Every duty station is different, and with each move comes the local learning curve.
After a PCS or two, chances are you’ve developed a routine for handling those annoying little “quirks” of living in a new town. Like, for example, finding a new hair stylist, determining whether to shop on post/base or at the local grocery store, and of course figuring out the job market.
Having coached military spouses at different stages in the PCS process (and having just recently PCSed from a big city to rural living myself), I know there is also a certain level of uncertainty and disappointment that can accompany a relocation to an area that has a less-than-stellar job market.
6 Sanity Saving Strategies for Surviving a Limited Local Job Market
Over time, I’ve learned a sort of “process” to improve our odds of staying sane and keeping our careers from fizzling out.
1. Do Research and Use it for Awareness–NOT Assumptions
Someone always has something to say about every duty station out there. But I’d bet that someone probably doesn’t know what your experience will be, and you can’t know what it will be either–especially based on other people’s opinions.
The best way to get some real perspective is by looking at actual statistics and facts. I use city-data.com, and there are also other sites with information about the job market or general area data. But, I have a warning with doing too much research and basing all of your impressions on just what you read online….
I remember reading statistics about one of our future duty stations. I got myself into a state of panic after reading all of the terrible statistics on crime, which was reported to be worse than any of the notoriously dangerous cities you can think of. I was ready to live an hour away because the stats made it look like I’d be a victim of some crime or another if I didn’t!
We PCSed from that area about 6 months ago, and despite all the data that freaked me out, I wasn’t a victim of a crime. In fact, I felt pretty safe there! My point is that you should use the data you find as a guide for how you will approach your new duty station–not a law.
2. Get to the Root of the Stinky Situation
I hear milspouses say all the time that, “the job market stinks here.” OK. You might just be right. But why does it stink?
- Is the salary bad for the jobs you want?
- Are there no opportunities in your field?
- Is it that you can’t find jobs that utilize your degree?
What is it specifically? Only once you identify the source of your dissatisfaction can you go about making a counter-attack on the job search front.
3. Focus on What You Can Control
You can’t change the job market. The only thing you can control is how you handle the next year (…or three).
You have a choice.
You can spend the time complaining about the job market, giving reasons for why you can’t find a job (even though you may not have tried any new approaches or strategies) and then give up, or you can decide to take action the best way possible for where you live. I find that after coaching spouses for even just a few minutes, we often uncover some fun career strategies when we get a little creative.
4. Create a Duty Station Goal
Once you get your mind right and decide that you are going to make the most of this duty station, you should set a goal for what you want to achieve during your time at this new place. Here are some examples:
Before we PCS again, I want to finish my Master’s degree.
I want to remember this duty station as the place I became truly strategic in my career.
In the next three years, I plan to have made progress toward breaking into a career path I actually want for myself.
I commit to not taking any jobs that I really don’t want for the entire time we are at this duty station.
5. Break it Down…Way, Way Down
This is where most of us get tripped up. We have grandiose goals, but we don’t follow them up with very small bit-size action steps that can be done consistently every day. Have that goal in front of you and ask yourself these simple questions to help get started:
So, what is the very first thing I can do tomorrow to work toward this goal?
Once I do this step tomorrow, what would follow the next day?
If I accomplish this step, what would I then need to do?
Once you’ve run out of things you can think of, start giving yourself time constraints and deadlines. Then, have a friend or your spouse or someone you trust hold you accountable.
6. Revisit the Goals
This is the best part of the process because it helps you actually see the progress you are making, or it will give you the information you need to make some changes. If you aren’t sticking to your action items and goals, why is it? What is hindering your progress? The beauty is that just by setting up a plan you are more likely to progress. You can actually see where you are excelling or falling short.