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Mom Goes Back to School: Financing Graduate School

 Posted by on July 14, 2016 at 12:15
Jul 142016
 
Kristi

Kristi

I’m guilty of occasionally being a secret shopper. No, not one of those store sleuths grading customer service, but one that shops, then after returning home, quickly discards the evidence — bags and tags — and mingles the new in with the old so as not to draw attention to it.

Most of the time when I assure my husband that “We’ve had that for months,” he just rolls his eyes. It’s harmless; he would just prefer our coffee table be free of decorations so there is more room for his feet. But when I got the itch for graduate school, I knew this wasn’t going to be a purchase I could shoulder shrug out of. Graduate tuition is not a one-time purchase; it’s an investment — one that can take years to pay off — and one that requires a discussion between spouses.

As silly as it sounds, I was dreading the initiation of this discussion. The responsible mom in me felt guilty spending a large portion of our family’s income on my something for myself. An occasional new pair of jeans or throw pillows — I can live with that guilt, but thousands of dollars’ worth of tuition? I was losing some serious sleep over this.

Because my husband is an incredible guy, he was nothing but supportive of my idea to go back to school. His exact words were, “You support me, and I support you. That’s how this works.” Unfortunately, support is not an accepted method of payment when tuition is due. We had some big decisions to make.

To GI Bill or not to GI Bill

We wrestled with whether or not to use the GI Bill for my education expenses for weeks. I initially refused to use it. I wanted it there to fully fund one of our kid’s college education. Period. Case closed.

Once I was accepted to my long-shot, first-choice school and that $55,000 price tag got real, I started to doubt that forgoing the GI Bill was the smartest thing financially. Reopen that case. Here was my reasoning:

  • My family was going to have to pay for education one way or the other — whether for me, my son or my daughter.
  • There is a very real possibility that we could set aside the GI Bill for one or both of the kids, and they end up not needing it because of scholarships.
  • We have 13 years before we have an undergraduate student. That gives us 13 years to save and plan for the expense — and we are. My graduate school starts August 29.
  • We have 13 years to search and apply for scholarships for our kids. I was surprised to find that you can start applying for awards when kids are as young as 5 years old.
  • One way or another, we’ll have tuition to pay for at some point. It seemed a little self-defeating to take on that great debt, which would turn into a monthly payment after graduation now when obtaining a master’s degree could qualify me for higher wages to help fund tuition for my kids.

GI Bill findings

I filled in my own opinions with actual research and contacts to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Now, since it’s a government organization, know they will not advise you on the best choice for your situation, but we all know that didn’t keep me from weaving my story for the poor woman who rescued me from hold. I believe her actual response was, “Yeah. That’s your call. I don’t know.”

She did, however, fill in some fact-based gaps for me on the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

  • The bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits. Using 24 months still left my kids with partial tuition assistance.
  • Tuition is covered in full at participating public universities. Private schools, like the one I will attend, are typically more expensive, so there is a cap on assistance. As of Aug. 1, 2016, that is $21,970.46 per academic year.
  • The recipient must apply for the GI Bill. This was a surprise step for me. I knew my husband could control distribution amounts, but the actual application was an extra — luckily, online — step.
  • The confirmation of the GI Bill award can be delayed in the fall when many students begin enrollment.

This was all enough to convince me. And after more open communication with my husband, and a few other family members, we were certain using the GI Bill was the best choice for us right now. I applied and received my award letter within three weeks. After I register for classes, the veterans department at my university will handle communications with the VA. Thus far, the process is much simpler than I gave it credit for. Truly, the hardest part of the process was deciding the best financial decision for our family.

 

Raising Kids and Dough From Home

 Posted by on June 30, 2016 at 16:01
Jun 302016
 
Julie

Julie

It takes two incomes to meet most families’ needs. When one parent deploys, the other has a long work commute and family lives too far away to help care for the children, some couples decide to find alternative work situations to manage the children and funds. Figuring out how to go from full-time employment outside the home to working from home while raising children is enough to twist your mind into knots. Determined milspouses can do anything they set their minds to, so if you want to find a way to work from home while raising your kids, it starts with some honest self-assessing, researching, planning and networking.

