Stop Starting Over Professionally with Every PCS

When it comes to work life, as a military spouse (depending on what you do) you might change jobs with every PCS. Your new job can be a great way to meet, connect to and network with others. Starting a new job is also a great way to grow personally and professionally and shape your career. Let’s be honest though, changing jobs can also be a challenge. Yet as with all things involving a PCS, research and preparation will see you through.

It is helpful to keep your resume and/or employment history and certifications up to date. I review my resume yearly and make sure that I add anything relevant. As your career grows, your resume needs to change too, and it is smart to ask for help. As a military spouse, you can have a SECO career coach review your resume with you for free. The coaches are not just for people who are early in their careers but are also able to help mid-career and executives break through to the next level.

Any specialty licenses and/or certifications should be current, and you should have hard copies and know where they are kept. Any continuing education should be accounted for and have documentation for all of it. Staying on top of this type of paperwork makes it easy to simply fire off your qualifications to potential employers as soon as you are ready. Also, keeping these files handy will help you in securing reimbursement for transferring your licenses over state lines, which you can do through your service branch. They reimburse up to $500 per PCS.

Once you find out where you will be moving, you can start researching the job market in that area. As soon as I found out we would be moving to New Orleans, I started looking for gyms and Pilates studios where I might work. Research the companies you are looking at and see if their values, philosophy and approach to your chosen field align with yours or are of interest to you. Once I identified places, I thought might be a good fit, I reached out to the appropriate people via email explaining that I am a military spouse, when we expected to move and to see if they were hiring. If they were, they got a resume. During your search, don’t forget the power of the military life network! Reach out to your military friends and family to see who they know and how they can help you.

When the time comes to set up interviews, if you have permissive temporary duty to find your new home or scout out the area, try to schedule interviews during this time. I did for this move and it worked out beautifully. We were in NOLA house hunting for four days and I had two interviews in that time. Alternatively, if you will be interviewing after the move, be sure to schedule interviews for a time when you know you will be able to focus on them – not the day right after the movers come! When interviewing, keep in mind that you are interviewing your potential employers just as much as they are interviewing you. Ask questions, stay calm and be confident. Before you know it, you will be starting your new job and building your career!

One more note on planning. It is never too early to begin thinking about transitioning to civilian life after your military journey comes to an end. It can be hard to keep track of all the resources and benefits that are available to you as a military spouse. If you want to get ahead and be on top of everything that is available to you, check out MySTeP, which is a new video-based, self-directed program designed to help military spouses take advantage of all the MilLife benefits in order to be ready for transition to civilian life.

Why I am Thankful for Long Distance

LDR. Possibly one of the most dreaded acronyms we’ll ever use. My husband and I were together for four years before we kissed our LDR (long distance relationship) goodbye and actually got to see each other every day (…well as much as you can with hectic training schedules). Still to this day we have had more dates via FaceTime, more serious conversations via the phone, and more nights apart than we have had dates, conversations, and nights together. Of course, the distance was a bummer, but I am so glad it happened. Here is why:

The distance sharpened our communications skills. Communicating during distance was hard. At the beginning I found myself saving difficult conversations for when we would see each other, but when we saw each other I never brought it up out of fear it would ruin the little time we had together. Eventually the conversation would build up and become a bother to me. We learned to have difficult conversations via phone call as soon as possible. Talking things out as they came up allowed us to not only enjoy as much time as possible together when we saw each other, but to also move on and focus on our individual days and daily tasks without the looming thought of a difficult conversation as a distraction.
I personally took the LDR time to be thankful for where I was at the moment. The distance was no fun, but it taught me to find the good in a rather unpleasant situation. During the last year of distance, when I was really missing my husband, I occasionally found myself wishing that last year would fly by.
However, I knew that soon enough I would be moving away from all the familiar faces I loved at home due to my husband’s orders. Being thankful for where you are in life is a valuable lesson that spans the time following long distance. The military will test your ability to be thankful during the ever-constant change of plans and during seasons of deployments, PCS’s, and trainings. It is totally ok to cry and have “off days,” but hunting for the good in some of the most difficult situations is something that has helped me.

