When I realized that I no longer wanted to teach and decided on a career in something else, I knew I needed help.
I mean, the only option left is business, right? But doing what? I had no goal, no path, no idea what I wanted to do so I did what most people do nowadays – I went online.
I was inundated with options. Where there used to be no focus on military spouse employment, now there are almost too many.
While I appreciate the effort, for a person who is floundering, it’s almost overkill. I was getting dizzy staring at the screen.
It seems like every major business wants to dip their toes in this pool and they’ve all sponsored an event. Or there are non-profits that have emerged to handle this area. On top of that, some were even started by military spouses. Which one is the right avenue for me?
Even doing a quick search online today, there are 3 major events happening in October alone. There’s MilspoCON 2017 that is a 2-day conference and retreat. Another 2-day boot camp is with the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN). Their summit will teach networking and give a toolkit to succeed. Both of those have registration fees and you may have to travel to get to them.
The third event is a Veteran and Military Entrepreneur conference and awards ceremony. That is a one-day affair with dinner but it’s free to military.
So you see, there are a plethora of options.
Initially, you could only go to your Airman & Family Readiness Center and take a class on updating your resume.
We are way past that now; there are free events and paid ones. You can attend all day or half-day events. You can travel and participate in a 4-day summit.
The one drawback to these networking events is that I would have to be in a room with dozens or more people I don’t know and for someone like me who hates crowds, it was an obstacle.
When I was ready to start my journey, I found a local Saturday event that touted itself as an intimate affair where spouses had a chance to share their stories.
The event was called “More Than A Spouse” and it was the brainchild of the National Military Family Association. The initial iteration was a Facebook party to bring together people from all over the world to discuss their goals and to encourage each other. The one-hour affair was a huge hit.
That morphed into a local event that was held at NMFA’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va. They followed it up with weekly videos that highlighted the paths that other military spouses had taken.
Eventually the demand was so great that it was given over to local volunteers to spearhead the event in their areas. The goal is “to connect diverse, professional milspouses in their own communities.” And that’s what drew me in.
I attended an event held in a bakery whose mission is to help disabled vets learn a skill. As I wandered into the upstairs room, I was greeted by spouses who were as timid as I was.
We all mingled, drank coffee and had some wonderfully baked cookies from downstairs. When it was time, we sat down and we each had a chance to tell our story.
It is wonderfully comforting to have a room full of people who understand what your struggles are and for you to be heard and validated.
As I spoke, I realized where I wanted my life to go. I had been writing for a few publications in my free time but now I saw that my passion was leading me to take the next step with it.
Our speaker talked about networking and how she used to do that by passing out her business card and essentially asking, “What can you do for me?” After attending some workshops, she eventually learned that networking was more about what she could do for them. That advice made the grueling task of networking seem less daunting. I took that to heart and left with a sense of confidence and a new plan for my life.
Shortly thereafter, I attended a larger military spouse event and touched base with the editors of the publications I had submitted to. It was great to finally put faces with names and it was less scary since I’d already had a relationship with them, albeit one online. That interaction boosted my belief in my writing and myself. I hoped that one day my face-to-face interaction would result in MORE. And that ultimate goal would be a writing contract.
At the close of the day, I was approached by the editor here at NextGen and asked if I wanted to write for them. I was blown away.
Not in my wildest dreams did I think that something would happen so quickly.
But then again, we all know that life rarely goes as planned and in this case, it was for the better.
I would advise you to attend one of these networking functions. You don’t need to hit every single one but you might as well utilize the resources available to military spouses.
My networking has paid off and I have found my new path. And that path allows me flexibility as well as a creative outlet that I initially didn’t know I needed.
You never know what will happen when you put yourself out there.