It’s no secret. Many military spouses put their careers or education on the back burner.
It’s hard to constantly see your own dreams and aspirations take second, third or even fourth place to the needs of the military.
Finding a way to express your frustration without ending up in a rant is equally challenging.
There is a way! It won’t be easy and it will take commitment. Here are 6 tips for expressing your career frustrations.
Your spouse is likely your biggest fan and supporter. So tell him or her what you are feeling, calmly and in coherent sentences.
Define where you want to go or end up career- and education-wise. Talk about it together. Try to map out a path that is workable no matter where you move next. It might mean looking into a different job field, starting online education or searching for remote positions.
When you talk to your spouse, be sure to outline the challenges that you are facing. That might be lack of opportunity, licensure issues or education. Present some ideas that you have to overcome these obstacles.
When my teaching career was struggling due to military moves, I launched an education blog and started freelance writing. I talked to my spouse about my plan. I explained how it might play into either keeping up with my field or could lead to a whole new opportunity.
Act on Your Plan
After you talk it out with your spouse, map out that plan you talked about. It might mean creating a vision board or making a to-do list.
Then, start acting on your plan. Having something to do, even if it’s different than your original idea, can be motivating. Look into online college or certification programs, register for licensure tests or start scanning job boards for remote positions in your field.
If you need help launching the job search, bring your resume into your local career services office at your military base. Many offer free resume writing workshops.
For many careers, especially those that require a license, there are Facebook groups that offer support and assistance. Members can help you navigate the terrain in a new duty station. Often job openings are posted on these groups too.
Check LinkedIn or Twitter. While it might not be a perfect match, there are professional learning networks that offer frequent virtual meet-ups. This way, even when you are out of a job, you can be working to keep your skills sharp.
I joined Blue Star Educators, a Facebook group for military spouses. I also keep track of weekly Twitter chats for teachers in the United States. When I can, I join in and participate. It helps me to feel connected and gives me great ideas to squirrel away for later.
When you are feeling career frustration, reach out to military spouse groups and organizations. Here are a few places to start.
Want to network with other military spouses? Join a local or virtual chapter of In Gear Career for Military Spouses. In Gear offers career development and networking for military spouses around the world.
Military Officers Association of America has PULL in DC! They serve as political advisors and lobby members of Congress to protect military families and benefits.
The National Military Family Association has been advocating for military spouses for almost 50 years. They are a go-to resource for Congress members and politicians seeking to understand the struggle of military families, and spouses. They also offer education and career support.
Military One Source has tons of information about career and education resources for military spouses. They offer eMentoring and other confidential counseling services for free.
For military spouse lawyers, there is a special group just for you! The Military Spouse J.D Network was created to help advocate for improvements to licensing requirements and transferring credentials between states. They also lobby Congress and work with other organizations, like NMFA, to smooth the road for spouses with professional ambitions.
Joining Forces, the organization launched in 2011 by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, has made it their mission to help military families when it comes to education and career opportunities. Part of this initiative has led to more states creating easier pathways to professional licensure through reciprocity agreements or alternate certification programs.
Take Advantage of Opportunities
A new opportunity could pop up at any time, so be ready!
Every military base and local community needs people to help. The USO, local schools and libraries, the Red Cross and other organizations could use your skills. Many of these places also have paid staff positions. It might be easier to get in if you are already involved.
Even if it’s not totally in your “zone,” check out interesting job or volunteer positions. You never know when you might discover your next passion!
Write to your Congress members, the president or reach out to any of the organizations above. Let them know what you have experienced in your career. Then ask how you can help. You might be able to offer advice to other spouses in the same career field or offer your services to families in need.
Tell people in a position to help what you need. You could outline the struggles of transferring licenses across state lines or the litany of hoops you need to jump through. Present reasonable alternatives to the current situation.
And then, when all else fails, maybe have a little venting session.