“I Have to Get Over My Fear of the ‘Unknown’ and Stay Positive Because There Are Opportunities Everywhere”

NextGen MilSpouse is going beyond traditional career tips and tricks for military spouses! We are sharing the real stories of working military spouses (just like you!) and their professional success stories on Wednesdays. 

Military Spouses Who Work It Jessica Kolstad Kim, Program Coordinator

Name: Jessica Kolstad Kim

Years as a military spouse: 1

Tell us your hustle (read: your job title):

Program Coordinator at University of Washington. I work in the Finance department of the Tacoma campus assisting with post-award grant work.

Is this full-time, part-time, hourly, contract or freelance work?


How long have you been working in this career field?

4+ years

Do you work in an office, telecommute from home (or Starbucks), or a little bit of both?

Telecommute from my *new* home office

How did you get this position? Was it a resume, referral, job fair? Spill your magic.

I have a long past working for higher education institutes so the local colleges were always on my radar in terms of job opportunities. I began working for UW Tacoma in June 2014 [as my now-husband was based out of JBLM (Fort Lewis)] and we lived in downtown Tacoma so I was fortunate to walk to work everyday because I lived so close to the campus.

However, I am always researching opportunities via a few websites that relate to my field of work: Local University search via Google and searching their employment listings, Idealist.org, HigherEdJobs.com, Indeed.com and usajobs.gov.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while living the military lifestyle?

Staying motivated with the feeling that I can continue a career that is fulfilling while my husband remains in the Army.

Right before we got married (April 2015), we found out we were moving in June 2015 for his career course, so I formulated a plan-of-attack (so-to-speak) of how I could telecommute for the University of Washington while working from afar while they went through the search to find my replacement.

I started telecommuting in June 2015 and have a mutual contract with them because they are conducting the search. I had to prove my abilities of being a hard-worker, trustworthy, determined, and able.

Now that I know my job will potentially end, I have started researching being a nonprofit consultant, and have contacted previous jobs/mentors to gather their thoughts and think of potential opportunities.

I also serve as a Board Member for a Seattle-based Health Nonprofit (Washington State Health Advocacy Association) doing communications/membership and they are supportive of my move. I remain extremely involved and volunteer many hours each week to the cause from afar. I acknowledge that the volunteer time counts as work experience as well. It is tough but staying motivated can make all of the difference.

Tell us one thing you love about your job:

I love my colleagues and faculty that I work with on a daily basis. I feel like a bit of a crime solver because I have to figure out how to make a certain function of the financial piece of the grant work. I have to think outside the box often times to achieve a good end result, and I love being able to take part in the success of the grant(s) that faculty members have.

For volunteering with the nonprofit, I am able to take risks to see what works and what doesn’t work for our membership via social media, new technology techniques, etc.

It is a complete 180 from my grants position, but I hope to take all of the skills I have learned and open my own international nonprofit one day.

Share your best life-hack for saving time or sanity during the work week:

Maintaining my sanity during the work week is all thanks to my fitness schedule.

Living close to our current base in Arizona helps because the gym is only 10 minutes away. I take my lunch break at the gym and get in a 30-minute workout before returning back to work.

Lastly, since my husband wakes up early for PT, I wake up with him and take a good two-mile walk each morning as well (and no one else is up that early!).

Once we both return, we are able to have breakfast together and start our day well. Oftentimes the few minutes we have together in the morning are the most we have. Late nights and long hours can lead to many missed dinners and quality time, so I make sure I make the most of the time we have.

Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks? How do you do it?

We 100% split household tasks. Since I am home more, I do have the opportunity to clean up pieces of the house during the week, and for the most part we are pretty tidy people so that isn’t a major issue for us. We split the cooking each week as well by planning our weekly meals so there is no guessing what to make at the end of our long days.

However, we also know that neither of us feels like cooking sometimes and then it’s a night out, a quick delicious pizza, leftovers, etc.

It is fortunate that he and I both love to cook! He cooks the best Korean food (let me tell ya!)

If you have children, how do you and your spouse or partner split parenting responsibilities?

N/A for now, however it is a big topic for us since we are both worker bees. We intend on playing it by ear as the time comes.

Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without:

iPhone, laptop & wi-fi (These 3 all coincide.)

Favorite app for making the most of your day?

MyFitnessPal & ToneItUp app. Keeps me motivated to stay on top of my fitness and stay healthy through the stress of the day.

Must-have song on your productivity playlist:

Currently it’s Newest Florence & The Machines CD (yes…my husband bought me the CD because the radio stations in southern Arizona are a bit lackluster.)

What is your No. 1 tip for a military spouse on the hunt for a job?

Stay motivated and know where to look. There are many times that I question my chances of finding a job in our next location (which as of the end of September is still to be determined), but I know that wherever I am I can find work volunteering and find a way to continue building my skill set by looking at potential conferences or courses to continue building myself.

So there are many options ahead of me, I just have to get over my fear of the “unknown” and stay positive because there are opportunities everywhere, it is just a matter of doing the extra digging and going the extra mile.

Are you a working military spouse? Do you want to share your career tips and tricks? Fill out the MilSpouses Who Work It Q&A today.



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