Assess your skills

I sat down and thought about what types of tasks I enjoyed doing and which I really hated. Then, I assessed my skills and qualifications to narrow down the types of work-from-home jobs that would suit me.

This step will be a bit easier for you if you use the online tools and information tailored to military spouse employment from Spouse Education and Career Opportunities, or SECO. This website has tools and information to help you explore your skills and passions while identifying careers that might work well for you. The SECO website also has information to help you with researching, planning and networking — all steps covered from beginning to end.

Research your work options

I started researching a few career possibilities like telemarketing, sales, child care provider, and medical billing, coding and transcription (but there are plenty more fields to consider). After learning more about each of those fields and their required certifications, equipment, education and experience, combined with my limited time and funding for making this transition work, I narrowed down my list to medical transcription.

Make sure you are thorough in your research. Find out if you need a business license, child care provider license or if there are other regulations you need to adhere to. Learn how your new venture will affect your taxes. (If you are self-employed, do you need to pay your income tax quarterly to avoid penalties? What qualifies as a tax deduction for a home business: mileage, utilities, home office space, education, and equipment?) Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone currently in the profession you are interested in pursuing. They may be able to help you save some money and time since they’ve already been where you’re headed. I asked a medical transcriptionist if she had any recommendations for places to purchase the equipment. Her recommendation led me to find my equipment at half price.

Research your expenses and child care

There are three other important factors to research:

  1. Your household expenses —Are you able to cut expenses to save money? This may allow you to look for part-time work instead of full time or to take a slightly lower salary to get you started.
  2. Your work/parent schedule — You’ll need to have a planned schedule of the pockets of time you can work and when you can actively be mom — and the kids well supervised during both times. Try working before the kids get up, during naps and after they are in bed. If you need more work time than that, set them up to color or do a craft near your workstation so you can supervise them while being productive.
  3. Your plan for day care — Even if your reason for working from home is to be able to raise your children, you are still working and kids don’t always stick to their schedules. Create a backup plan for the days the kids won’t allow you to work. Consider registering your littles for preschool for a few hours in the morning, hiring a local teen to babysit them after school, or finding another parent in the same situation and swapping babysitting duties so you both have uninterrupted work time.

Plan your next steps

After researching my options for medical transcription programs, certifications needed, course pricing and financial aid possibilities I started to make a plan. I attended medical transcription course classes at the local adult learning center a couple of nights a week for about a year while still working full time.

Remember to include the job search process in your plan, as it can sometimes take a while before you can go full time with the at-home position. Look for companies that cater to mobile careers and military spouses. The Military Spouse Employment Partnership, or MSEP, is a great resource for finding companies committed to hiring military spouses, and some of them offer remote work.

Network

Making an effort to get to know your classmates, instructors, professors and professionals in your chosen field can be the difference between a long job search and a short one. I was able to find a subcontracting position as soon as I completed the medical transcription program through networking. A fellow student connected me with a contractor, and my instructor provided a reference letter.

Network with friends, at PTA functions, on the sidelines at your kids sporting event, with other military spouses and everywhere you go. Let people know what you are working toward, because you never know who might have the connection you are seeking.

Seize the moments and make it happen

I was due to deliver my second child in three months when I completed the medical transcription program and landed my subcontracting job. I continued to work full time at my day job and worked part time from home, doing transcription work at night up until my son was born. I took a couple of weeks off to recover and started working transcription from home, full time at that point.

Working from home while raising children can be challenging, but I found the rewards to be worth the work. It taught me to seize the small moments in life and work them for all they’re worth, whether that means being productive on the job while your little one naps nearby or being completely zoned in to playing with your children when they are awake. There’s a lot of shifting gears and swapping hats in this combined role, but you’re a milspouse and you’ve already been doing that. If working from home is the life you want, seize it and make it happen.

Feeding the Soul and the Family

 Posted by on March 15, 2016 at 15:29
Mar 152016
 
Guest Blogger Stacie

Guest Blogger Stacie

Blogger Biography: Stacie met and married her soldier in Arizona and went to the recruiter with him, where he said, “I’m not in, if you’re not in. Are you in?” After saying yes and spending 23 years in the Army, within the next eight months he had retired, begun a civilian career, and both their college aged kids moved out. This left them nearly empty nesters, except for the dogs. Formerly an avid sports and stage mom, hanging up her keys to the swagger wagon enabled her to concentrate more on work and life after the Army. Stacie hopes to one day have a chicken coop and fill it with hens she intends to name after country music stars.

