A "portable" career is not enough for military spouses. Although it is important to be able to take your career with you when your service member gets orders, fulfillment and passion are also required. That's right: fulfillment and passion for your work are required.
As a career counselor for military spouses, I've learned that we all have intrinsic interests, skills and things we are just naturally good at. By choosing to accept a career that is not fulfilling simply because it’s easier than fighting for what you want, you ultimately accept defeat. For those unwilling to settle, there are a few basic things that can help set you back on the right track:
1. Forget Portability…at least for now. I know this seems counterintuitive and scary, but if you truly want a career that is tailor-made for you, you have to let go of constraints before you will be able to clearly see what you really desire. This means you have to set aside all potential obstacles—not just portability requirements. You must have know who you are, what a successful career means to you and what you want. Get specific about the details, from the type of industry you love to the pace of the work you will do. Do you like to be autonomous or have a team around you working collaboratively? Ask yourself these questions and write them down. It’s also okay if you don’t have all the answers now as long as you are getting clearer about your desires.
2. Temper Your Passion with Practicality. I will never advise spouses to throw all caution to the wind. I know this lifestyle does require we come back to reality after prancing around in our daydreams for a while. You can take the industries and anything else you really want in your career and start to now evaluate if it’s realistic. How? Try using resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Onetonline.org. There is information from salary trends to job growth and typical education requirements.
3. Make Your Own Career. If you don’t make your own career, it will be made (or not) for you. Though great jobs can sometimes result from luck, the lasting, fulfilling careers take work. By knowing what you want and the reality of those desires, you can make decisions based on whether the outcome will get you closer to your goals or not.
Most importantly, don’t give up. By neglecting your passion, you are not only doing a disservice to yourself, but to all the people who are not getting the benefit of your skills.
Army wife Stacy Swearengen is a Certified Career, Education and Adult Learning Coach who specializes in helping military spouses and girlfriends develop portable careers. Stacy also serves our community as an FRG (Family Readines Group) Point of Contact and volunteer with the Advisory Council on Military Education, Blue Star Families, Operation Homefront, and the Veterans Resource Central Leadership Team.