by Danielle Tenconi, Guest Contributor
One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a military spouse is career portability. Having a career is super important to me, but military life has not provided the ideal situation.
When I first met my husband, I had just been offered my dream job at a Fortune 500 company in London.
The only problem with this dream come true – my love had orders to Fort Benning, Ga., to complete basic training.
From the start, we had different visions for our respective careers, but we were and still are, determined to make our version of military life work for our family.
In fact, I am writing this blog post from a café in London, while preparing for a meeting in Paris even though we are currently stationed in Korea. This is not a typical day, however I am consistently fulfilling my ambition of a maintaining a career in global marketing and have been throughout my 12-year journey as a military spouse.
Here’s what I’ve discovered to be my critical success factors for developing a portable career as a military spouse. I call them my 4 Fs for success.
I invested a huge amount of time and energy into building a foundation in my career field. That meant living apart from my husband for some time to take a job opportunity to provide me with the skills I needed to be able to obtain a solid background in marketing.
It was rough, but we managed.
I also spent many evenings working on my master’s degree so I could build my resume for future employment.
I’m not proposing that you and your spouse live apart or that further education is for everyone. However, I do believe that it’s crucial to build a solid foundation in your chosen career field.
How many times do we hear as military spouses the importance of flexibility? Every PCS and duty station creates new challenges and opportunities.
I had a great job as a marketing manager in Germany which I LOVED! I was thriving and then we received our orders for Virginia.
After some self-pity, I sat down and formulated a plan for how I could continue my current job while living in Virginia. I had to be flexible and make concessions, but it was totally worth it.
For example, I offered to work on the European time zone, which meant getting up crazy early. It also involved travelling at my own cost, but that investment was worth every penny as it was a direct investment into my career. My employer was impressed by my flexibility and happily agreed to allow me to work remotely.
Another version of flexibility is self-employment.
I’m the proud owner of 2 businesses and I’m in the process of developing a third. Entrepreneurship is definitely not for everyone and I’ve had to exercise significant flexibility with my businesses due to frequent moves.
When we moved to Korea I lost all of my corporate clients. That was 99 percent of my income and I was totally devastated.
However, instead of becoming stuck during the middle of the crucible, I choose to re-focus myself on developing a coaching business for mompreneurs. Flexibility is essential for success.
I’m a firm believer that every connection is a potential friendship and my portable career has been built on friendships. My friends have helped connect me with potential employers and clients. It’s a bit cliché, but in my experience it is all about who you know.
Additionally, friends offer support during tough periods.
For example, when I was living apart from my husband (I needed to stay in my job for another year to be more marketable to employers), they provided me with the motivation I needed to keep going.
It is important to note that these friendships must be authentic. It’s not about “using” people or only contacting people when you need something; it’s about developing a win-win relationship.
I’m always willing to provide testimonials or marketing support for friends and I proactively support my friend’s enterprises, because I enjoy helping them achieve their visions.
My No. 1 success factor is about having a clear long-term vision for your career. Of course military life will throw many curve balls your way, although these will add difficulty into the mix, they should not derail it.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My long-term vision is to be an expert in global marketing and I continually set a series of short-term goals to get me there.
If your vision is to become a fitness expert, how would you break that down? You may take a personal training course, join a multi-level marketing business, work at a local gym or do all of the above. Each of these jobs will help you achieve your end vision.
Although it is important to stay true to your vision, I’m not suggesting that you cannot change your mind.
Military life gives us many challenges but over time I have learned not to doubt my vision. I’ve had many moments where it seems too hard or I’ve felt having a career is impossible, however I’ve consistently gone back to my vision, and I’m always glad I did.
It’s been both frustrating and fabulous to be a working spouse, but at the end of the day I feel blessed that I’ve been able to develop my portable career in marketing.
Has it been perfect?
Is my career exactly what I want it to be?
However, have I learned a huge amount that I can share to help my fellow military spouses develop their portable careers?
100 percent yes!
Do you have a portable career? What are your tips for navigating a portable career when you’re a working military spouse? Share them in our comments section.
Danielle Tenconi is passionate about empowering military spouses to continually raise themselves to a higher standard of performance. She is the owner of Little Apple Marketing, a marketing consultancy company for global corporations, founder of InsieMama, a business coaching company for Mompreneurs and co-founder of Empower, an innovative personal development organization for military spouses. You can connect with Danielle on Instagram at @empowermilitaryspouses and @insiemama.