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How to Build and Maintain a Career as Military Spouse


CeceliaBlogger Biography: Cecelia is a marketing and communications professional and a proud military spouse. Cecelia’s husband of 12 years, Bryan, serves in the U.S. Air Force and is currently stationed in Miami, Florida. In Miami, Cecelia enjoys singing, writing, jogging, water sports and lots of sunshine.

 

Let’s be honest. It can be tough to establish and maintain a challenging and rewarding career as a military spouse. For starters, we move — a lot. Throw in a few deployments and TDYs (Temporary duty assignments), and our lives can be pretty unpredictable — or exciting — depending on how you look at it. All of this excitement makes career management a real challenge. Still, we military spouses can absolutely, positively enjoy meaningful careers. It might just take a bit of extra effort. The following tips might be helpful, too.

Do:

  1. Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, learn new skills and show off your skills in a new town. Volunteering does not necessarily lead to employment, but it might.
  2. Network. Don’t be shy. Attend networking events, join organizations that matter to you and stay active on social media (just be careful what you post). Get to know people and let them get to know you. You want people to think of you when they hear of an opportunity for which you would be a perfect fit.
  3. Stay current. Selling yourself to a potential employer when you’re a stranger in a new city is tough enough. Selling yourself as a newcomer with outdated skills is even more difficult. So, never stop learning. Take a class, learn new skills while volunteering and search the Internet for training on any number of marketable job skills.
  4. Be flexible. So, your first (or second or third) career plan didn’t quite work out. Shake it off and keep trying. Maybe you couldn’t imagine working in a certain career field. Perhaps you don’t see yourself staying behind to finish a degree or staying in town to finish a project at work while your spouse goes ahead to a new city for a little while. Give it some more thought. Staying flexible is key to professional success (and personal happiness) as a military spouse.
  5. Ask for help. There are a lot of programs designed specifically for military spouses who are pursuing degrees and looking for meaningful work. There are also companies that want to hire military spouses. So, do your homework. Visit your unit’s family support center or chat with someone you trust about the challenges you’re facing. And, tell your social network that you need help finding a job. If people don’t know, they can’t help.

 

Don’t:

  1. Volunteer too much. Volunteering is great, but volunteering too much could distract you from your job search. It could also give the impression that you are a-OK with not getting paid for your skills and time. If your goal is to find paid work, carefully manage how much time you spend doing unpaid work.
  2. Have a chip on your shoulder. It’s tempting to tell everyone how awesome you are (or think you are), how much you’ve accomplished in life, how you took a pay cut in your last job, and blah, blah, blah. Not cool. Be confident, yet humble, and let your work speak for itself.
  3. Sell yourself short. If you can afford to wait for the right position (not necessarily the perfect position), wait. Just be careful not to fall into the unemployed and unemployable category by waiting too long. Also, be honest with yourself and potential employers about what your skills are worth, and don’t sell yourself short when it comes to salary negotiations just because you’re new in town.
  4. Check out. When you know you’re only in town for another year or for another couple of months, it’s tempting to check out mentally and start planning your next adventure. Don’t. Give it your all, take on a big project, and make a difference in your current position. Remember — you can take those skills (and that letter of reference) with you to the next duty station.
  5. Burn bridges. Moving can be liberating. As you prepare to leave a city and a job behind, you might want to say and do things you wouldn’t otherwise say and do. Think again. It’s a small world, and an even smaller U.S. military. To be on the safe side, keep it kind and professional at all times. (That doesn’t mean you have to let people walk all over you, though.)

This military life can be tough to navigate if you want to establish and maintain a career. There are many bumps along the road, and we all make a few career mistakes along the way. (I’ve actually made them all.) Still, it’s entirely possible to have a great career of your own while supporting your spouse during his or her military career.

 

 

 

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