Is "Military Spouse" Really A Job Skill?

“Military Spouse” ought to be considered a job skill. For certain jobs that work directly with or for a military population, I argue that years lived as part of the living, breathing, commissary-shopping military population turns into some kind of crazy job skill.

It isn’t the same thing as having a master’s degree in civil engineering.  Or having ten years of experience dismantling bombs.  It isn't the same thing as that supergreat rhetoric we’ve heard lately about how military spouse employees being flexible! Committed!  Independent!!!

I’m saying that for certain jobs—like teaching elementary school in a heavily deploying military community, or counseling military couples, or being a Family Readiness Officer for the Marines, or creating advertising aimed at military families—the familiarity with the way the military works turns into a job skill for military spouses that civilian job candidates don’t have. So hire military spouses.

Think of it as a job skill like speaking fluent Spanish.  Or whizzing around an Excel spreadsheet.  “Military spouse” connotes a certain intangible ease with a culture that you only get by moving and deploying and living in military communities. It is the kind of skill most employers don't weigh heavily.  Instead they worry whether or not spouses will move.  They worry that they don't personally know the military spouse.  Employers don’t realize they need that military culture skill until their new non-spouse employee is fumbling their responsibilities with the military population.

As a military life consultant, I’ve been brought in by corporations to explain military life to workers who only deal with military families on the phone.  These employees have never met a military spouse in person.  These employees can’t understand why anyone would join the military.  Since they only deal with military families in periods of crisis, these employees naturally think of us like a pack of whining, sighing, semi-hysterical dependents.

Which isn’t who we are at all.  Growing up in the military culture (even if that growing up process started when you were 22), you learn that the majority of military folks cope pretty well.  Non-copers get out of the military.  You know that in crisis what most families want is to get back on their own two independent feet.  You instinctively smell when a story a military client is giving you just wouldn’t happen.  You know when and how to dig a little more.

You aren’t told these things.  As a military spouse or a military brat or a vet, you know these things in your bones.  That kind of cultural knowledge changes the way you behave on the job.  So we know military spouse teachers who call home because a kid whose parent is deployed seems a little down.  We know military spouse marriage counselors who recognize which parts of military life are rocky by nature, not some kind of tragedy waiting to happen.  Right now at SpouseBuzz I’m looking for an events manager who understands that if you want a military spouse to go through all the contortions required to get a babysitter and come to SpouseBuzz LIVE, you gotta make the program worth their while.

A deep familiarity with military life is an invisible job skill that pays off for employers.  Hire military spouses to do jobs that require that expertise.




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