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Life After Deployment

Whether you have been through many deployments or just a few, they are challenging. My husband’s latest deployment came out of nowhere, during a global pandemic and with me in the midst of graduate school. While I was not thrilled about being apart, I knew this was part of military life and that it was important to him. I also knew that there were resources available to me through Military OneSource and my military family.

As deployment came to an end, however, I found myself nervous about my husband’s return — how would he be different? How was I different? What about my new routine? Or his? Deployment impacts everyone differently. Everyone’s situation and circumstances are different. Some spouses that are at home have children, some are caregivers for other family members, some work full-time jobs in addition to holding down the homefront. In some cases, our partners return forever changed. In some cases, our partners do not come home.

We are all on our own journey and adjusting to life after deployment will look different for everyone. I think we need to recognize and honor that, not only for ourselves but also to help support each other.

Navigating the changes that occur in a family, a household, ourselves and our partners during a deployment is not always easy, and that should be normalized. It is okay to have to work through adjustments — and you are not alone.

Military OneSource has great deployment resources ranging from how to talk to your kids, to single service members preparing for deployment — your bases are covered. Whatever your personal situation, remember that we’re all in this together.

Photo of Lizann and her family at Christmas.

Planning Your Holiday Gift Budget as a Military Spouse

After limited celebrations and restricted travel in 2020, we all have a lot to make up for in the 2021 holiday season! There are people we want to see, parties we can’t wait to attend, gifts to exchange and favorite meals to enjoy. Military families look forward to holiday celebrations as much as anyone else, but sometimes being stationed far from family means extra costs and expenses during this season. If you and your spouse don’t discuss holiday plans and prepare in advance for your end-of-year spending, then you can easily get caught by surprise with a very high credit card bill in the new year.

Follow these guidelines when planning your holiday gift-giving:

  1. Discuss travel options. Traveling “home” to see family can be one of the biggest holiday expenses for a military family. Even with military discounts, most airlines have increased ticket prices close to the holidays. Do you and your spouse have the funds to fly home with the kids this year? Or might it be better to pay for one or two tickets and fly someone out to visit you? Does it make sense to drive home instead of flying? Perhaps your service member could take extended leave to allow for longer travel days.
  2. Know your spouse’s expectations. Does your spouse expect to exchange gifts with every member of their family? Or maybe just their best friend? And what kind of gifts will you get each other? Some people save up for a large home purchase at the end of the year. Others expect an expensive gift from their spouse. And still others don’t really get in the gift-giving spirit and don’t expect extravagant gifts in their relationship. Which category describes you? Is it the same for your spouse? Be sure to talk to them about what you expect from them and what price range you want to gift to them. Surprise gifts can be fun, but not if the other person gets upset by the price tag! If you share a gift budget and your expectations with each other, then everyone is more likely to enjoy the season.
  3. Coordinate with relatives. When planning your holiday gift budget, you first need to know how many gifts you are purchasing, and for whom. Make a list of who you will be giving gifts to this year. Decide whether you are including non-family members like co-workers, your child’s teachers, your landlord, etc. Then brainstorm ways that family members can get involved and help. If your service member is deployed, there are likely many people who want to contribute to a holiday care package. If your kids live far from grandparents, tell the grandparents what special gift your kids truly need this year. If your parents want to send something and you don’t know what to ask for, they can get gift cards that you’ll give to your child’s teachers. Getting other people to contribute to your holiday gift budget means less you spend out of pocket.
  4. Plan your gift budget. When you live far from family, it can sometimes feel like the only way to make up for missing a holiday celebration is by sending a lot of gifts. This can also be true for deployed service members, who may try to compensate for missing their kids by ordering every toy sold on Amazon. It’s a natural reaction to missing your loved ones, but it isn’t healthy for your bank account balance. Now is the time to discuss gift-giving expectations with your spouse. Look at the gift list you created and discussed with family. Whether you plan to give gift cards or personalized gifts, estimate the gift price for each name on the list, then add up your total.
  5. Balance your expenses. Your holiday gift budget may end up being a whole paycheck, or more than you usually spend in a month, so start thinking now about ways to break up the spending and buff up your savings. If you cut back on some household spending in September and October, you will have more available for gifts near the end of the year. Another strategy is to start buying gifts early in the fall so you can spread out your gift spending over multiple billing cycles. Either method can work for your family, but you and your spouse need to discuss it and get on the same page.
  6. Allow for extra shipping time. If you are stationed overseas, you probably already know that it can take weeks for a package to reach the States. Similarly, remind anyone who is sending gifts to you or the kids that the post office has holiday deadlines for delivery to different parts of the world. These are posted on their website. Pay attention to these deadlines, especially when shipping gifts or care packages to a deployed service member.

