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Wanted: MilSpouses as Non-Profit Employees

Working for a non-profit, such as Habitat for Humanity

“The military breed, if you will, never ceases to amaze me with their dedication to each other, to the service, and to our country.  They give by serving and then they want to give back again by coming to work in the USO.”  --Tammy Heiser, senior vice president, Global Human Resources, USO

With services spanning the globe, non-profits just might offer ideal employment for a military spouse. Non-profit organizations have many of the same “service before self” values that we have within the military culture. So can you make a difference? And get paid for it?

Tammy Heiser, USO senior vice president of human resources, sees tremendous employee potential for military non-profits in military spouses, veterans and caregivers. “There is a clear qualification edge to someone who understands the military and/or the military family perspective,” she states. Heiser was not actively looking to switch jobs and work with the USO back in 2010, but when the opportunity presented itself, she found the prospect intriguing. Heiser was a Navy brat, so while the chance to work for a non-profit was appealing on its own, the fact the job was with the USO really caught her attention. 

So how can we, milspouses, also find employment with non-profit organizations? After speaking with Heiser, here are points to ponder/persuade/point you in the right direction when looking for a way to bring in money as well as feed your altruistic side:

While preferential treatment is not given to applicants with ties to the military, it does set you above those with no personal investment to military services. We know all about stretching a buck, giving each other a helping hand, and how even the smallest gesture of support is priceless. We also have ideas of how services can be improved.

Be a people person. Around 75% of jobs in the USO are “in the field," or positions that put you in direct contact dealing/delivering services to troops and families. We understand what military life is all about and understand the desires of the customer base; we’ve lived it, and so we have first-hand experience of what we would want.  Also, it is good to know and fully appreciate the mission of the non-profit organization, have the ability to follow that mission, and the discipline to maintain procedures. 

It doesn't matter if you have zero experience with a nonprofit organization. Or if you do not hold a college degree. Or if the last time you had a job that earned money was at the Orange Julius while in high school. What does matter is that potential employees have the right attitude, ability and knowledge of who they are supporting.  Non-profit organizations are a great place to build experience, strengthen a less-than-stellar resume, and get an easy foot in the door for entry level jobs from within. 

So maybe you do have some work experience but are not really sure if it will parlay into a career with a non-profit. Consider this: Prior retail work is a good thing because it is all about serving the customer (in this case, troops and family). If you ever planned a wedding, party, or function, then you too have a skill set to work in a management center.

Have you ever held a board position, been a committee chair, planned a budget, managed finances, or carried on a secret love affair with spreadsheets? Then you have valuable experience. Some jobs are specialized and so require degrees (are you listening, CPAs???).  Jobs in the field are more open to filling without specific degree requirements.

With non-profits, the focus is on mission delivery and putting every donor dollar into that mission. Key word here: donor. There is a constant challenge on how to deliver the mission successfully and efficiently, balancing ongoing projects, create new and improved projects, all while taking care of the day-to-day functions. We do not always need to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes we know how to cause it to roll better, faster and cheaper. 

How can you find job openings with non-profits? Check websites, and often, as jobs are updated frequently. Don’t discount volunteering with a particular organization either. Being a volunteer can be a stepping stone into a job, but it is not automatic.

Take advantage of job fairs. This year, the USO is not only teaming up with Hire Heroes USA to host a non-traditional career fairs, Career Opportunity Day, but is attending as a potential employer as well. This is free of charge for wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and veterans, spouses and caregivers. 

So many military spouses are called to make a difference in the world. Aiming at a job with a non-profit can bring together that drive, our professional experience, and the cultural knowledge we learn along the way.

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