I had a fantastic media career during my journey as an Army wife. I loved what I did and then one day, Operation

Iraqi Freedom happened. My husband was gone, my job required more than 40 hours a week, and my kids really needed me. Eventually, I quit my job and had to figure life out again. I bounced between jobs for a while, finding things I could do while the kids were in school. I liked working, but I was missing the satisfaction I got from radio. I needed something more than a regular job had to offer and wanted to try out being my own boss. Working from home fed my soul and saved my sanity, even though it took me years to map it all out.

When I began working from home, I was a virtual and personal assistant. I became certified through our post’s Army Community Service office and bought a great computer. Within a few weeks, I was working with a few remote companies and several in town. My specialties were blogging and small business support, but I would take on almost any task a customer requested.

After a cross-country PCS, I was unsure if I wanted to try to restart my business. The recession hit my industry hard, and people stopped hiring for work they could do themselves. The few clients I had before leaving our last duty station were all local, and needed me in person. In a new place and searching, I saw a bracelet pictured on a friend’s social media page and knew I had found my newest adventure!

I joined a jewelry direct sales company in August of 2010 because my love for their sterling silver military charms was instantaneous. Initially uncertain if the sales field was my thing, I eventually just went for it. I had tried direct sales twice previously, but it never seemed to suit me. After these last few years, I am incredibly happy with my decision to become a consultant. I was very fortunate that I was able to begin growing my team nearly immediately, and can speak from the sincerity when I say that I work with some of the most amazing women anywhere.

Having had two successful home-based businesses, I have learned how to manage working at home. It is a delicate balance between responsibilities, but can be managed by anyone if you decide to go for it.

An encouraging spouse is always a great start. Be open and honest with each other about expectations, work hours, finance, and how the new job will impact the family.  When the entrepreneur and the spouse have a firm understanding of the business and its potential, it helps both parties.

In addition, having a clear vision of how finances will be impacted by the new position will take a lot of stress off the family. Starting a new business can take commitment of more than just time. Assets are frequently necessary and, most commonly for home businesses, are borrowed from the family budget or savings. Knowing how much of the business income is marked for reinvestment in the business and how much is used as a paycheck alleviates confusion and helps set realistic objectives.

Business Tips From a MilSpouse

 Posted by on March 11, 2016 at 10:24
Mar 112016
 
Melissa

Melissa

Angela West is not only the type of friend you want in your corner because she is funny, smart, and sassy, but y’all … she bakes some scrumptious goodies! This Marine Corps spouse, currently based in Okinawa, Japan, has run a successful catering and baking business for eight years across three duty stations, including overseas. While her business today, The Frosted Stiletto, looks a bit different from when she started it, her business has remained constant as she blazes the trails for other military spouse baking entrepreneurs.

It all started when her family was stationed in China Lake, California. She enjoyed baking and cooking so much that she was always the one volunteering to head up the hospitality tasks for family readiness meetings and Lifestyle Insights, Networking, Knowledge and Skills, or L.I.N.K.S. This trickled over into baking and cooking for friends. She didn’t have a set business plan and pricing structure when she first started, but she found that friends would drop off fresh ingredients and small amounts of cash if she would bake up a little something for them. She loves baking so much she said, “It’s just so easy to whip up something. No need to pay me.”  This sparked the idea that she should really get her business plans in gear. She operated as a catering and baking business until her husband received orders to Quantico, Virginia.  After conducting her own market research, she decided to really zero in on offering baked goods, and specifically specialty custom cakes. She rebranded herself under the business name she still uses today, and the Frosted Stiletto was born. I had the chance to talk with Angela to hear her advice for other budding military spouse entrepreneurs.

