The 5 Connections We're Thankful for This Year


One of the most remarkable things about building a career or launching a successful job search is how many people are willing to work on your behalf.

From giving references to helping find job leads, people come out of the woodwork with connections, advice and expertise. And while all of that is wonderful, what is even more remarkable is how much further they are willing to go on your behalf when you take the time to notice.

"It was amazing to me when a former employee emailed to me to say they got the job," said Emily, a Marine Corps wife. "Like, 'it all worked out!' It didn't 'just' work out. I spent four hours on the phone talking you up. There was a lot of work involved."

This time of year, we are grateful for the helpers. People like Emily who, no matter what other responsibilities they have on their plate, are ready, willing and able to step forward and help us with our job needs

For us, there are five helpers whose work goes above and beyond, and for them, we are so thankful. Wherever you are in your own job search or career track, we hope you have these five people in your life.

An Influential Teacher

Whether high school or college, this teacher is someone who lit a spark in you to do more. To reach your potential, pursue your dreams, think out of the box.

"A teacher who believes in you can make all the difference in your life," says Jenny, an Air Force wife. "That someone never stops believing in you."

Teachers hold a powerful sway on our lives, and in hard times -- like the job search that doesn't end or a phase of underemployment you can't seem to get out of -- having someone in your corner who believes in you, knows what you are capable of, and wants to see you succeed can make all the difference in the world.

A Former Employer You Admire

"Always get a reference before you leave the job," Ariel says. Ariel is an Army spouse who learned to ask for a reference letter before she leaves a job so she can walk into any potential job interview with stellar words in hand.

Ariel knows that staying in touch with the person writing the reference is just as important. "Someone you worked for who liked you. That's someone who can always say how good you were."

A former supervisor, boss or superior who respected your work is an ideal candidate for a good reference, which also means they are someone with whom you need to stay in constant connection.

They can help you field ideas, brainstorm new paths when a job application process goes awry, and think through game plans to make the best of a new situation. "Always stay in touch," Ariel says. "Or they won't be the reference you want them to be later."

A Former Colleague You Respect

Co-workers can be a godsend when it comes to a long or recurrent job search. While a teacher believes in you and a past boss can speak for you, a former co-worker with whom you got along and who has gone her own way can be a strong sounding-board for real advice.

If you don't already have this person in your life, look for someone with whom you share a professional experience and have stayed in touch. It does not matter if this person has changed fields or found a new professional calling. This is someone who knows your real work habits (and not just the best side of yourself you always showed your boss) and your weaknesses (habitually late, maybe?).

This is the person who can help you take those shortcomings into account as you think about new prospects or build out your areas of concern. This colleague is more than someone you worked with ages ago -- it is someone you trust to be a confidante today.

A Mentor

We are big fans of mentors. But if you do not have one (or think a mentor relationship is not for you), you can think outside the box: A quasi-mentor could be someone with analogous experience you can look up to and who can offer you sound advice.

One military spouse found hers in another military spouse at a larger company. "She has helped me find the courage to find my own dreams," says LaRae, a stay-at-home mom and Army wife transitioning back to work. "She has been a guiding light."

LaRae did not use a traditional mentor to find the support and guidance she needed. She just turned to someone whose experience was compatible with her own and asked for help.

Someone Who Loves You

It might be sappy, but we know it is true: Balancing military life and a career is not easy. Keeping your spirits up during a job search can seem impossible (although it isn't!). But because of that, we recommend having a friend in your life who loves you, adores you, and can tell you how wonderful you are when that rejection letter rolls in. (It will. You don't always have to take it personally.)

These are the people who remind us to keep our heads held high even when we want to sink into the couch in despair, subscribe to an ice-cream-of-the-month club, and never get out of our pajamas. But they would never let us get away with that -- and for them, we are truly grateful.

Not everyone says thank you to a co-worker, a colleague, a former boss, a teacher or a mentor at Thanksgiving, but as military spouses who look for work, we do. Thank you.

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