It’s easy to get frustrated as a working military spouse. Constant moves mean constant career disruptions, lost promotions, most likely a salary less than your civilian counterparts and more. We’ve heard it all and most of us can likely relate to those challenges.
Normally I relish the opportunity to look at those challenges, call out what needs to be done to change the status quo and even what you can and should do to change your own reality in the here and now.
This isn’t one of those posts.
Those challenges are still very real for many of us, but as we are settling into the fall season, I want to focus on some of the bright spots of working to maintain a career alongside an active duty service member.
I polled my Facebook friends as well as the followers of In Gear Career and I will be using a few of their answers to supplement my list.
I Am Thankful for the Variety
This is a big one for me. Despite finding myself square in the middle of adulthood, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Through my own adventures and then through following my service member around, I have worked in a wild variety of jobs and industries. Even though I have found something I’ve loved about them all, the idea of telling you that I plan to spend the rest of my working life in one particular industry sounds absurd.
I know that some folks dream of one career field, with one big goal at the top of a ladder, but for me…well…variety is good. If you’re like me, pursuing a career as a military spouse may be the perfect thing.
It’s not to say that making the changes will never be stressful, but the idea that finding yourself in an industry that no longer energizes you doesn’t have to be distressing. As you get ready to move around (or settle longer in the place you are now) find out about your area and look for new ways to use your talents and skill sets!
I Am Thankful for the Diversity of Experience
Along with that variety (whether chosen or forced) comes a diversity of experience. For me that has meant the opportunity to learn new skills that would never have come along with my original career path. Being able to add new tools to my tool box has meant that with each new opportunity I pursue I am able to say, “not only can I do X, Y and Z, but through my varied experience I have also gained A, B and C.” Those added tools in your toolbox can make you an invaluable asset to future employers!
Rachel H. also had this to say,
When discussing my education and experience in interviews, people tend to be very impressed with my international experience.
Although today’s American moves more often than in the past, our population is still likely one of the groups that has the biggest chance of living and working overseas. That novel experience can truly prove to be a great benefit not only to your family, but to your career!
I Am Thankful for the Education Benefits
Several military spouses brought up the fact that they were able to use spouse benefits to pursue a graduate degree that they may have otherwise not had the chance to obtain. There are several places for you to look to see if you can take advantage of military spouse benefits for pursuing higher education: NMFA offers military spouse scholarships that can be applied toward any level of education, depending on your service member’s rank and your education goals. MyCAA may be a viable option and depending on certain eligibility requirements, you may also be able to use your service member’s Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
Pursuing additional education can also be a great way to make lemonade out of the lemons you’ve been handed.
If you find yourself in a short tour, in a location with little to no economic opportunity to pursue your career or it’s simply taking you a while to find your next position, pursuing a degree or certificate is a great way to fill that time. Besides adding more tools to your tool box, education is a great way to explain a gap in your resume.
I Am Thankful for Unknown Opportunities
Similar to the variety mentioned above, but slightly different, unknown opportunities was mentioned several times when I asked others to share their positive experiences.
For me this played out in the form of my job with In Gear Career. Nothing in my own adventures or journey would likely have led me to the job that has so far met my passion point the most. Others like Becca W. felt the same:
…after 6 months I picked up and moved to a town where I knew no one but him. It worked out because after moving with no job I got one in 3 weeks at a credit union call center– 2 years later I am now in their marketing department and I coordinate all sponsorships and giveaways worldwide. His career has made the beginning of mine possible.
Marysa S. shared:
When I had to leave my job to move to a new state for my husband’s medical residency at an Army hospital, I was devastated. But 2.5 years later I am now in a position that has shaped my dream career…I am so grateful for that opportunity and the career I have now. I know we will eventually have to move again, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to continue the momentum. I’m excited for what the future holds!
I Am Thankful for an Extended Network
This one is probably the biggest benefit of all. Think about it: if you limited your thinking to only the military spouses you know can you think of someone that is a nurse?
How about a lawyer?
Someone in a technology field?
I bet I could keep going and you could keep saying yes, yes, yes—and if you can’t say yes off the top of your head, I bet you could find one in a Facebook group for military spouses in your area.
The network of people we meet through our military lifestyle is pretty amazing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone mention they have a need for a particular skill set and I’ve been able to introduce them to a military spouse that can complete the project they need.
Adding some structure to that network, and giving military spouses a designated place to find other military spouse professionals is exactly why In Gear Career was founded and watching the power of that network as it furthers the careers of military spouse professionals across the globe is exactly why I love this work.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I know that focusing on these positive elements doesn’t remove all of the challenges that come along with maintaining a career alongside a service member, but I think it’s important that we take the time to recognize that our reality can create some wonderful silver linings to the clouds.
There’s a bonus too: military spouse employment resources.
Beyond the education resources I mentioned above, military spouse employment has been a part of the conversation for a few years now and there is no sign of the conversation ending anytime soon.
When looking for career resources for military spouses be sure you check out:
- Military Spouse Employment Partnership
- Hiring our Heroes
- Blue Star Families
- Military Spouse JD Network
- Military Officers’ Association of America (MOAA)
- National Military Family Association
- MilSpouse eMentor Network
- Military Spouse Corporate Career Network
- The MilSpo Project
- and your local Airman and Family Readiness Center, Army Service Center, Fleet and Family Services office or equivalent!
I for one, am grateful to have resources dedicated to helping military spouse professionals maintain satisfactory careers.