When my spouse and I got married I was able to convert my job to a telecommuting position which was super awesome since we were only at our first duty station for a very short time. And then when we PCS’d the job gods smiled down on me and I was employed ASAP.
Our latest PCS?
Not so much luck.
And when you’re unlucky or your job hunt is taking FOREVER it can be easy to throw in the towel.
Here are 31 things you can do when you’re facing complete and total job-search misery – straight from military spouses that have been there and felt that way too!
- Get active in local networking groups. These could be your local InGear Career chapter, a professional group in your field, the local Chamber of Commerce or a group on MeetUp. Make it a priority to become an active member – go to meetings and mingle, yes mingle, even if you’re shy. You never know if your next job could come from someone in that room. And worst-case scenario? You make a friend.
- Look for work in different places. Look for a local temp or staffing agency – they have connections within the community and can help you find something, be it short-term or long-term. This is a great way to get your foot in the door at a company, even if it’s not in the department you’re most interested in. You can make connections and have an easier chance to meeting people across the company to learn what they are looking for and if you’d be a good fit long term.
- Similarly, look for part-time work or a gig on the shared economy. While it may be your goal to work full-time, you can look for part-time work. Also, consider Uber or Lyft if they are in your area. Another option is TaskRabbit – where you can sign up to work remotely doing data entry or web design among other tasks.
- Master LinkedIn like a boss! Yes, we’re taking you back to one of our 52 challenges – use LinkedIn to connect with local companies that you are interested in working for, reach out to connections to see if they know anyone in your area and be active in groups.
- Join online groups related to your career field or dedicated to posting jobs in your area. There are great online groups dedicated solely to military spouse networking and advice, but many local job markets have similar groups on Facebook and LinkedIn where recruiters and employers alike post opportunities. Many of these are segregated by type of work, while others may be more open. Some even have in-person events to go to with local recruiters. Do some online digging and join away!
- Dedicate one day a week to get to know your city. Pick a museum, local park or neighborhood to explore while you have the time. Once you find that dream job you likely won’t have that opportunity again – plus you’ll avoid those long weekend waits and crowds!
- Constantly check ALL the job boards, and refresh, refresh, refresh, then APPLY. Whether it’s USAJobs, Indeed, LinkedIn or Craigslist – take time every day to see if anything new has been posted. This will keep you up-to-date on what jobs are out there and time to write the perfect cover letter once you see that perfect job opening.
- Enjoy not working for the time being. You are probably thinking, “WHAT? What do you mean enjoy not working?” but yes, you can do it. As one military spouse told me when asked about job-search misery, “I decided to cut myself some slack and let go of the guilt and resentment…I’ve been reading, crafting, exercising, and hanging with the kids, and it’s been fantastic!”
- Learn a new professional skill. Always wanted to learn how to build a website? Job-search misery is your chance! Check out Code Academy and Lynda for online classes to build skills and add to your resume.
- Take classes at a local community college. Want to switch career fields or go back to school? Start out with classes at your local school to help you pass that certification exam or get you on the path you want to be on for your long-term goals.
- Update that resume. Use this job-search misery time to take a close look at your resume. Do you need to add your new professional skill (#9)? Can the layout use a refresh? Resumes are your first impression to potential employers so you want to make sure yours is the best it can be.
- Take up a hobby to relax your mind. A military spouse offered this job-search misery advice: “I took up hot yoga when I was preparing for our OCONUS move and it helped a lot. It was the one time in the day where my mind was just blank. All you can focus on in that hot room is your breathing and the position at hand. Everything else takes up too much energy. It’s like overriding stimuli.” Other hobbies: try new recipes, teach yourself how to crochet, geocaching, drawing or painting, read that book that’s been on your nightstand forever and try that new exercise class that you’re curious about. OK, maybe not all of those hobbies at once – but do something that interests you!
- Allow yourself to have unproductive days. Applying for jobs is stressful so give yourself room to have a day to yourself. On your unproductive day, you can watch a new show on Netflix, stare out the window, sit on Facebook all day, sit by the pool, read a book, exercise or drink a glass of wine. You get the picture. This mental break may be just what you need to get back into the job hunting game – minus the misery – the next day.
Meet with a career counselor. Most military installations have career resources for service members and spouses; schedule an appointment to discuss your opportunities in the local area.
