When it comes to military spouse careers, I am all about going for your dream. Shoot for the stars and figure out how to get there. There are times, however, when the stars aren’t reachable (yet). What then?
What if the options you have aren’t ideal? What if you NEED to work RIGHT NOW?! Maybe it’s for financial reasons; maybe it’s for your own sanity. Either way, what do you do then? How do you know you’re making the right decision?
I am the type of person that agonizes (and internalizes) every decision I make for work. I can literally make myself sick analyzing and reanalyzing which choice I should make. However, looking back now over my 15+ years in the professional world I’ve come to a conclusion:
If I followed my gut, weighed the options and made the best choice possible, everything turned out alright.
I didn’t love every job, but they all led me to the next thing I (or my family) needed at the time.
I know I’m not the only military spouse that’s been through this. I’ve seen it in our In Gear Career chapters and on a number of Facebook groups. People weighing the idea of taking a job that pays less than they made in their last duty station, accepting a lesser position to get into the federal system but worried it will take forever to pay off, and even taking a job in their dream field, but wondering if performing well and keeping that dream job is possible while their spouse is serving.
Lots of situations, but all with the same theme: Am I doing the right thing? How will I know?
When you’re up against a professional decision that doesn’t have an easy answer, just remember sometimes there are no bad choices; just different decisions.
I know it’s easy to talk about these things when looking through hindsight, but that doesn’t help you make a decision. So if you’re there now or you know you’re likely to be there in the future, it may help to work through the following:
What are your current priorities?
When I first started my career, I probably would have told you my professional priorities weren’t likely change that often, but I’ve found that’s not truly the case.
Early on, I was looking for entry-level jobs I thought would take me where I wanted to go. Midway through my career I wanted positions offering the opportunity for advancement (in a new career field by this point).
Once I met my sailor I was looking for jobs that let me be near him. When my husband and I decided to have kids, I knew I didn’t want to give up working outside the home, but with hubby’s highly unpredictable schedule, flexibility became a HUGE factor in the positions I was willing to consider.
Think about what is most important to you right now. Nailing down your priorities first and foremost will allow you to put some order and weight to your pro and con list. Which leads us to…
What are the pros and cons of each side?
Whether you’re deciding between two positions or deciding whether it’s worth it to work at all, a classic pro and con list can help organize your thoughts. Things you may want to evaluate include:
- cost of childcare (if appropriate)
- relevance to your desired industry
- flexibility of schedule
- opportunity for advancement
Because you nailed down your priorities first you may want to start your pro and con list with the highest priority item and work your way through in order.
What does your gut say?
If you’re going through this process to make the decision, it likely means there isn’t a no-brainer choice and you may even feel the decision is lose-lose. The decision still has to be made, however, and I bet if you go through the questions above you’ll find yourself automatically leaning to one side or the other.
Keep an open mind, but listen to your gut. I truly believe that if you’re willing to look for it, you can find opportunity in every decision you make.
Neither choice may seem ideal, but it doesn’t mean it can’t lead you to a great opportunity or a great connection that can set you back on the path toward your dream career.
If you truly feel like no outcome is ideal, please remember this decision doesn’t have to define your future and it really doesn’t even have to define your right now. The last major opportunity I got in my professional career didn’t happen at work; it happened volunteering and networking with In Gear Career board members and other military spouse professionals.
Define your priorities, weigh the pros and cons and then follow your gut. Once you figure out where that took you, keep your eyes open–opportunity can often be found in less than ideal situations.