Long distance also taught us how to get creative. Every day, when communication with phones was allowed, we would start the day off with some sort of “Good morning, I love you!.and kick butt today!” text. We would normally end the day with a phone call or FaceTime where we would talk about our day and say goodnight. Sometimes, we both were so busy that this ended up being a texted conversation. However, we would occasionally leave voicemails and send voice messages just to tell the other how much we loved them. In addition, we would also write each other letters even when communication with phones was allowed. The surprise of a handwritten letter was one of my favorite things. It felt extra romantic. Once, I got so creative as to send my husband a burrito from a Mexican restaurant down the street.

Learning to trust is one of the biggest and most important things long distance taught us as a couple. I didn’t know my husband growing up, I didn’t know him from school, or even through a friend. We were complete strangers when we met. Trusting someone you don’t even know, and you can’t talk to in person every day is hard. Not overthinking text messages and telling yourself to trust is hard when you are first getting to know someone. Building this trust not only took time, but it took consistent transparency, communication, and effort on both of our parts. Today, we have such a strong foundation of trust and one of the reasons I believe that it is so strong is because it was built during years of distance.

Lastly, the distance helped me to focus on myself. I took jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities. I started running and going to the gym. I never felt guilty about going out with friends instead of my husband because I never had the option to choose. Having that “me” time is so important. It helped me to savor the last moments with my friends and to build my experience so that I had something to bring to my next employer where I currently live.

It can be tough to be thankful for distance, but please know that you will be so glad it happened down the road. It can make you and your relationship stronger.

A Farewell Letter to Our First Duty Station

Dear Fort Benning,

You will forever be a bookend on our time as an Army family, as this chapter of our lives started with you. You first met my husband in the Atlanta airport where you welcomed him with open arms and a few drill sergeants. Over the course of 18 months and five graduations, you provided the instructors, mentors and peers who have helped shape him personally and professionally. Basic training, OCS, IBOLC, Ranger and Airborne – I know my husband is ready for what is next – and I am ready for a graduation party break.

You know as well as we do that this journey is not just about the service member – it’s about the whole family and the experiences we share in each community. When our own family was hundreds of miles away, you taught us to fill the gaps with family who aren’t necessarily blood. The Army family we built during our time here will be one that is hardest to leave.

Thank you for bringing us our first, and dearest, Army friends – our home away from home. Our Fort Benning friends are the ones we shared both professional and personal milestones with. We showed off our first home as husband and wife, celebrated all the graduations when our families couldn’t make it, and laughed telling stories in the backyard while cursing at how loud the cicadas were. This Army family is what kept me sane when I hadn’t heard from my husband for weeks or months on end. When we found out we were pregnant with our first baby, these friends were the first to know. Fort Benning, you brought these incredible people into our life, and for that I am thankful.

During our time here, we explored everything that Columbus and southwest Georgia have to offer. It is where we learned the true definition of southern hospitality, and that both humidity and cockroaches can be measured in the hundreds. It is where my husband and I spent much time apart but learned just how much sweeter the time away makes the reunions.

I cannot say I will miss your summers, the bugs, or the lack of delivery options on post. But I will miss your sunsets over the jump towers, the guessing game of “what graduation was today” as the streets of downtown Columbus bustled with proud families, and I’ll even miss the Saturday 12 p.m. tornado drills. I will miss the strolls on the river walk and the weekend morning farmer’s markets. Although we were only here for a short while, you became our first home.

We will move on to our next duty station excited, a little bit nervous, and incredibly hopeful. Our next assignment has a lot to live up to. Depending on what the Army gods have in store for us, we’ll see you for Captain’s Career Course in a few years. Until then, be just as good to the new students as you have been to us. Cheers, Benning!

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