Career & Education

The 3rd annual Virtual Military Spouse Symposium, hosted by the Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program, had everything a military spouse could want to begin an employment search with confidence, from writing a resume that tells your professional story to interview tips to share that story with employers. I was lucky enough to attend the event this year and am sharing highlights from a few of my favorite sessions.

  1. Job Searching from Anywhere in the World. When your spouse receives PCS orders and you find out your family is moving across the country in 30 days – don’t panic! In the mad dash to pack up your entire life in boxes, bins and oversized portable storage containers, you’ll also probably be thinking about how you can pack up your current job—the one you absolutely love by the way—and set up shop in your new location. If you can’t take it with you, what happens next?
  • Create your toolbox, including a quality resume, dynamic portfolio and an up-to-date professional picture and profile on LinkedIn.
  • Ask your current employer about becoming a virtual employee.
  • Look for companies that hire for remote positions. Resources like the MSEP Job Search tool allow companies to promote their work-from-home positions.
  • Stay engaged in networking. It’s not only about what you know, but who you know that can open doors in your industry sector.
  1. Your Resume: Presenting Your Whole Story. With so much information out there, writing a resume can be confusing and complicated. I have a secret for you! You don’t have to list everything you’ve ever done in your life to have a quality resume. All you need to do is showcase enough about your skills and experiences to get an interview. It’s that simple.
  • Take an inventory of the strengths, skills and attributes that make you stand out in a crowd.
  • Pull job postings for your desired position, like those found at the MSEP Job Search tool, and compare your qualities to what employers are seeking in their qualified applicants.
  • Leverage SECO’s free resources to assist you in creating a winning resume. In addition to an extensive library of resume samples representing 18 industries, military spouses have access to certified career coaches who can help.
  1. How to Ace Your Next Interview. Blockbuster movies, stage plays, soap operas, TV commercials. They all share something in common—talented actors who captivate your attention with the performance of a lifetime. As you prepare for your next job interview, think of it as an audition for the lead role in a performance. Any performer wanting to land that next big gig does all the right preparation before trying out for the part.
  • Make a positive first impression by choosing professional attire, taking extra copies of your resume, showing up on time and wearing a smile.
  • Create a winning elevator pitch that focuses on your professional experience and skills.
  • Practice responses to common interview questions you anticipate being asked.
  • Brainstorm a few thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer.
  • Finish strong by following up with your interviewer(s) within 24 hours of the interview.
  • Take advantage of a live video mock interview with a SECO career coach. Technology allows for a career coach to connect with you and practice your interviewing skills, all from the comfort of your home.
  1. Leveraging Your Network: From the Experts at LinkedIn. Making connections for employment just got even better for the military spouse community! LinkedIn, in conjunction with the Department of Defense, announced during the 2019 Virtual Military Spouse Symposium that it now offers a free, one-year upgrade to a premium account to all active duty DoD spouses, as well as U. S. Coast Guard spouses and VA Caregivers. The premium upgrade is available to spouses transitioning due to PCS moves or separation from active duty service and can be a major boost in making professional connections following a career transition, job change or job loss.
  • Recommendations for jobs, professional connections and courses for skill building, based on information included in your profile and preferences.
  • Settings that allow you to change your location when it’s time to transition to a new duty station, designate an interest in remote positions, find or become a mentor, or even alert employers you’re actively seeking employment.
  • Access to ProFinder, a marketplace for professional freelancers or independent contractors to connect with businesses in their field.
  • An extensive library of course that will give you the competitive edge in the job market with LinkedIn Learning.
  1. Creating the Healthy Brand Called You: Your Brand, Your Wellness. Personal brand is a buzzword that has gained a great deal of momentum lately, and rightfully so. A brand is not about a symbol or logo. It’s about how you market your unique identity and image to others, which defines how they perceive you. As a military spouse, your highly mobile lifestyle may leave you feeling like you need to rebrand yourself with each relocation. But, your brand can travel with you, no matter where you go, evolve over time and become an integral part of your employment search. Creating your personal brand starts by taking inventory of your most dynamic, self-professed and solicited skills and traits, and summarizing them into a branding statement. Once you’ve done that, you should infuse your personal brand into your cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile.

Job searching can be tough, and to help preserve you and your brand, there are resources, such as SECO career coaches and 24/7 confidential non-medical counseling and Health and Wellness Coaching available through Military OneSource, for compassionate support during this process. You can access these and all of the other 2019 VMSS sessions here. What career advice would you offer to your fellow milspouses?

Natalie J. Ellis is a career coach for the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program.