A working mom, with her child sitting on her lap.

POV: Unemployed Military Spouse

“Military spouse employment” has been something of an evolving buzzword — err, phrase — for most of my time as a military spouse. To give our younger readers some context — the stress of my first PCS from Texas to North Carolina was compounded by having to study for the North Carolina educator license exam (despite already having a valid teaching certificate in Texas).

But, Kristi, you aren’t a teacher … You’re right, clever reader.

Despite jumping through the hoops to continue my teaching career across state lines, I never continued my teaching career thanks to budgetary cuts that resulted in the position I was offered dissolving.

Interstate License Portability

Today, we have interstate license portability which drastically reduces employment barriers for military spouses, like teachers, CPAs, cosmetologists, nurses, dentists, massage therapists, pharmacists and several others whose jobs require a state-issued license. And the evolution continues each year as processing times continue to shrink.

If you rolled your eyes at the whole license portability thing, you are my people. For, while it is a huge step in the right direction, it isn’t a final draft yet — it still needs some polishing.

I could rattle off 100 names right now of military spouses I know who are not in any of the career fields impacted by interstate licensure. I’d be hard-pressed to use all my fingers counting the military spouses I know in a licensed career field.

The license is only half the battle. License does not equal career. And, for what it’s worth, rightfully so. I could study for a cosmetology exam, but you should never let me near your hair with scissors (there’s a DIY bang-cutting incident from 2004 that I’d rather not get into).

Military Spouse Employment Partnership

During that unemployed stint I had in North Carolina all those years ago, I tried my luck at this new MSEP thing I’d heard about on Military OneSource that the magnets I kept collecting at base events were pointing me to. Confident I would find gainful employment there, I signed up and got to work.

Imagine my disappointment (or relive your own similar experience) when my search results returned grocery store cake decorator (which, again, I should not be trusted to do) among a short list of very skill-specific jobs for which I had zero skills.

Doing my due diligence for writing this blog post, I logged back into MSEP to see what the options look like today, and I was audibly shocked — an involuntary “Whoa” flew out of my mouth as I saw the same search I conducted years ago, New Bern, North Carolina, returned over 900 results. I call that progress — and it is no doubt attributed to the growing number of employers joining the partnership and advertising their jobs with MSEP. But — and there’s always a but — this resource is not perfect. And, despite my best efforts slowly removing filters, I still didn’t find a job that I was remotely qualified for (insert: OMG, is it me moment) or a job that would progress my career.

So, while I can confidently say you should use the MSEP job search, use it in conjunction with other job search platforms (military spouses can get a free year of LinkedIn Premium and a one-year FlexJobs membership) and company websites.

Wrap It Up

I think we can agree that we’re headed in the right direction when it comes to uncomplicating military spouse employment. But I will take the liberty of speaking for the masses in saying: We’re walking, not running.

Why? Because this whole employed, and employable military spouse thing is still a pretty narrow era on the timeline if you think about it. And progress is being made now because A) we’re making noise, and B) people are listening.

So how do we keep making strides, not only for ourselves and our careers, but for the unemployed, but very employable military spouses who will come long after we’ve moved on? This is how:

  1. Use the resources. Someone, somewhere in the halls of the Pentagon is always looking for a place to cut the budget so resources can be allocated elsewhere. If quality programs and resources like the free LinkedIn Premium and FlexJobs memberships exist, but military spouses aren’t using them, they get the axe. Use ‘em or lose ‘em.
  2. Spread the word. Ever heard “Too much of a good thing” — enter, the internet. There is enough information on the internet (much of it outdated, contradictory or confusing) that you could spend weeks looking for employment resources and employment and find nothing but a headache. So, if you know about something that is worth using, or you’ve deciphered the confusing jargon, pass it on. We’re all on the same team here, so help a military spouse out and (per number one) the more people using these resources, the better it is for the future generations.
  3. Speak up. I’ll say it: All the resources in the world mean nothing if they aren’t effective — if they don’t fix the issue. If you’re pounding the pavement looking for a job and — contrary to number two above — you encounter something that is missing the mark, say something! We do not have resources to waste on ineffective programs. If you see a need for a service or program that doesn’t yet exist, point that out, too. Feedback is key to shaping resources that hit the mark and simplify our search for meaningful employment.

I know it’s daunting to fire up that job search every few years — believe me. But we have quite a network and a whole host of resources that didn’t exist even five to 10 years ago. You and I have advantages now that make employment possible and attainable despite this nomadic lifestyle. So, decide what you’re after, use what’s available and go get that job.

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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  • Renee Sumner says:

    Hello Kristi,

    Thank you for speaking for all of us. You are a inspiration to our journey.-Renee

  • Kristina Bridges Niswander says:

    This article resonated with me! I have been job searching for months now after moving to a new post. I would like to add that many military spouses are looking for remote jobs/careers, so that our spouse`s trainings/deployments/late nights/PCS do not affect our ability to work. Thank you for speaking out about this on-going problem!