After five rounds of interviews and a test that I passed with flying colors, I was rejected from my dream job at a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.
I was told it was because there wasn’t a "personality fit." But this claim coincided with the firm finding out that I was a military spouse. Coincidence? Or was it an HR-friendly way to account for not hiring someone who moves every few years?
When I worked for the Military Spouse Program at Hiring Our Heroes, I learned that many military spouses experience similar challenges. Here’s what I’ve discovered through my work about the best ways to actually get that job you want.
1) Don’t expect to get a job at a Hiring Fair.Hiring fairs are good events ... for networking. What they are not is a one-stop shop to get hired now.
Many employers who attend these events are there to fulfill a quota of fairs attended and show they care about military families.
There is no mandate that they formally employ military spouses. In turn, there is no accountability, other than an occasional follow up phone call. So go to that hiring fair, but make sure you are not expecting a job out of it, even if you have a stellar resume.
2) Use your volunteer experience as work experience.Volunteer experience is work experience. Any volunteering you do can be phrased as work experience and classified accordingly on your resume. Volunteer work is also great to take on if you absolutely cannot get a job, but want to keep your resume filled with work, and stay busy!
3) Don’t bring up being a military spouse.I made the mistake of proudly telling those who interviewed me that I was a military spouse. But it’s none of their business, and they legally cannot ask.
If your interviewer wonders why you’ve moved so much, say, “My husband’s career. But we’re settled here now and aren’t moving.”
I’m not encouraging you to lie. But if your interviewer raises concern, don’t let yourself be penalized for being a spouse!
4) Look for jobs at places that actively seek out military spouses.The PR firm I at which I interviewed told me that they promoted from within. They said people spent 20 years working for them. This probably wasn’t an environment conducive to anyone who moves around a lot.
If you can find an employer who you don’t have to hide anything from, such as USAA or a military base office, and they have opportunities up your alley, go for it! Places that cater to the military are ideal places to get hired now.
5) Don’t undersell yourself.I’ve noticed a lot of spouses who in turn have a tendency to dismiss all of their hard work and talents. Well, don’t. You should be so proud of your accomplishments. Put your skills and achievements at the forefront, on your resume and in interviews.
6) Get to know people.One thing spouses are great at is networking. We move all the time, so we network to get to know new people in our new communities. Even if you aren’t extremely social, the more people you get to know at social events on and off base, the more opportunities will come up to get hired now. I found out about one job I interviewed for just by grabbing coffee with a family friend.
7) Consider entrepreneurship.Sometimes, your best bet is just working for yourself. I have met several successful military spouses who started their own businesses to manage their schedules around frequent deployments and moves. They are able to pursue their passions of interior design, writing, or photography. They also enjoy a built-in clientele on base!
8) Hold true to your passion and talent.Recent survey results show that spouses are often overqualified for the jobs they take. Remember that you will be most successful at the thing that interests you most.
I learned the hard way it wasn’t enough to just have a job. With my husband travelling regularly, I could only be fulfilled in my daily life with a job I care about and enjoy.
9) Establish an online presence.Networking is made even easier these days through social media. Join LinkedIn, and keep your profile professional. You can connect your LinkedIn profile to many online job applications!
Depending on your field, having a presence on Twitter, a website of your own, or even a Google+ account can show media savvy and marketing skills that many employers value. Social media is also a great avenue for finding out about job opportunities.
Every military spouse I’ve met who has a solid career path has experienced resume gaps, and has horror stories of interviews gone wrong. The obstacles faced are inevitable, but I hope they can empower you to prove wrong all those people who say that military spouses can’t have careers.
Jill Pohl is an Air Force wife of almost five years who has, like many military spouses, held several different jobs in just a few years. Most recently, she was the Military Spouse Program Coordinator for Hiring Our Heroes, part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. She currently works as a freelance writer and blogger. Jill lives with her husband and two dogs, a pug and a German Shepherd, in Northern Virginia. You can read more of her military spouse-related writing at www.visionsofjillhanna.com.
Photo courtesy US Air Force.