With these budget guidelines in mind, your family can smoothly navigate the common challenges of holiday gift-giving.

A desk with a military family photo, a computer and notebook with a job hunt list written on it.

Five Ways to Effectively Job Hunt in a New Place

Countless military spouses navigate the job-hunting process frequently as a result of military moves and other life demands outside of their control. Still, no matter how many times you complete a job hunt in a new place, it can be tough to figure out where to begin.

Luckily, military spouses can access resources to help combat the ambiguity surrounding job searches in new locations. Read on to learn about five free ways to step up your next job hunt:

  1. Investigate the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program. The first step in any good job hunt is to discern where your professional focus should be. Need some direction on what jobs are right for you and where to look for them? Military spouses have exclusive access to career advice and resources through the Department of Defense’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program. Special resources exist to help make your job hunt the best it can be — discover career exploration tools, education options and training and licensing resources. Ready to investigate? Learn more about Education and Career Guidance from SECO.
  2. Network. Everyone says that networking is the key to finding great professional opportunities. For those integrated into a particular community long-term, a network can be organically built slowly over time. But how are military spouses supposed to network in communities in which they have no connections? It can take a little extra effort, but it isn’t impossible! I have a confession to make. I thought professional networking websites were pointless and didn’t use them at all during our first military move. The truth is that I simply didn’t know how to use them well. I have since learned the value of online professional networking — specifically, LinkedIn. Online networking can allow you to start connecting in your new professional community before your PCS plays out. Plus, utilizing professional networking websites can save you time and energy and make you aware of opportunities that you might not have found otherwise. Did you know? Military spouses are eligible for a free LinkedIn Premium upgrade through SECO.
  3. Connect with colleagues and join groups. Networking tools like LinkedIn can allow you to connect with current and former colleagues. Plus, you can join professional groups to facilitate meeting new contacts. However, connecting doesn’t have to be limited to online forums. Research networking opportunities in your new city such as young professional organizations, networking coffee hours and field-specific volunteering opportunities. When we completed our last PCS, I networked in online college alumni groups, industry-specific groups and groups designed specifically for military spouses. Strategic group connections tailored to your interests and affiliations can make you aware of job opportunities that aren’t posted in public forums. Plus, you can start networking in your new town before you’re actually living there — and learn about remote opportunities not limited to a particular location. Once you’re settled in your new place, keep an eye out for opportunities to connect with peers in person, too. After a few months of working in my new city and integrating into the professional community for my field, in-person networking helped me land a new job. Stay connected to the people that you meet along the way — you never know who you will run into again!
  4. Tailor your approach. One of the most frustrating parts about the job hunt is putting a lot of effort into opportunities that don’t pan out. When we completed a cross-country PCS, I applied to 65 jobs over the course of a couple of months. This was not only time-consuming, but it was also ineffective.Prep your cover letter and resume before the move so that you can easily apply to jobs when the time comes. Then, hone in on the opportunities that really interest you and adapt your resume and cover letter to speak to those specific jobs. A few well-tailored submissions can yield better results than many generic applications. Need help tailoring your resume? Check out SECO resume customizing resources.
  5. Build your online brand. Do some work on making your LinkedIn the best that it can be — a professional and polished online presence can offer you a big boost. Here are some ideas to get you started:
    • Put on professional attire and take a great headshot for your profile — not a selfie!
    • Review the accounts of successful professionals in your field to gain inspiration.
    • Look at job postings that interest you and add relevant keywords to the skills section on your profile — this will help you to get noticed!
    • Post and share things relevant to your desired industry — this is a great way to start conversations with new connections.

Are you ready for the job hunt? Don’t wait until your next move to start preparing! Cultivate your online network now to make the process smoother when the time comes and take advantage of the resources available to you.

Contact a SECO career coach for help finding a job opportunity that excites, challenges and fulfills you.

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