Over the time I’ve been a career coach, I’ve come to notice several key factors that help increase the odds of military spouses being able to transport their careers safely from duty station to duty station.
I like to call these factors the career “bubble wrap” because they provide a certain cushion that helps protect our fragile military spouse careers from breaking, cracking, falling apart or mysteriously disappearing like household items all too often do.
The more of these things you have as a part of your profession, the more likely you are to have a career that will safely travel. But, just like in any move (and anything ultimately related to the military lifestyle), there are never guarantees.
I’ve seen some spouses with no “bubble wrap” make a cross country relocation with her career safely in tow. Yet, I’ve seen others with what seems to be an overabundance of cushioning, find cracks upon arrival at the new duty station.
10 Ways to Protect Your Career With Each PCS
1. Employment at a Company with Numerous Locations
Large companies with multiples locations, especially those in one large military town, can often be found in other military towns. The only problem is when you get stationed at that one post/base that is really remote and far away from the large cities.
I’ve found it’s very valuable to have spouses research the sizes and locations of companies prior to taking a job. Some companies like to have locations that are strategically based in military towns (See #3).
2. Employment at a Rapidly-Growing or Expanding Company
When companies are adding offices/branches/locations, that is a very good sign that there will be growth opportunities for you. Not only that–additional locations means the potential for an office at another duty station.
3. You work for a Company Whose Main Customer or Client is Military
The main example I think of here are the colleges and universities that focus on military student recruitment like UMUC and Embry-Riddle. Often, these colleges, companies and organizations want to employ military members and their families because we “get it” better than someone outside of the community. In fact, I was just chatting with a spouse who is planning to take her advising position with her when she PCSs with her husband in a few months.
Additionally, I’ve been introduced to some amazing non-profit organizations that serve only the military community, have locations in just about every military town and encourage virtual work. These are very popular for a lot of the spouses I’ve worked with.
4. Your Industry is Growing Much Faster than the National Average (Rapid Growth) LOCALLY
The traditional (aka out-of-touch) “portable career” advice is going to focus on this idea of working in an industry that is rapidly growing as one of the ultimate factors in career packability. Well, the national averages mean nothing if, for example, your career requires you live near an ocean and you are stationed in Missouri. Get the picture?
You have to know the job market nationally AND locally. In fact, I always advise spouses to research the industry trends at at least 3-5 duty stations in order to have a more realistic picture of the field.
5. Your Profession is in High Demand Where YOU Need it to be
Another buzz-term among those silly folks who like to talk about military spouse careers but aren’t living this portable lifestyle. Having a job that’s in high demand or has many job openings is great, but again, you have to know what is going on locally.
During a coaching call a few months ago, I had a military spouse research her dream profession nationally and at the duty station she was getting ready to PCS to. Turns out her dream job was great out there in national averages land, but was declining and had a horrible outlook where she was planning to move to.
6. Your Main Work Responsibilities can be or are Virtual/Remote/Home-Based/Telecommuting
It speaks for itself and makes sense! The more you can do from anywhere in the world, the less of an impact moving will have. The key is to research the company culture prior to taking the job in order to determine their stance of this type of thing. If you are already at a job where you want to propose virtual work, you want to make yourself and your expertise indispensable and make the case for the numerous ways the company can save money by going remote!
7. Your Work is Largely or Primarily Entrepreneurial
In the past 2 years, I’ve seen a massive increase in the number of spouses starting their own businesses. It’s portable because you dictate everything! Traditional brick-and-mortar, store-front locations can pose a bit more of a challenge than purely online businesses, but the increase of online marketplaces and internet marketing has had a very positive impact on the ability to travel with your own business despite the location.
8. The Company You Work for Embraces Technology
In such companies, it is much easier to make the case that you should be permitted to employ the newest technological advances in your work. Additionally, if the company loves you and views technology as a thing to be loved instead of feared, they are often willing to offer you a telecommute position.
9. You Love and Live What You Do
Sounds cliche, right? Well, sadly–I never see this concept in just about all of the career advice I see. I cannot stress this enough because passion is what will keep you pushing forward when everything else in you wants to give up.
If you don’t enjoy something, you know how easy it is to give up on it, right? Like, in my case…running. I hate it–so the first excuse I get to not do it (I’m sick…I’m tired…I have shin splints….my cat needs me to be here to pet her) I will gladly welcome. Yet, if there was a Bikram yoga studio within an hour of me, I’d be taking out a loan for gas money to get to class each day.
That passion and enjoyment is what keeps us motivated to keep pushing when life is difficult or the odds are against us–whether in personal life or professional.
10. You Work for a Start-Up
Last year I attended the Inc. 500|5000 as a Military Entrepreneur. I was so in awe of how foward-thinking the CEOs of these super successful, but super fast-growing companies were. Military-affiliated or not, they just wanted the best, brightest and most passionate people on their teams. The key is for military spouses to find these companies, and a great way that I found from this conference is to actually look at the articles and features on the Inc.com website.
Even in the case of very small start-ups, often the founder(s) want to keep costs low, and that gives you the opportunity to demonstrate the various ways you can save the company money–whether it be through telecommuting or the fact you don’t need benefits!
Remember these are just SOME examples of ways to protect your career. I’d love to hear from you! What have you used to “bubble wrap” your career?