Milspouse Entrepreneur Angela West

Milspouse Entrepreneur Angela West

When asked if her business helps or impacts the community in any way Angela excitedly answers how it does, especially in Okinawa. Her specialty cakes help give military families, stationed far from home, more options to help commemorate their special occasions. Since Angela does custom cakes, she offers a nice alternative to the basic sheet cakes that are readily available at other grocery stores on the island. Having this as an option is a nice comfort to make things seem “more normal” when living and celebrating so far from home.

To become the success that she is today, Angela learned how to make it as a military spouse entrepreneur, and she generously shared these lessons. When she first started, she said it took some practice to get comfortable in her business sense as far as pricing her goods at a competitive, yet fair price. To get comfortable with the business side of things, Angela learned from and emulated other cake designers and entrepreneurs through social media in order to grow her decorating and business model.  Since she is a self-taught cake decorator, when she first started, she used to tell her customers “I can guarantee it will taste good, but it may not look the best.” With many years of experience behind her, she can now guarantee both. As her duty stations changed, so did her business struggles. Her

All hand crafted decorations, no molds here.

All hand crafted decorations, no molds here.

current struggles now are anticipating needs so that she always has the right supplies on hand to satisfy her customers. She shared that it can also be a struggle to source the freshest ingredients on the island — typical OCONUS problems.

Her advice to other military spouses is to be legal about everything. Get the proper permits and licenses. It may seem daunting, but having your ducks in a row is vital, especially if you are running a business from base housing overseas. She even shared that it’s not difficult or time consuming to do everything the right way, and you’ll thank yourself later for doing it right. As far as getting the word out there, Angela has been fortunate with successful word-of-mouth marketing. She credits happy customers with providing free advertisements by way of their referrals in spouse and local-town Facebook groups. She also cautions not to lean on only this type of marketing, but to make sure you have your information out there. She also warns to make sure you “don’t cram it down people’s throats.” For example, when a friend invites you to her child’s birthday party, don’t ask things like “Who is doing your cake?” Instead, make sure that when you do mention your business it is in a casual, relevant manner. Be prepared for natural ebbs and flows of your business. This is completely normal and don’t stress during low times, but keep working harder. Her biggest takeaway from running her own business is “Not everyone is your customer, and be ok with that.”

For now, Angela is continuing to bake up a storm and plans to continue to do so for the rest of her husband’s career. In five years, she hopes to settle down somewhere opening up a brick-and-mortar storefront near their forever home since her husband will be retiring from military service. If you are interested in starting your own business, give Military OneSource a call and ask to speak with a SECO counselor to help answer your questions.

 

*If you are interested in starting your own business as a military spouse, reserve your seat for the 2016 entrepreneurship webinar series.

 

Disclaimer: Publication on the Blog Brigade does not constitute official endorsement of personal blogs or websites on behalf of the Department of Defense.

 

Making It Happen: A Real Life MilSpouse Entrepreneur

 Posted by on February 29, 2016 at 12:06
Feb 292016
 
Dani

Dani

You know those times when you meet someone new, and he or she is really awesome, and you think to yourself, “How on earth does she do it all?” That’s the way I felt when I first met Shiang-Ling, a real-life supermom.

Shiang-Ling is a military wife, a mother of four children under the age of 7, a visionary and an entrepreneur. She believes that if you want something enough, you can push past your fears and go for it.

For Shiang-Ling, the entrepreneurial spirit has always been a part of her. She first started a photography business seven years ago, covering several niches like wedding and family portraits, before realizing her love for boudoir photography. Her passion is photographing women, empowering them and helping them find themselves again. She recently started a second small business, The Hive & Co., which is a resource blog with marketing and managing services like branding, design, web hosting and social media, specifically for small businesses.

Shiang-Ling

The driving force behind Shiang-Ling is her belief that she is more than just a mother and a wife. While she loves both dearly, she also feels the need to grow personally while teaching her children to aspire for greatness. She enjoys being busy and hopes to teach them that’s how to be successful in life. I don’t see any way she could fail at this with her current track record!

Shiang-Ling is also a strong advocate for the military community. Not only does her business blog offer tips, advice and insight for new small business owners and entrepreneurs, it covers everything from business planning to management. Most of her clients and patrons are current or former military spouses. A plan is also in the works to create a network/referral service that connects business owners to military spouses and work-from-home moms. She and her business partner have many ideas and plans to empower and connect the military community.

