It’s easy to get discouraged as a working military spouse. Not only are we a small sliver of the already tiny military spouse demographic, but the military life challenges of moving and juggling career with sometimes-solo parenting can leave us feeling completely alone. How are we supposed to find support from other likeminded spouses when we have recreate our career network with every move?
As a career minded military spouse and mother a few things helped me find other motivated spouses along the way. These are my top three tips.
Top 3 Ways to Find Spouse Career SupportIdentify each other. I find that I can spot an equally harried working mother or father spouse from a mile away as they rush, just like me, to get their kid to the after work event on time. Don’t just let these people pass you by. Nothing is more validating than connecting with another spouse who is balancing work, family and military life. Get to know these people.
One of my favorite moments was meeting another working mom while my daughter was in gymnastics. We had similar career ambitions, goals, and military life experiences. When I asked her where she has been the last two years since being at Fort Polk, she replied with “Working!” Most of us are so busy working and balancing life, we do not find opportunities to meet each other. At different times during my spouse’s deployment, I thought to myself “Can I really do it all?” Talking to other spouses that “get it” gives me energy to keep pursing goals. Seek each other out to motivate and encourage. Even in different job fields, working spouses can energize each other to make differences in their communities and work environments.
Build a network. With the onset of social media, it has never been easier to build a network of spouses. When a network is built, it creates opportunities for spouses to connect and to accomplish goals. Career support nonprofit In Gear Career has chapters at a number of military installations (find a full list here). Their purpose is to promote employment, career development, and networking opportunities for military spouses.
And thanks to social media your network doesn’t have to be local – for example the Military Spouse JD Network, a spouse bar association, has 900-plus members nationwide.
Building a network can help your career as well as provide a way to support others. The longer your spouse is in the military, the bigger your network will become. I cannot wait to see what my network will be after my husband serves 20 years. It is a true advantage that people in the civilian sector do not usually have. A healthy network is going to share information about job opportunities, and advocate for each other. If there is not already a network of spouses at your installation or in your job field, I encourage you to create one.
Support other spouses. Supporting each other can be the hardest action because historically, women can tend to hold each other back without realizing it. Whether we are threatened by each other or dealing with our own insecurities, we tend to struggle to find ways to support each other. It is important to move past this practice.
There are a number of ways military spouses can support each other. My favorite way is connecting people to each other – and expansion of the building a network idea. I had two friends move to Fort Benning; both were lawyers, and I was so excited to introduce them. One had practiced law in Columbus, Ga. prior to becoming a military spouse. As a result, she was able to encourage the other by introducing her to an established network of local lawyers.
Another way to support each other is sharing lessons learned. Whether it is career or military life related, such a wealth of wisdom can come from those who have lived the experience. Even after 10 years of being with my soldier and in the workforce, I know I do not have all the answers. It is important to draw on those with the experience. For those who have the experience, share it whenever there is a listening ear.
These are just the tips I’ve gained over multiple jobs at multiple duty stations. Where are you finding your support and validation of being a working parent while your spouse serves? What has your experience been with connecting to other career minded military spouses? I get motivated when I think about the impact this demographic of working military spouses can have if we learn to meet each other, build networks, and support each other to reach goals.
Amy Bontrager has been chasing her husband for 10 years across the country while continuing to build an impressive resume both within the government and nonprofit sector. She has a huge passion of bringing people together to help them achieve their goals. She is blessed to be a mother of a free spirited 4 year old that is going to do great things one day. Amy has a masters in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy and a passion for policy analysis. She currently resides at Fort Polk where she works with Army Career Alumni Program as a Liaison Officer.