There are a lot of job boards out there for military spouses, including one run by the Department of Defense with major, nationwide employers committed to (or claiming to be committed to) hiring military spouses and veterans. But here's one thing they lack: that personal touch. And that's exactly what Navy spouse Sharlay Smith is looking to bring.
Let's clear one thing up right away: Right now this job board only serves Jacksonville, Florida, parts of Texas and some telecommute positions. Everything else is in process as the business grows.
The site, Homeport Advantage, allows employers to post open jobs for a fee and users to find them for free. But it's more than just finding available jobs. This is about seeking out companies who are interested in hiring while helping spouses be matched with openings. Started as a micro job site to connect spouses with short term opportunities, it has now branched into regular employment.
"It’s more like personal one-on-one face to face contact where the Military Spouse Employment Partnership isn't," Smith said.
That's because Smith personally works to match employers with job openings to available applicants, something most online job boards don't do. Recently, she said, she helped an aviation company find the right veteran candidate.
Homeport Advantage also personally reaches out to possible employers to see if they hiring or would be interested in hiring spouses, she said.
Smith said she started the job board after personally experiencing the challenges of military moves on her own career. After getting a degree in economics and then taking time off for kids and military life, she realized the only way she was going to find a new job was to go back to school for a masters degree. She then decided to go into teaching because it was more portable.
She said part of the problem with spouse hiring is the ongoing belief that spouses are willing to settle for any old job, even when they have higher education in a specific field.
"We know that the problem is there, but the concentration is on veterans. That's fantastic," she said. "But when they think about military spouses, I think they think that military spouses are just housewives and they are limited with skills."
Instead she wants to see spouses getting jobs in the fields in which they want to work.
She said running the site has shown her how common the employment struggle really is across the community. She said she is working to grow her job board to be nationwide, not just in a few limited communities.
"The thing that I've gotten out of this whole experience so far is that I've had so many people from all over sharing their stories, and they have similar experiences, and they have expectations that eventually I will be able to reach out to all these different places," she said.