After struggling with loneliness when starting her businesses, Shiang-Ling’s advice for other milspouses looking to do the same is to find a network of other spouses that are in the same boat as you, either running a businesses or aspiring to it. If she were doing it all over again, she would have first found a network or community so she didn’t feel like she was trying to maneuver the ins and out of entrepreneurship on her own. She also shares that she would have been more patient, feeling that she was too eager and rushed into purchases, decisions and sharing knowledge that she actually needed more time to develop. Patience really is a virtue!

Her biggest struggle today is balance. She shares, “I am very good at accomplishing many things, but it isn’t a walk in the park trying to do it all. I’ve learned that time management was and is very important to the management and growth of a business and my sanity.”

I can certainly relate to her on this subject! And although she admits it is hard work, and sometimes she does feel overwhelmed, she wouldn’t give it up for almost anything.

Moving forward, Shiang-Ling has a plan. In five years, she sees herself with a leading blog full of information, resources and contributions from other leaders in the business world (especially military spouses and work-from-home moms); with published eBooks, webinars and workshops; as a regular event speaker; managing a small business grant program and most importantly, she will be just as happy (if not more) to do what she loves with the drive to continue to grow and help others. “It’s just a small list,” she teases.

Becoming Your Own Boss

 Posted by on February 23, 2016 at 13:00
Feb 232016
 
Kristi

Kristi

As far as I can tell, there are two ways to view employment as a military spouse:

  1. The constant moving of military life is keeping me from doing what I want to do.
  2. Military life is giving me connections, opportunities and interests I might never have realized without it.

You don’t have to be one-sided in the debate. I, myself, have argued both sides just over my first cup of coffee this morning. So, it’s safe to assume that you’ll — at some point — roll your eyes each time you have to start your next job search (again), but also say a silent “thank you” for a fresh start once or twice.

One way to escape the routine job hunt hanging over each move is to become your own boss. It sounds pretty tempting in a mandatory Pajama Tuesday sort of way, but it also sounds a little intimidating in an every other thing sort of way. It can be done — but how? One of my personal favorite ways to learn something military spouse-related is to hear it straight from a spouse who has been there, done that.

Meet Brittany.

She is a military spouse and a talented, self-employed photographer with roots in the military community. Her business started back in 2010 when her friend’s husband was returning from a deployment in Iraq. Her friend wanted pictures of the homecoming, but shied away from hiring a photographer. So, she asked Brittany. Brittany agreed, and then she posted the pictures on Facebook. The homecoming pictures were a hit, to say the least, because many more requests followed, and — to quote Brittany — “Before long, I needed a business license.”

KristiPhotoBlog_Entrepreneur_FEB2

Sounds easy enough, right? I imagine it was for her. I’ve seen her in action, and I’ve seen her photos — she has a natural talent for photography, and she’s easy to work with (both important components of a photography business I would think). She found a way to channel her talent into a business: “I enjoy expressing my creativity through photography. I feel like I can let my mind wander and my imagination run wild with no limits.”

It’s hard to learn that kind of passion, but learning the business of being in business can be taught. And if you’re interested in learning more about that, Spouse Education and Career Opportunities can help you. Once you’ve finished reading this blog post and you’re inspired to take the leap to entrepreneurship, hop over to the SECO page for more entrepreneur info.

Brittany’s biggest challenge in the beginning was figuring out how to legally set up a business (acquiring a business license, taxes, etc.). Maybe you can relate. She says that her struggles have evolved a bit these days: “It’s been really hard having a successful business when we have to move every two to three years. Every time I move, I lose my network. It can take months for me to rebuild my business.”

Frustrating? Sure, but not any more so than reapplying for jobs every couple of years. Brittany says that creativity is the key to rebuilding her business at each new duty station, “I’ve learned that being normal will not help you, and thinking outside the box will.”

She’s currently making a name for herself after her latest move by leading a mommy and me playdate photography group. She’s sharing her gift of photography by teaching moms with “fancy cameras” how to use those fancy cameras to photograph their adorable kids. She teaches this class — drumroll — for free, and while that might not sound very profitable in the short run, she’s networking, which is a clever move for a long-running business, especially in the military community where everyone is connected through a friend of a friend somewhere. The photography group has generated a lot of buzz around the neighborhood, and it’s good for business when people know your name.

