Nothing like getting a letter from an airman in love to make us feel really helpful at SpouseBuzz -- especially when it comes to outwitting spouse employment problems.
Tim wrote us about how his wonderful girlfriend completed her degree in Community Health and how she was accepted for an internship. He said that patients and coworkers loved her work and that she was passionate about her profession.
Then Tim moved her to Nowhere, Texas and then to the wilds of New Jersey. Tim wrote:
“Unfortunately now after 3 months of living here, after many declined job applications and a handful of interviews she cannot land a job even someone with high school credentials could land. Her efforts are [starting] to seem like a waste to her and her morale and spirit are diminishing just like her savings account. I am worried for her. She wants to be successful and have a purpose and cannot endure sitting around the house searching for jobs all day desperately searching for employment.”We can imagine what that scene is like at their house. If it is anything like the scene at our houses, we bet there are a lot of fights ending with “I am never going to be anything as long as you are in the military!!!”
So we reach out to some of the experts who study spouse employment and really do help spouses find career enhancing jobs. Here are their:
7 Overpowering Beliefs of Military Spouses Who Land Jobs and Create Careers.
1. They believe in the power of grit.Vivian Greentree, Senior Vice President of Military and Veteran Affairs for First Data, says that one of the traits she sees over and over in employed military spouses is grit.
“They all exhibit a sort of moxie that says no matter what happens – their terrible PCS location, a deployment, having a baby, having to start in a lower position on the totem pole –no matter the setback, they don’t take their eye off the long term goal of what it is they want to be, where they want to end up.”
Grit is not an empty belief in positive thinking. Grit is not ignoring the realities of the obstacles you face. Grit is what keeps you applying and trying when you want to give up. Grit is determination with a little dirt on its face.
2.They believe in their value to business, not (necessarily) government.Spouse employment programs from the government are nice, but the research shows that 46% spouses who used military sponsored spouse employment programs very dissatisfied or dissatisfied with the programs. Only 11% of those who used those programs secured a job through those programs.
Look to business instead. Lewis Runnion is a senior vice president for Bank of America as well as a director in the Military & Veterans Affairs Team.
As an Army veteran, he is also one of their 6800 current veteran and spouse employees. Bank of America has just made a commitment to hiring another 10,000 veteran and military employees—which includes military spouses.
Runnion said that the organization became interested in military spouses at job fairs. They found that the leadership traits they were looking for in the service member—like problem solving and the ability to assess a situation—were also found in their spouses. “We think those skills are amazing,” said Runnion.
Bank of America offers a job transition program that helps spouses transfer their job when they PCS. This isn’t just teller or customer service jobs. This also includes jobs in management. (See an interview with one of their amazing vice presidents who is also a mil spouse here).
These programs are not easy to find, but a good one is worth the investment in the time it takes to find them.
3. They believe in the Kevin Bacon effect.Every expert we spoke to mentioned networking. Amanda Crowe, Executive Director of In Gear Career, has noticed how spouses not only know exactly what kind of job they want, but they tell EVERYONE they meet.
“If someone asks you, "What do you do?" or "What do you want to do,” you don't tell them, "I'll do anything." That helps no one,” said Crowe.
“Everyone has something in their mind they want to do--they may be afraid to say it because they think it's selfish, or impossible in their current duty station, or whatever, but they stop being afraid and tell everyone. Tell the guy in the grocery store line that asks if you are new in town. Tell the other moms when you drop your kids at school. Tell the family service coordinator (or key spouse, ombudsman etc.) and definitely put it on your LinkedIn profile. These people will become your network. Someone will know someone that knows someone they can introduce to you. Hello, Kevin Bacon!.”
Also attend conferences like MOAA’s Spouse Employment Symposia and Military.com’s Spouse Summit and the SpouseBuzz Spouse Experience. Even if the conference isn’t specifically focused on jobhunters, we hear from spouses who found their job lead sitting next to them at a table.
4. They believe in their driving force and particular passion.Even though spouses are notoriously underemployed—working at a job below their skillset and/or education—spouses who work end up with a focus on a certain subject matter.
“If you want to pursue finance, you don’t have to do it at a Fortune 500 company to show experience,” said Greentree. “You can do the books for a local company or have a completely different job but take online courses to continue to hone your skillset.”
The Blue Star Family’s Military Spouse Resume Toolkit helps spouses focus their resumes. “Being creative in how you pursue your ultimate goal shows commitment, innovativeness, and perseverance, all qualities that hiring managers look for when they want to build a solid organization,” said Greentree
Also, when employment is not available, spouses who work stay engaged through strategic volunteering. Karen Golden, Government Relations Deputy Director, Military Officers Association of America, said that strategic volunteering allows you to keep your skill set sharp while making those all-important connections. “ At home on your couch you may meet Dr. Phil. Out volunteering in the community, you may meet your next employer.”
5. They believe in an ambitious service member.At SpouseBuzz, one of the things that we see in employed spouses is that they are partnered with a service member who is unapologetically ambitious in his or her own career.
The service member isn’t saying that their partner’s ambitions are unimportant—in fact, the opposite is true. These service members are big, vocal, constant supporters of their partner’s career.
These service members are invested in the military in a way that the sacrifice of moving becomes worthwhile to the entire family. They also ensure that the whole family team is on board with the spouse’s decision to work.
“Delegate, delegate, delegate to that team,” said Golden. No matter what the commercial says, there is no such thing as an “Army of one.”
6. They believe in helping each other.Employed spouses also believe in helping one another. “Many times the difference between your resume and another applicant’s is someone knowing you personally or having worked with you professionally,” said Greentree.
In addition to attending live conferences, panels, and meet and greets, spouses and partners who work engage in online professional groups.
“I’m a member of a Facebook page for military spouses with PhDs and have found out about research opportunities, information on conferences, and employment opportunities,” said Greetree. “ We all support each other through the setbacks and share in the highlights. You need people around you to celebrate and also encourage you to get back up again after a defeat.”
Joining this group of believers is a real asset. “When you have arrived at the great job—and you will—don’t forget those spouses that supported you along the way,” said Golden. “Be a true mentor. Listen, support, encourage, make those connections for your fellow military spouses. We are all in this together.”