Why didn't you tell me that employment would be my biggest struggle as a military wife? I got plenty of other warnings before I married into the military?
-- “You’ll be far from family.”
-- “He’s gone a lot.”
-- “You need to be really independent.”
-- “Hope you like being alone on holidays!”
Why didn't you tell me: “Your career is going to plummet into the cracks of the cement and liquefy there.”
As a Registered Nurse with five years of experience and a Bachelor's degree under my belt, I was pretty pleased with my resume: Pediatrics. Cardiac. Charge nurse. Multiple certifications. Workshops.
Then Prince Charming came along, swept me off my feet to the land of Fort Campbell. I arrived with a few boxes and stacked resume in hand, ready for a job.
Then I thought, Oh, wait. I’ll only be here for 6 months. No hospital wants to hire an RN for six months. I knew that by the time I’d be trained, I’d also be leaving.
I ended up finding a nursing job that was less-than-dreamy and not exactly ideal for my already glowing resume, but at least it was a new experience. I shrugged it off. By the time I stumbled on that job, I was only in it five months.
Then I moved to Alabama with my still-perfect-Prince-Charming.
Due to license issues, and our expectation to only be there for six months, I rang in the new year with what I felt was a grim realization: there would be no job for me this time.
That meant a six month gap (or more) in my employment as a nurse. I felt my resume dropping points. The gleam of what I felt was a perfect background ebbed, and I shook my fists at the sky.
At the time, I said to one of my military wife friends, “Why didn’t anyone tell me that employment could be my biggest struggle as a military wife?”
I know I’m not alone. I’ve met a lot of other wives, none of whom are nurses, who had the same problem. One of my friends had a Bachelor's degree, sent out over twenty five applications, and the only one she got back was to be a cashier.
Another more experienced woman I talked to hadn’t even attempted applying for local jobs. What was the point?
In many military-driven towns, the job market is saturated. The economic downturn in the past couple of years hasn’t helped. So what do you do when your career can’t be as full of glitter as you planned? While my experience is far from perfect, here are four lessons I've learned. I hope it helps you:
Katie's Four Underemployment LessonsRock unemployment. I wasn’t happy about not being employed for six months, but I wasn’t about to cry over my ice cream bucket everyday. Time to bring out my oil paints, writing pencils, and inner yogi. I took Zumba classes, volunteered with my church, and reconnected with old talents.
Find that less than ideal job. I didn’t get what I wanted out of Clarksville and Fort Campbell, but I still got something. A job, in my view, was better than no job. Now that I’m a couple of years away, I can look back and see that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, it’s helped steer me into my current nursing job, one that I love.
Gain perspective.Despite the need for me to breathe into a brown paper bag almost everyday the first year of my marriage (especially when I was rocking unemployment for the first time) it helped me learn one thing: for me, the career isn’t everything. It’s part of me, and always will be, but it in no way defines what I am.
Love that spouse.Deciding to use unemployment as a chance to suck up every moment I could with my spouse was probably my wisest choice. Doing extraneous things during the day so we could cuddle up to America’s Funniest Home Videos when he came home at night will always be some of my favorite memories. Let’s face it: we’re all in the military. Time with hubby or wifey should be top priority.
Our time in Alabama stretched to almost eleven months. With the way it worked out, I didn’t get a job for any of it.
We moved to North Carolina, where I got another nursing job. My new employer didn't blink an eye at my glaring black hole of unemployment.
It was the job I’d always wanted. But after rocking unemployment, and realizing where my real priorities lay, I turned it down. Now I’m blessed to work at that less-than-ideal job and love every minute of it.
Katie Cross is an Army wife living in North Carolina. When she is not working as an RN or playing with her husband and two Vizslas, she is finishing her first book and working on her website www.kcrosswriting.com. Why Didn’t You Tell Me is a weekly feature that gives our readers a space to tell their own story. If you have a story for us, please submit using the contact button above. All stories must be original and unpublished.