earned, framed college degree that is packed up and moved across the country three times each decade.

In my employment love story, I have loved and lost, been burned and, yes, even spent a string of lonely nights watching rom-coms, stressing about the future while indulging in a pint of ice cream. It is hard work finding a job! I’ve walked out of job fairs seriously wondering if I’d sprained facial muscles from holding that polite, confident smile. It’s humbling to check your email 20 times daily, hoping that someone liked what they saw on your meticulously edited resume to find no new messages, and it’s downright nerve-wracking to follow up on interviews only to find the decision has already been made. Anyone – military spouse or not – who has ever applied for a job anywhere understands all of this, but as spouses we know that unless we are fortunate enough to land a dream situation of working remotely or entrepreneurship, we will go through the motions of this job search after each permanent change of station move.

This is why it is so hard to part ways with a job when we find a good one that loves us back, just the way we are (no hours of fake smiling required). Breaking up with a job isn’t easy, especially when you enjoy your colleagues, your employer, the work environment and the job you do. But whether Uncle Sam himself has to drag you kicking and screaming out of your office to get you to the moving truck on time, or you throw two fistfuls of paperwork in the air like confetti as you march toward the door, humming, “Take this job and…” quitting your job to follow your service member’s orders is tough. The confrontation is typically awkward, and starting all over again in a new place isn’t ideal. You can make the situation less nails-on-the-chalkboard-esque with these tips:

Don’t burn bridges. Even if you cringe at the thought of returning to the job you’re about to leave, leave on good terms. You may need your employer as a reference for your new job or there may be an opportunity to continue your job remotely (if you’re interested). As a disclaimer, don’t forget that the military is quite the practical joker and may just toss your service member’s orders out the window at the last minute or send you right back there three years later.

Be transparent. Keep your employer looped into your plans as much as possible (explaining the sometimes long and involved process of orders as needed), and give as much notice as you can out of respect for your employer and the job you’ve done.

Offer your help. I’ll never forget the look on my principal’s face when I told him I wouldn’t return to teach for the spring semester because I was moving across the country with my brand new husband. I cared about my job, my students and fellow faculty and offered to do anything I could to make the transition easier on everyone. This may mean being flexible with the timing of your last day, helping to train a new employee or fast-tracking paperwork.

Be direct. I hate saying no to people so much that I often bite off more than I can chew. If you’re someone who can easily be persuaded to work just a few more days to help out, even though you know you need to be home directing movers, cleaning an empty house or even driving to a new installation, be firm when you say no.

Leave with open communication. Before you leave, make sure your references know who they are. This helps you two ways: you can gauge their enthusiasm which can help you determine whether or not to actually list them, and it lets them expect a call so they aren’t caught off guard.

Breaking up with your job might not be easy, but as military spouses we understand it is just another temporary sacrifice. Eventually we will stay somewhere long enough to establish a career if we want one which reinforces that tattoo we all visualize on our foreheads, “Hurry up and wait.”

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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1 Comment

  • Jennifer Smith says:

    As both a new army wife and a special education teacher who just landed my dream job this past school year, I understand this blog post entirely! After my last day of work on June 10th, I will be moving to another state to our new home and my husband’s CoC ceremony on June 12th. I thought about leaving work early; but I don’t want to burn any bridges. And I’ll have plenty of time to unpack boxes after the CoC 🙂 Hopefully I’ll find another teaching position at a school as wonderful as the one I have to leave.