Am I qualified to be an entrepreneur? I feel like that question probably comes up a lot (and not just in my own head). Surely Brittany has a degree in photography, design, art or something in that ballpark. Nope, she has a degree in exercise science, and although she says constantly, “If I could go back, I would get a degree in graphic design because that’s a skill I could take anywhere…and it works really well with photography,” formal training didn’t hold her back. She trained herself using the tools accessible to her, and she just went for it.

KristiPhotoblog_Entrepreneur_FEBJust for fun, I asked Brittany where she saw her business in five years. You can imagine that any military spouse would respond with a deep breath and a good laugh because we have no idea. She confirmed, “My business is continuously impacted by the career choices of my husband. So, in five years, I will literally have to see where in the world I am.”

And that could seriously be anywhere, right?

Take Brittany’s final words of encouragement (please read this in her upbeat, southern accent): “Try to always be different. It’s OK to make mistakes, and it’s completely normal to feel frustrated. No one ever said owning a business would be easy, but in the end, it’s totally worth it.”

Decide if it’s worth it to you; then, if it is, be like Brittany. Use the tools at your fingertips, whether it be instructional Internet videos or SECO webinars. Turn your passion into a profitable business that will follow you wherever the military sends you

 

*If you are interested in starting your own business as a military spouse, reserve your seat for the 2016 entrepreneurship webinar series.

Disclaimer: Publication on the Blog Brigade does not constitute official endorsement of personal blogs or websites on behalf of the Department of Defense.

Finding Your Passion Through Entrepreneurship

 Posted by on February 18, 2016 at 15:38
Feb 182016
 

Blogger Biography: Dana Lofties Reeder, CEO of Reeder Consulting: College & Career Guidance, is an education advocate helping individuals determine their natural abilities for college and career success through proven assessments. Dana created her company to help people “Proceed with Confidence” on the path of life.

The journey to finding your passion, when starting your own venture, is often times a struggle. For some  individuals, entrepreneurship may be a lifelong dream. For me, I got frustrated and that’s where my story begins.

Throughout my entire professional life, I’ve believed “You must give to receive.” It’s my personal motto. Giving of my time and talents led me to get a master’s in guidance and counseling. I began working at a university at 21, instilling leadership and volunteer development skills in college students. It’s always been who I naturally was. Living the military life and moving to locations where I wasn’t able to continue my career due to country agreements, I began the slippery slope of losing my professional path. Like many other spouses, I never saw it coming.

One day I decided to write a letter to Dr. Jill Biden. I thought the experience I had was something someone should hear about. I have always admired Dr. Biden because she kept her own identity during her husband’s career. Never really thinking I would hear back, I actually did. Well, sort of. Rosemary Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy sent me a wonderful letter, which I still have today. But that’s not where it ended. A month later, my phone rang and it was Ms. Williams. A letter and a call — that’s impressive! Anyone who has had the wonderful opportunity to get to know her will understand her communication is always done with approachability and compassion, not to mention great humor. She signs her monthly newsletters with “Yours in the Fight” because she genuinely cares about military families. How can you not adore her? But in that conversation about the struggles of professional paths for career spouses, she asked me if I had ever thought about starting my own business because of the wealth of experience I had. That resonated with me, and for the first time, I took my husband’s advice and decided to begin my own company.

Taking Charge of Your Own Destiny:

1. Determine your passion: When I first started my company, because my background is so diverse, I struggled to be “focused.” Find one thing you are really great at and focus. In the middle of the night, I literally woke up and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, what my concept was going to be. It was 1) needed, 2) low competition, 3) and had a mission of changing lives. When you lay in bed waiting for the morning to come, you know you’ve picked the right path. Many times I don’t wait for the sun to come up — just ask my husband.

