Military spouses have unique challenges in the workforce -- that's an understatement. If you’re a military spouse and you’ve looked for a job, had a job or are currently working, then you understand “The Plight” of the military spouse in the employment world.
We went to In Gear Career’s Amplify in Virginia Beach recently and heard some of the challenges military spouses face when trying to balance military life and a career. Luckily for us, we heard subject matter experts address each issue head-on. These are 5 frustrations working (or job-searching) military spouses know all too well.
1. Starting over
With every PCS, it’s a new house, new school, new geography, new everything. And one of the hardest things to find in a new location? A new network. If your network really is your net worth, then starting from scratch every two to three years makes it not only overwhelming and discouraging and frustrating (and All Those Things), it’s challenging. Even for the most extroverted of extroverts, if you move to a location where you know no one, finding your tribe is hard. How to combat that? Join an In Gear Career chapter and find like-minded, business-savvy spouses who can help plug you in with their contacts. Don’t have a chapter? Start one! Contact In Gear Career to get started.
2. Hard to grow
When your boss knows your position has an expiration date, it can be hard to justify professional development or investments in your growth. Megan Paone of Hiring Our Heroes with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that first and foremost, that’s a narrative we have to change. “It’s on our spouses to say, ‘You’re assuming I’m going to be leaving. But I want to stay, I plan to stay and here’s my proposal of how I can stay with the company long-term.’ Ultimately, that’s good for everyone. They retain institutional knowledge and don’t have to hire someone new, and you get to keep your job.” Beyond that, Paone recommends presenting training and development opportunities you’re interested in and how they’ll benefit you, and perhaps most importantly, what impact you can then have on your workplace after taking professional development. Taking a class and offering to present lessons learned for your colleagues or write a one-pager will serve as a force multiplier of your learning. And that’s also a win-win.
3. Overseas orders
All is fine and good in your job until you get orders halfway across the world. With the advent of telecommuting, remote positions and the good old internet, overseas orders are no longer a career death sentence. Brooke Prouty of Hiring Our Heroes recommends looking at companies specifically interested in hiring military spouses. Brooke told us, "There are a lot of great companies out there who want military spouses on their teams. They appreciate their loyalty and their flexibility.” As far as OCONUS, Prouty says it’s not a deal-breaker, and in fact, can work to your advantage. “Many of these companies have offices all over the world and would love to have a military spouse overseas.”
4. Balancing work/home especially during deployment
We all struggle with having (and keeping!) too many balls in the air when we’re juggling work, home, deployment, kids, volunteering and all of the other things we take on. Knowing your limits, outsourcing where you can and having the up-front conversation with your boss prior to deployment is key. Ask for some grace during the deployment period to meet the needs of your family. Maybe that looks like one work from home day a week. Maybe it looks like working an abridged schedule. Maybe it’s not traveling for the duration. Whatever it is you need, make sure you verbalize it.
5. Having so many things
It’s one thing to have a resume gap (which is another frustration we heard a lot about); it’s a whole different ballgame to have a resume that looks like you have no idea what you want in life. One spouse shared, “I have been a florist, an accountant, worked in a tax office -- it looks like I can’t hold down a job.” But we get it: When you’re bouncing from base to base and profession to profession, it’s hard to have a consistent field. Our recommendation came from another spouse, who recommended, "Sell it as multi-passionate!” We agree. Highlighting that you’re not only able to get your feet wet, but also capable of diving into any body of water you see is an incredibly marketable skill set.
Whether you’ve been looking for a position for a while, just starting your job hunt or already employed, don’t let these common frustrations prevent you from reaching your goals. Start networking, look for development opportunities, construct your proposal for staying onboard (even through a PCS!) and Amplify your own career today by getting involved with In Gear Career.
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