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5 Steps to Help Military Spouse Friend Get a Job

Job hunt. Photo by Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera/Marine Corps
Job hunt. Photo by Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera/Marine Corps

"In the last week, I've gotten four emails from friends trying to get work. They know I have a job, which I guess makes me knowledgeable on how to get one, and they want my help," says Navy wife Andrea.

Andrea cares about spouse employment. Her job helps pay her active-duty family's bills. But while she is eager to help her friends, one thing keeps getting in her way: "I have no idea where to start," she confesses.

If you are also trying to help a military spouse find a job, the task can seem daunting. According to a 2014 survey on spouse employment conducted by the Military Officers Association of America, military spouses face unemployment rates three times those of their civilian peers. A whopping 90 percent say they are underemployed.

No wonder it seems like every military spouse you know is looking for work -- and asking you for help with their job search. If a spouse has reached out to you for assistance, here are five things you can do (really!) to lend a helping hand:

1.Hire that spouse.

If you are hiring, the best way to help a military spouse find employment is to hire that person (or at least interview them). If you are not hiring, you can still help them with the following tips.

2. Resist the urge to avoid. 

You know that feeling. The resume you don't know what to do with is languishing in your inbox. You are busy flying through the tasks you have to deal with, and it is still there. Waiting. Quietly asking for help.

We have all been there with that stalled resume. And most of us admit to letting those resumes sit for uncomfortably long amounts of time before just deleting them.

If you are serious about helping a military spouse get a job, do not avoid that initial request for help.

Take the first step to helping this spouse and write back. Acknowledge that you have the resume, be straightforward about whether you have time to read it, and pass on some homework to help the spouse kick their job search into high gear.

A great standard reply is:  I would love to help you out.

Of course you would, but maybe you don't have time. What can you do to connect a spouse to help?

Finish with this: Here are three articles for you to read that I think will put you on the right track.

Look below for some suggestions for articles that really do help spouses find jobs.

3. Connect the spouse to resources.

For anyone looking for work, having a mentor (or anyone they are reaching out to for help in this capacity) suggest three articles makes the job seeker immediately comfortable in their search.

First, you have acknowledged you want to help (I care). Then, you've passed along three things that actually will help (this is me caring). And importantly, you have passed the baton back to the job seeker (I might care, but this is still your job search) and motivated her toward action.

Spouses in the midst of a job search often need two kinds of concrete help: 1) A person who can sit down with them, face to face, to go through their resume with them and help connect them to actual employers; and 2) how-to's for the extra work they will need to do to make sure their resume stands out at the top of the pile when they have found the job they think they want.

To connect them to in-person help, send them to the employment office on their military installation that specializes in helping military spouses in their job searches.

We have organized these resources by branch: Here are the places that spouses in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard can turn for help wherever they are ready to try to find a job.

We also encourage spouses looking for work to spend some time with our crash course in how to workshop your resume at home and how to gussy up your online profile for the job hunt. Both of these articles provide concrete steps for spouses to take at home to put their best foot forward in their job search.

4. Be straightforward.

Providing these resources to the military spouse is a huge help, but so is your honesty. Be straightforward about what help you can actually offer: Do you have the time to really give their resume a good look? Do you know someone you can connect them to directly who can help them further? Are they actually reaching out to you in hopes you will hire them? If you are honest with a spouse about what you can do, you will keep their expectations realistic. Do this as much for them as for yourself.

In addition to being honest about how much help you can actually be to them, be frank about how much help they actually need.

Do they need to start their resume from scratch? Do they need to stop thinking so narrowly about the jobs they would be willing to take? Do they need to narrow their thinking from "I'll do anything!" to "I actually would be great at these four specific job types"?

When a job seeker reaches out for help, she is not asking for a pat on the back. She does not need to hear that her resume is terrific or she is the ideal candidate for a job you are not hiring.

It is hard to be straightforward and open in this situation, but if you are a really serious about helping military spouses get jobs, take advantage of this opportunity. Be honest. After all, they have reached out to you hoping for just that.

5. Good luck in your future endeavors.

If honesty is difficult, it might be even harder to actually end the conversation. Unless you are an employment coach, chances are high that you do not have endless time to help someone find work, no matter how much you wish you could.

To help the job seeker understand what kind of commitment you are actually willing to give them, be very clear in your initial communications about what you are capable of doing for them. 

You can say something like, I will get back to you within the next two weeks with my suggestions on your resume. Or, I hope these articles help. Best of luck in your future endeavors. 

If you don't have the time to commit to a resume redux, don't feel bad and try to get out of it by promising to reply but never giving the resume another glance. Empower the spouse to move forward.

"Honesty has to be the best policy and the only policy," Andrea says, thinking about her own job search. "It's depressing to send emails and never hear back, or hear that they will look at your resume and never do."

Andrea is going to try to be direct with her friends about the help she is actually capable of offering, "but I know it will be hard," she says. "I really want them all to find work."

Being honest and connecting military spouses to concrete resources they can put to play in their job searches, you too can help a military spouse get a job. Bookmark this article so that you have all the resources you need the next time you get an earnest query from a job seeking spouse.

And remember:  If you are hiring? The best way for you to help a military spouse find a job is to HIRE ONE.

Related Topics

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