Everyone has a story. Mine has taken me all around the country and shown me a few steps other military spouse can take to advance their careers.
I met Gabriel, a retired U.S. Navy senior chief, the day before his deployment from Jacksonville, Florida. One moment I was helping him withdraw money, and the next I was sending care packages to his naval base.
Since our marriage just a few years later, the Navy has moved us four times. We've put down and pulled up roots in Florida, Michigan, California, Illinois and Texas. While being married to someone in the service isn't always easy, I wouldn't change it for the world.
While an essential and commonplace occurrence in a military career, moving every couple of years can make it difficult to advance a civilian one. Across the United States, almost 25 percent of military spouses are unemployed and nearly 40 percent are underemployed.
But, that's not my story.
During Gabriel's 22 years in the Navy, I've grown my position at Bank of America from a teller to a client management executive. While I recognize no plan is foolproof and nobody's situation is the same, I hope that other military couples can use some of the lessons I've learned to help advance their career.
1. Always be open and honest with your manager or employer about your situation. When one of my kids gets sick, I can't call my husband to stay home with them if he is thousands of miles away on a deployment. I have found, no matter what city or role that I have been in, that managers and leaders will work with you if you need to make adjustments for your family, but it takes open and honest communication.
2. Take advantage of your company's benefits and support programs. I believe that company benefits and employee networks are some of the most useful resources for military families. I can speak to the personal and professional benefits of programs like Bank of America's Military Support and Assistance Group (MSAG). Networks like MSAG provide an opportunity to connect with and befriend fellow veterans and their families.
3. Put your faith in others. This one took me a while as I am a pretty independent person. One thing being a military spouse has taught me is the power in leaning on others when you need help, and not being afraid to ask. If your employer offers more flexible works hours -- say 'yes.' If your friend offers to babysit -- say 'yes.' You will be much happier when you lean on others from time to time.
While the life of a military spouse often goes hand-in-hand with personal and professional sacrifice, I believe that it's possible for military spouses to have successful careers.
Look for employers like mine who are committed to hiring military spouses and family members, and be forthright and confident about your situation. Transitions can be difficult, but the military makes those who serve, as well as their loved ones, uniquely resilient. This singular quality makes them an invaluable asset to any company.
Erica Tyree is a Senior Vice President and Client Management Executive for U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management in the Dallas Market with over nineteen years at the company. She is the Enterprise Co-Chair of the Military Support and Assistance Group (MSAG) through which she works with national non-profit organizations that support veterans and their families. Erica has a strong passion for veterans and their families.