2. Use the available resources: Almost every university has a small business development center with the sole purpose to help you! Don’t be afraid to reach out and have them help you begin the process. They help you fill out paperwork, guide you to other resources and plug you into the massive amounts of networking opportunities. Getting an LLC costs about $300 and that is good for the lifetime of your company. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to begin a business with today’s technological world. Reach out and take advantage of getting free certifications, which provide you access to city, state and federal contracts, if that’s your market. In addition, connect with organizations that offer expert business mentors. There are also companies that put on numerous free webinars targeted at small businesses. Quality feedback, experienced guidance and hard-to-hear advice from mentors is critical! Pick wisely.

3. Volunteer in your communities, not just on base: This is such an important piece of maintaining a balanced professional life. Most importantly, it helps grow your personal and company brand while giving back to our military cities. But do it only if you are truly interested in the mission. While volunteering to help a business do some marketing, I met a man who was part of the local Chamber of Commerce. Before I knew it, I expressed my interest to be involved and within two months became the Chairman for the Chamber of Commerce. Because of volunteering, I was given an incredible opportunity for an even larger volunteer opportunity.

4. Network, network, network: There is nothing more debilitating than walking into a professional networking event without knowing a soul — but it matters. You want people to put your face with your company. I try to attend as many of these events as I can, however, I’m also an extrovert. My favorite event is “Speed Networking.” It’s an opportunity to sit down and pitch your business in a speed dating kind of format. You learn about them and they about you, and then you exchange business cards. In addition, I talk to professionals, individuals and groups about using social media for professional networking. Many people who aren’t proponents of social media often confuse the different platforms. Bottom line: they are not all equal. Use the ones that are 100 percent professional or you are wasting free marketing by not engaging, not to mention you are missing out on connecting with great individuals.

5. Keep learning: The journey of owning your business means you must stay up to speed on industry standards, changing trends, technology, and social marketing. I always say, “Learning never ends!” Make time to create your own professional development institute whether it’s online courses, formal classroom options through continuing education departments at universities or within school districts, one-on-one methods with industry experts, or reading books. Don’t get so busy you forget to feed your own professional soul and curiosity. I think of my business model as a footstool. One-third of my time is on the business, one-third is on networking and volunteering, and one-third is spent on education.

My company motto is “Proceed with Confidence” because I absolutely believe when you are pursuing your natural gift in life; you do just that — have confidence. It exudes from your pores. You walk taller, you speak more compassionately and you view the world clearer. And those qualities are the best gifts you can give yourself and your customers.

Disclaimer: Publication on the Blog Brigade does not constitute official endorsement of personal blogs or websites on behalf of the Department of Defense.

*If you are interested in starting your own business as a military spouse, reserve your seat for the 2016 entrepreneurship webinar series.

 

Adjusting to a New Job

 Posted by on September 24, 2015 at 07:00
Sep 242015
 
Dani

Dani

Hey, milspouse. Congratulations! Your hard work has finally paid off and you got the job. You were given your start date and now it’s time to shop — a new first day of work outfit, a new gel pen to match your planner — oh, and maybe a new laptop bag to pull it all together? Or wait, maybe that’s just me! Sorry, I digress…

So you got the job and you have your start date. You’re more than likely about to enter unfamiliar territory, with a lot more new things ahead of you than a chic new blazer. Some of it will be fun, some not so much. Here are a few tips on how to look less like a newbie as you adjust to your new gig.

Put yourself out there. This may seem like the most obvious, I know. It’s also the most important. Make an effort to get to know your new co-workers, learn people’s names and say hello when you walk in each morning. Not only will you get the feel for the office culture, but you may find a lunch buddy or someone to chit-chat with at the water cooler. (Although, let’s be honest. The printer is totally the new water cooler. It’s also a better ice breaker because you can ask what they’re working on!) If you telecommute or are a virtual employee, find out if there is an interoffice instant messenger, and make an extra effort to say hello and ask about your co-workers’ days before communicating about an assignment or project.

Observe. At any workplace, there are unspoken expectations. Take cues from your new co-workers so you can adapt more quickly. Are people always on time for meetings, or do they consistently arrive early? Do they leave their desks for lunch, or eat and work? What hours do most people start and end their days? Is there a lot of socializing during the day, or is the workspace more quiet and focused? Do they primarily use email, instant messenger, phone calls or meet in person to communicate? Are cell phones kept out on their desks, or silenced in the drawers? There are so many little things to note so that your transition into your new work environment is a good one.

