The good news is this: In 2014, hiring is on the rise.
The bad news, is, as the saying goes, to get those jobs? You need to either adapt or risk becoming irrelevant.
According to a survey of the 25 hottest skills that got people hired this year, social media marketing, cloud computing, coding, digital storage management, and IT development and support topped the list. So if the words C++, Java and algorithm design send shivers down your spine, it’s time to gussy up your job skills.
Computerworld reports that 32 percent of companies expect an increase in hiring IT professionals this year, and the Labor Department thinks that more than 770,000 IT jobs will be added within the decade.
Even the MOAA Military Spouse Report for 2013 says that careers in information technology are the most lucrative job fields for military spouses.
We live in a technology driven world, and with the constant moves and employment interruptions of military life, military spouses need to be prepared to swim in today’s job pool.
The best news, though, is that it is not going to be hard to catch up. Most of the hottest skills of 2014 (and if we’re being honest, probably 2015, 2016 and 2017 too) are all ones you can master using your military spousal benefits and learn either on your own, remotely or at your local community college. Take that, scary C++.
We have long known IT jobs are a good fit for military life. They are everywhere (since every company today has IT needs), they are portable, and they can often be done remotely. Also, military spouses balancing IT jobs and their family life report loving their work -- a good recommendation if there ever were one.
So where do you get started?
Because social media is becoming a dominant advertising tool, jobs in social media are on the rise. In fact, according to LinkedIn, social media marketing was the top in-demand skill of the last year, and those well versed in the tricks of the trade are landing jobs left and right. So how do you get all that time on Facebook working for you?
Melissa is an Army spouse who found herself answering that question when her husband was stationed in Daytona Beach. Armed with a B.A. in English and sales experience, she was hired on as a local university’s alumni relations communications specialist. From there, branching into social media was easy. She was hired by the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation as their director of communication, where she really pushed their social media initiative.
Since so much of her work was done digitally, the next PCS move was one that was easy to handle. “I actually continued to work there without interruption while we PCS'd cross-country, since social media work is almost entirely web-based,” she tells us. Melissa is now the marketing communications manager at the National Military Family Association.
“I’ve been on both sides of this country working and playing in social media,” she says. “It’s a tool, a pastime, a job.” It’s also a promising career option for military spouses, she confirms. “I think working in social media is ideal for military spouses since it allows for great portability. I can literally work from anywhere and regularly work from home now.”
In addition to portability, jobs in social media also offer the promise of a career-track profession. “We military spouses so seldom get the chance at remote work that contributes to career progression, so if you’re lucky enough to nab such a hob, hold onto it tight!”
So how do you nab those jobs? Pay attention to top users on the major platforms -- Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. What do the companies you enjoy following do best? How can you emulate their online behavior? Get your profile in top-notch shape so that as you apply for jobs, your own page can be a digital cover letter: If you really know to use these social media sites, your own page will stand testament.
Take that knowledge to the volunteer groups in which you’re active. Your battalion’s page, the Family Readiness Group page, maybe a charity group you enjoy. Hone your skills for organizations you love, and then think about offering your services to small businesses in your area. Do they have a social media presence? Would you be willing to establish and maintain one for them? Thinking small will help you build your resume.
Learn to Code
It isn’t all pocket protectors and floppy disks anymore. Coding is a hot skill to have in the 2014 labor market, and it is much easier to master than you think. Learning to code is like learning to read: Anyone can do it as long as you have the basic tools of the language.
Learning to code is the 2014 equivalent of learning to knit.
“Anyone can do it,” says Rachel, a Coast Guard wife and IT support consultant for a bank in Florida. “You can teach yourself how. For the most part, employers don’t care how you learned it, as long as you know what you’re doing. They just want people who are proficient in a computer language they are using.”
The five languages you will encounter most often are HTML, Java, C++, Ruby and Python. IT technicians fluent in these languages are always in demand, and learning the languages is something you can do at your own pace and, in many cases, for free.
Look for online courses at Code Academy, Girl Develop It, and Udacity to learn the basics. Code Academy is a free interactive tool you can access online, and they offer courses in all five of those languages at varying levels of expertise. Girl Develop It is a non-profit specifically geared to helping females (young and old) learn to code, and they offer in-person courses in major cities across the country. Udacity, the online learning tool from Stanford, offers that university’s Introduction to Computer Science for free, so you could learn from the best of the best with the best of the best.
“I learned to code in our basement,” Rachel remembers. “And I know a girl who used a class at her public library to learn. Classes like that can be very helpful because there is someone there to answer whatever question you have.”
If classes are not exactly your speed and you want a more fun way to learn to code, try CodeRacer, a multi-player live coding game. There, you can learn the basics of CSS and HTML and build a basic website all by yourself. As you get more advanced, you will be able to test and retest your skills through more complicated coding actions.
Of course, there is also the old-fashioned way: There are plenty of books at the library to help you learn to code. They won’t give you the hands-on knowledge you will eventually need, but they can help those who feel overwhelmed dip their toes in the water in a safe, familiar environment.
Once you are fluent in a computer language, you will be able to market those skills to employers. Software developers enjoy the lowest unemployment rate around -- 1.8 percent -- so all that hard work will pay off with unrivaled job security.
Basic skills in hand, you will want to offer employers some assurance that you are really as good as you say you are. Answer: Certification.
Syracuse University is home to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, one of the greatest resources available to military veterans and spouses. IVMF offers a Career Transition Program that utilizes the resources already available at the university to help you expand your employment assets and elevate your career possibilities with free classes and certification in all manner of infotech specialties. If you are interested in learning more about their programs, we have a full write-up on the program here.
In addition to certifications, the program also offers courses in IT help desk support, technical foundation, server management, software development, and server infrastructure to name a few. No matter where you find your IT studies taking you, IVMF will take you to the next level -- for free.
“Certification is the hard thing,” says Nina, an Army wife in Texas. “A lot of community colleges offer certification classes, so you can look for those. I wasn’t certified until recently, but employers didn’t seem to care. In IT, knowing the program is what is important. But now, I can make a little more money with my certificate, and that’s really nice. Plus, I know when I move, they’re not going to question my skills. It says right there that I know what I’m doing.”
Nina used MyCAA to pay for her studies and complete her certification program at Fort Hood. “I should have done it sooner, so if you can do it for free, do it! If you are looking for a job, I know that is a full time job. But look for the job part time and learn an IT skill the rest of the time. You’ll get a job so much faster.”
There is no doubt that technology is the way of the future, but if infotech is not for you, all hope isn’t lost for 2014. After jobs in IT, MOAA reports that the two highest grossing career fields for military spouses are legal professions and health care.
But for those of you considering the jump to IT, keep in mind: Those two career tracks have one need in common. Every lawyer’s office and hospital relies on the help of someone in IT. In 2014, that could be you.