“It Isn’t About Finding a Job Wherever We Go; It’s About Building My Career.”

Mia Reisweber, Coordinator for New Student Programs at Texas A&M University Central Texas, recommends that military spouses

 

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.

Mia Reisweber, Coordinator for New Student Programs at Texas A&M University Central Texas, recommends that military spouses "be open-minded and think holistically about the options available for you" when building a career.

Name: Mia Reisweber

Years as a military spouse:

6

Tell us your job title/profession:

I am the Coordinator for New Student Programs at Texas A&M University Central Texas. Here, I am developing a New Student Programs, First year/Transfer year experience, and orientation program. I supervise and mentor the Blue Coat Ambassadors program, serve as the coordinator for StepUp! Bystander Intervention, and facilitate student success and retention through involvement, leadership and student development.

Prior to becoming a student affairs professional, I taught English writing and research at the college level. I made the jump to Student Affairs during my coursework for my Ph.D. program at Saint Louis University.

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

Full-time

How long have you been working in this career field?

7 years

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

Office

Tell us one thing you love about your job.

I love working with students. My philosophy, whether it’s in the English classroom or in Student Affairs Department, is to foster a love for lifelong learning. It’s imperative that higher education professionals work together to balance a system that both supports and challenges students.

Every single interaction is individualized. It has to be. Students are in all different places in their development.

The best part of working in higher education is that I get to be a cheerleader, a mentor, a coach, and an educator to every student who walks through our doors.

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

We move – a lot. It’s important that my husband and I are in constant communication about prospective PCSes. When we know it’s coming, which (thankfully) we’ve always been able to see coming, I begin the application process. I work through professional networks, my mentors, and of course higher education job posting sites.

When my husband and I rank our future posts, we ensure that it’s somewhere that will benefit both of our careers.

Luckily, we’ve been able to do this with each move. Then, I begin the process. I research the nearby institutions and accredited education agencies. I look for positions that will grow my professional skill set and challenge me professionally and personally.

I take risk. I apply for moves that will advance my career and build my repertoire as a higher education professional.

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

Be open-minded and think holistically about the options available for you. My master’s degree is in secondary education (I was supposed to be an 8th grade English teacher). That is not exactly a mobile profession.

But when I realized that my expertise in pedagogy was useful to a community college, I was afforded the opportunity to expand my audience. My students were still students; they were just much older than the 8th graders.

However, the scaffolding, the assessment, the literacy strategies that I had learned in my master’s program were all still very applicable in the college classroom. Experience in the community college gave way to an opportunity to teach at a four-year research university.

During my Ph.D. coursework, I further realized that I could be an educator outside of the classroom too. This realization empowered me to jump to the Student Affairs profession. I used my understanding of curriculum to develop programs for a Leadership office.

I was, then, recruited to assist in developing a Residential Curriculum at the same institution. And now, I’m in New Student Programs.

Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” describes the pathways to “the top” as a jungle gym, and that’s the way you have to envision the job hunt, especially if you’re a military spouse.

How do you feel about failure?

I teach my students that failure is the best teacher. Failure really isn’t failure. It’s a learning opportunity, especially if you use the tool of reflection to assess what might have gone “wrong.”

Failure is a perception, and though it’s likely to catch us by surprise (which usually means it stings a little), it’s just an excuse to prove to ourselves we have the ability and the drive to accept it humbly and apply its teachings to our future choices and experiences.

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

One big challenge I’ve faced is that it’s hard to build credibility and programs and measured success when I’m only going to be around for a couple of years (at best). In the life of a college or university, if I only teach 6 semesters or I work a couple of years on developing a program only to have to leave, I am forced to acknowledge that I am merely a snapshot – a few seconds – in the life of the institution and its students. But looking at anything from the “ten-thousand-foot-view” is daunting.

When I was an adjunct, I struggled with accepting that I would never be a tenure track professor because no institution would invest in my career in that capacity, knowing that I would inevitably leave. But perhaps this realization planted the seed that I could be an educator in a capacity that equally served the students but not specifically with literature and research papers.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? Tell us the worst too, while you’re at it.

Prior to leaving Hawaii, I was griping with my mentor and officemate about “what if I don’t find a job at our next place.” My mentor, point blank, asked “Have you ever not found a job?”

Until then, I had always found a job. Through the rest of that conversation, my mentor instilled a much-needed confidence in my own abilities.

She told me that I am marketable. I have experiences that far surpass a traditional hiring pool.

She told me to be confident in myself and to trust my abilities.

She told me to even be a little bit picky. It isn’t about finding a job wherever we go; it’s about building my career.

It’s really hard to not know where I’m going to be in 5 years, but by then, I’ll have 5 more years experience, a completed dissertation and doctoral degree, and who knows what new paths will emerge, then.

Who is in your support squad (i.e. spouse, neighbor, bff) and what role do they play in supporting your career?

My husband is my biggest support system. He and I are both driven. We push each other. We make sacrifices for each other. We believe in each other, and we are constantly empowering each other to be successful. It was fun to take my doctoral classes and debate the content with my husband. He would get into the material, and we’d agree and disagree on some hot-button issues in higher education.

My family is another support system. Although I am still working on my dissertation, my father answers the phone “hello Doctor” whenever I call. He and my mother send me job postings at colleges in my area (and back home, of course).

I am so blessed to have mentors and friends from every institution I’ve ever worked and every place I’ve ever lived. We keep in touch. We share experiences. We meet up at national conferences. A former colleague actually found herself at another institution in New Student Programs. We frequently share ideas and encourage each other with programs.

There are also handful of military spouses who are doing this. It’s hard. And it’s grueling. And some of us, me included, also proudly wear the title of “Mom” along with everything else. These men and women know best what it’s like to have so many hats. They understand the unique challenges, expectations, and stress placed on the career-driven military spouse and parent. There is no group of more fiercely supportive people in my network.

Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks?

We have to. How could we function if we didn’t? My husband and I balance each other out nicely.

We find a routine that works for us that week or that few weeks or that month. We set each other up for success.

And, most importantly, we take time to be together as a family while we do it. Sure, making dinner can be tedious. But you know what makes it better? When we find a good playlist, put our son in the bouncer in the kitchen and dance around while we food prep for the week, wash the floors and pick up odds and ends. Sure it’s mundane household tasks, but we’re together and we’re choosing to enjoy our time together.

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

I absolutely hate taking family time away from my husband and my son. So anything that I don’t enjoy doing, I try to do as quickly as possible.

I food prep during the weekends (as best as I can) so I can throw dinners together quickly when I get home from work. If I have errands to run, I try to run them if I have a break during lunch.

And above all – I am trying to learn to cut myself a break. The house isn’t going to be perfect. The dinner may be cold or my husband and I might eat later – or sometimes, it’s smoothies or takeout. And that’s absolutely OK.

Are you looking to connect with career-minded military spouses? Join one of In Gear Career’s 20+ local chapters around the world. In Gear Career is a part of Hiring Our Heroes and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without that isn’t your phone:

My outlook calendar (does it count that it’s on my phone, too?)

What’s your favorite app for making the most of your day?

Pandora! It keeps me in a good mood.

Must-have song on your productivity playlist?

Anything on my Norah Jones Pandora playlist

If you had an extra hour in your day, what would you do with it?

Play with my baby! Workout! Sleep! Work on my dissertation! (Can I bargain another 6 hours?)

If you were a superhero, what would be your super power?

I wouldn’t need sleep!

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. Click here to complete our form. 

 

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