Don’t compare. Comparison can be a killjoy, so refrain from thoughts about “how it was different at my last job.” Sure, maybe the way things were done at your last job made more sense, you made more money or the people were cooler. Instead, focus on what’s good and what’s working in your new position. Take the time to understand why your new employer does things a different way, and after you have a good understanding, consider offering ideas that might work better. And for goodness’ sake, don’t get roped into any office drama or cliques! Keep a healthy distance and your personal thoughts to yourself, at least until you get a better idea of who’s who around the workplace.

Ask for examples. When you’re first starting out at a new job, it’s all new, even if you’ve been in the same field for years. Every company and manager has their own way of doing things, and it’s best to ask for an example of a task rather than assuming. You may not get it right the first time, but you have a much better chance at knocking it out of the park if you have something to base it from. If you’re not sure how to fill out a spreadsheet or sign off an email, ask for an example and keep a copy of it for future reference. Even now, four years later at my current job, I keep a folder on my desktop of templates so I can just fill in the blanks for various assignments. It saves a lot of time (and formatting).

Ask for feedback. At the end of your first few weeks, schedule a quick one-on-one with your manager or drop by his or her office to get a feel for how you’re doing so far. Is there anything you can be doing differently? An area you can focus on more? Ask, smile and thank your manager for taking his or her valuable time with you. End it with an enthusiastic, “Looking forward to seeing you next week!” Engaging with your boss by discussing your goals and proactively asking for feedback helps to establish a positive relationship, which can lead to more opportunities for you down the road.

Adjusting to a new job takes a little bit of time and a lot of effort. As military spouses, you may have to do this often throughout your careers. The more you do it, the better you get at it, and the quicker you’ll adjust and make new friends along the way. Cheers to you, and congrats again on landing the job!

 

Aug 202015
 

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.

 

 

 

Maddie’s Answer: Military Spouse Appreciation

 Posted by on June 8, 2015 at 14:44
Jun 082015
 

 

Dear Maddie,

Any advice for civilian military spouses looking for federal employment? Or anything that is conducive to moving every few years?

Kallie

 

Hi Kallie,

Let me start by saying, as a fellow active-duty military spouse, I can empathize with this question. Finding federal employment is a great start to landing a job that can usually be easily transferred as your husband gets orders every few years. However, if you are like me, and many others, you may just be wondering “how in the heck do we break through the federal hiring process to get hired?” Well, here is the good news. The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities, or MySECO, is where you need to start. In addition to articles and tips to help you write a successful federal resume, you can speak with a career counselor at no cost. Career counselors can help you with your resume, offer interview tips and even help you decide what direction you want to take with your career. Seriously, visit the website and then give them a call.

I also highly recommend becoming a mentee in the Military Spouse eMentorship Program. They can connect you with a spouse that is already working in your career field. Your mentor is there to help you succeed through networking, sharing personal stories of the path they took to reach success in their career while being a military spouse, and offer career advice from the industry.

Please note that portable careers have evolved so much in recent years thanks to technology. If you have no idea where to even begin finding a portable career, check out “Portable Careers for Military Spouses” to get you started and help you think outside the “typical portable career box.” Telecommuting is becoming mainstream and companies and employees are eagerly embracing it. Depending on your career field, you may be able to talk to your current employer about keeping your job even as you PCS around the country or across the world. Be sure to notify your employer in plenty of time before your impending move and be prepared to present a game plan on how you think your position would work well as a telecommuting career. For example: do you just need an internet connection, computer, and phone to work? Sweet. Then show them how easy that will be to provide from your new location. How will you handle working in a different time zone from your company? Are you open to staying up late or getting up early? Tell them. Does your job offer flexible hours where you can work whenever works best for you as long as you meet your deadline? That’s even better news for you. Work this into your “this is why keeping me on will be great” speech. Remember to think about your proposition from your employer’s perspective and be prepared to answer those questions.

The good news is that military spouses make awesome employees and employers know that. So dust off that resume, brush up on your interview skills…your career awaits.

Maddie

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