"Military spouses don't serve. They don't need special job fairs or networking events."
"Hire veterans. Why worry about spouses? They didn't do anything."
"When you hire military spouses, you take jobs away from veterans."
"We should focus our limited employment-help resources on veterans. They are the real heroes. They are the ones that really need jobs."
These are just some of the sentiments I've heard over the six years I've been watching the military spouse employment and career assistance space. And boy are they misguided. Yes, we have limited resources. But the same exact importance should be place on military spouse hiring and hiring fairs and networking as is placed on veteran hiring. Here's why.
Why MilSpouse Hiring Is Equal to Veteran Hiring1. When you hire a spouse, you provide for a vet. This isn't rocket science. Like most families, military couples rely on the benefits each other brings to make family finances work. Individual family members don't operate in a vacuum. When you help a military spouse get a job, you are helping a veteran at the same exact time by providing the family with income, stability, health care, retirement contributions or whatever other benefits any given job affords.
2. When you hire a spouse, you provide a transition plan back to civilian life. Over the last several year as the military started draw down and Defense budget cuts came rolling in, I noticed something interesting: rather than launch new resources for military spouses, the Defense Department was simply redressing old ones. Military spouse employment help had been viewed as a retention tool -- keep the spouse happy, and the service member will stay. Now it was viewed as a transition tool -- get the spouse employed, and the family will have an income after they get out.
That makes a lot of sense. If you can help a military spouse find a job and keep a career throughout his or her spouse's military service, you help them succeed when they go back to civilian life and the veteran decides to go back to school or works to pick a new career path. There will be no period of unemployment or lack of income, because the spouse will have already been set-up for success.
3. When you hire a spouse, you support military kids. One of the sad truths about military life is that, sometimes, it doesn't have a happy ending. Military families dissolve in divorce at about the same rate as civilian ones. But unlike typical civilian families where there are often already two careers at play and two incomes, the non-service member in a military relationship is likely to have no career to fall back on to provide for herself ... or her kids. And due to the nature of military service, the non-service member parent is most likely to become the primary provider whether she is financially able to or not.
For as much discredit as the importance of military spouse hiring periodically suffers, the support of military kids fairs even worse in the public at large. Military children don't have a choice about their family -- they were born into it and have to deal with the challenges brought by hopping around the country and long parental separations. The least we can do is help both of their parents make sure that they have the ability to provide for them should the occasion arise.
4. When you hire a spouse, you acknowledge her sacrifice, too. I believe that military spouses serve. No, they don't serve in the same way as the military member. Life and limb are rarely at risk. But when they say "yes" to supporting a military member, they say "yes" to the many challenges that come along with military life, including unemployment, frequent moves and solo-parenting. Spending resources on military spouse employment means acknowledging that the nation is grateful for the role he or she plays, however comparatively small, in making national defense possible.