- Meet up with (or call) a friend to commiserate with you. Did you and your BFF from your last duty station PCS at the same time? Is she job hunting too? Give him a call and just vent. Talk about what’s working for you and what’s not. Sometimes, just getting things off your chest helps. If you meet someone at your new duty station who is also on the job hunt – help each other out by sharing jobs that seem relevant to their work, looking at each other’s resumes and asking each other for advice before your next interview. Because no one understands the pains of job-search misery like someone else that’s in the same boat with you!
Stalk the companies you want to work at. At those local networking groups or on LinkedIn, look for people to connect with at local companies that interest you. Then, send those folks requests for informational interviews or coffees to learn more about the company, what they do and get some insider knowledge on how to land a job.
Ask your former boss for advice. Reach out to your former supervisor to see if they have tips on what to highlight on your resume, job titles that would be good to look for or just advice as you apply. They know you and your work well, plus, hopefully, they will be one of your references to help you score that next job.
Volunteer. But don’t just volunteer for anything – volunteer to do things in your career field. I’ve served as newsletter editor for spouses clubs to keep my skills up and one of our featured spouses who worked it volunteered for an entire year at an organization that eventually led her to a full-time job!
- Search for online and remote jobs. Always wanted to teach? Check out Higheredjobs.com for online teaching opportunities. Flexjobs is another great resource for finding remote work. Also, check out hospitality and tech companies for customer support positions. Many of those positions are remote.
- Start your own business. Many military spouses told us about their self-employment opportunities – like working as a consultant (e.g. Rodan + Fields, Pampered Chef, Thirty-One), while others saw the opportunity to start their own company, including media companies and CPAs.
- Write that book. “I write a book and kill off a bunch of people. And now you know where the crazy ideas for my books come from,” said one spouse. So start that book! Or blog. Or poetry. Or whatever you want to write.
- Spend time with your service member. We honestly don’t have anything to add to what this spouse told us, “I spend quality time with my husband to consciously remind myself why it is I’m doing this (easier said than done sometimes).”
- Freelance. If you’re in a field with freelance or consulting opportunities, reach out to find clients, they may even be people that you used to work with. It helps you fill in your employment gaps, earn a bit of income and keep your skills up-to-date.
- Chase flights of fancy. If something catches your interest, pursue it with no clear long-term objectives, like attending functions for a community organization or taking art classes. This allows you to interact with people, gives you a sense of accomplishment and fills your day.
- Attend a conference or two. Look for conferences to attend either in your career field or related to a hobby. One spouse told us she attended Homefront Rising and others have gone to military spouse retreats. It’s a great way to keep current on trends in your field and have some fun.
- Read books and blogs dedicated to your career field. Reading blogs and books will keep you current on the latest trends and breakthroughs in your career field.
- It’s never too early to start your job hunt. Maybe you’re looking at an upcoming PCS or those orders just arrived – start getting in touch with companies or people at your next duty station. The hiring process can be super long. I once got an interview request 3 months after applying for a job and didn’t have an interview for another month, so the earlier you can started, the better. Many employers are open to phone and Skype interviews if you aren’t in the area yet. And we’ve got more tips on how to job hunt while you’re PCS’ing so you will be prepared no matter what.
- Get certified. A lot of fields from communications to IT have classes and certifications to help you gain a leg up in your employment. Many of those can be done online, whether through Microsoft or Hootsuite or other sites. Look into what those certifications are for your field and take the time to complete them now. Those extra skills will definitely look great to a potential employer.
- Expand your skill set to include something not so usual. Maybe you’re stationed in the middle of nowhere and there just aren’t jobs in your field. Turn something that you’re interested in into a new skill. One spouse volunteered as an educator at a museum because she had an art history background. It kept her busy and also introduced her to new opportunities.
- Organize your papers. You never know when an employer will ask for a transcript or another form of documentation – have that stuff on hand (and not with the movers if you’re PCS’ing) so you can quickly access it and share as needed. If you’re freelancing, make sure to have a current copy of a W-9 saved to your computer as well as a hard copy so that you can start a job at a moment’s notice – even when your printer is still in a box.
- Have hope. Stay positive. Yes it is really easy to lose self-esteem when your job hunt is taking forever. And yes it is nerve-racking. And yes you are allowed to have pity days where you think that it’ll never happen. But don’t lose hope. You will find a job. You are awesome. You’ve got this. (Now go say that to yourself in the mirror a few times because we believe in you.)
A special thanks to the military spouses that shared their tips and tricks with us on Facebook for this post.