Every time I have to apply for a new job in a new town, my stomach gets tied up in knots. I always think: They know I’m going to be leaving in three years.
And it’s true, they do. My resume screams military wife. Despite all my best efforts to build a resume that reflects a cohesive employment history and a really great person you should absolutely hire, my resume basically reads, “Hi, I’m Raleigh. And I’m married to the military. I hope that’s okay?”
I’ll be honest: Sometimes it felt like owning up to my marital status meant confessing to some strike against me. It was like a black mark on my resume I couldn’t figure out how to address with a potential employer– or if I even needed to.
According to at least one career expert, the fact that you are a milspouse is not something you should shy away from.
That’s the good news from resume guru and self-proclaimed “Career Assistance Goddess” Susan Gaurneri, an author and one of the Internet’s most sought-after career coaches. According to Susan, you should never wonder about telling a potential recruiter or employer that you are military spouse. Instead, we should own it: it’s one of the greatest strengths we bring to the table.
"Being a military spouse has a lot of terrific pluses and very little downside to an employer,” she says. “Yes, you may be gone in 2 or 3 years, but is that so unusual these days? When I researched this topic in 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the average job tenure for all workers is about 3.1 years and for workers under the age of 30 it is about 18 months.
Those kind of numbers make military spouses look good.
Julie, a 35-year-old Army wife, says that when she first started out as a military wife, she worried that her newfound marital status would make her harder to hire. “It was like a big red A – A for Army – on my resume,” she said. “I thought, why hire me? I’m going to leave soon. And they’re going to know that right away.
Every time she had an interview, she had to battle her nerves first. “I felt like I was cheating them because I hadn’t told them already,” she said. “I was all clammy and worked up.
It wasn’t long before she realized that her biggest problem was not telling an employer she was a military wife, it was getting over being nervous about it.
I remember sitting in this one interview and my palms were sweating. The woman interviewing me asked me what was wrong, and I just blurted it out. ‘I’m married to a soldier and we’ll probably move in a few years,’ I told her.
I can tell from your resume,’ she said. ‘My dad was in the service. I think it made my mom a stronger woman.’ And just like that, I began to see it as an asset,” said Julie.
Two weeks later, she started work in the HR department of medium-sized company in Killeen, Texas. “I was amazed at how much turnover we saw,” she said. “I stayed for three years – that was longer than almost anyone else there.
When it came time to PCS, she prepared for another round of interviews. This time, she leveraged her experience as a military spouse. I pointed out that it made me flexible, independent, and a team player. Also, I told them I could guarantee that I’d stay with the company until my husband was schedule to transfer four years later. They loved that.
Julie’s experience is right in line with Susan’s advice, as is that of many other military spouses. We all know that however cliché it sounds, being married into the military has forced us to develop and hone some very valuable skill sets. And it’s those skill sets that we offer an employer that matter – not the fact that we come with DOD stickers on our cars.
No need to 'fess up' to anything,” Susan insists. “Instead, focus on marketing your flexibility, adaptability, loyalty, and ability to identify and use available resources in the job interview. Those are traits that most military spouses hone over the course of years and that most employers would love to have in an employee.
Those traits will put your resume at the top of the list because you’re a military spouse… not in spite of it.