How to Navigate Career Transition as a Military Spouse

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By Anna Larson, Retired + Retiring Military Spouse Ambassador at SpouseLink

Military spouses dream of the day when their active-duty status will come to an end. But, when your spouse decides to transition from active duty to retirement, this new and unchartered territory can quickly become overwhelming. Questions lay for the path ahead, like what will your next steps be as a family? Will you move to another location, and if so, where will that be? Now that your spouse is retiring, is it time to go back to work or take on more responsibilities in an existing career?

With all these questions likely racing through your mind, it’s important to remember that in life-changing decisions, preparation is key and be sure to have a Plan B on deck for when things don’t go like you might expect. Here are a few useful tips to help you prepare for this new and exciting chapter of your life:

Finding the ONE place to live after moving around every few years

Bouncing around from location to location every few years is normal for a military family. Despite these moves being a time of high-stress and anxiety, we quickly learn how to navigate all of it. The idea of moving to a new, permanent location can feel terrifying. What if you don’t like it? What if you choose the wrong place? Ultimately, including the entire family in the decision to move is the key to finding the forever home you dream about.

Open the discussion with your spouse to determine what ranks highest in importance for each of you. What kind of community you want, job opportunities, reputable school systems, rural or city life, and more. I had established a virtual career but worked closely with a local business colleague on many projects. Being able to remain connected to her was at the top of my priority list. For my spouse, taxes on retirement pay was his top consideration. Knowing this allowed us to quickly eliminate some locations we thought would be great for our family.

Include your children as appropriate. Ask questions about what is important to them. You might be surprised at what their answers are. I was surprised to hear my children wanted to stay at our final duty station and that conversation ultimately affected our final decision to not move at all!

Before retirement be sure to connect with a financial advisor who is well versed in military benefits as they can help you navigate things like taxes on retired pay, which can vary state by state. When it comes time to search for a home, working with the right people makes all the difference. Work with a mortgage lender who is well versed in VA loans to make sure you and your family are receiving the benefits you deserve.

Entrepreneurial tips for military spouses

When starting your professional journey for the first time or re-entering it after a hiatus, it can be incredibly frustrating to find employers that understand the difficulties of maintaining a career as a military spouse. Here is what I recommend for those looking to get back into the work force.

First, find a mentor. There are a lot of free mentorship opportunities open to military spouses that are unsure how to move forward in their professional journey. A mentor will guide you with your resume, connecting with the right people, and navigating different job opportunities.

Second, connect with as many people in your desired industry as you can. LinkedIn is a great place to find military friendly employers and connections. There is a constant conversation happening on LinkedIn about military spouse employment and many organizations have created networking opportunities, resume help, and more.

Finally, use your military life experience to help potential employers understand the skills you have gained. During job interviews, act as a self-advocate. If you have gaps in employment, highlight how your role as a military spouse, household leader, and caregiver during times of deployment or relocation helped you gain crucial skills like fiscal responsibility, resilience, and leadership. Leverage your life experiences and give examples as to how this can be an asset to the company. Communicate the value these opportunities will bring to their organization and how it will ultimately improve their business.

Resources for navigating job and lifestyle transitions

American Corporate Partners (ACP) offers free mentorship opportunities for any active-duty military spouses nearing transition or looking to refine their professional career.

Vets2Industry offers quarterly virtual networking for military spouses to connect with companies seeking military spouse employees.

LinkedIn offers great resources at free or low costs to expand your professional network and connect with other military spouses for support. Look into the free year of premium features offered to veteran military and spouses!

Connect with me on LinkedIn to learn more about these opportunities and more during our bi-monthly SpouseLink Livestream for retired and transitioning military spouses.

It’s also a great idea to check out other online resources like blogs, podcasts, and websites dedicated to supporting military spouses. Here you can find a plethora of information and personal stories from spouses in similar situations you’re experiencing. Hundreds of military spouses across the globe have experienced what you’re currently, or are about to go through, and having a strong support network is key to mental wellness and professional success.

Bio:

Anna Larson is a military spouse and ambassador for SpouseLink, an online community for military spouses through the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA).

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