“I Struggled with Asking to Work Remote Because It Felt Like I Was Asking for Special Privileges.”

Jessica Johnson stepped out of her comfort zone when she asked her management team to work from home.

NextGen MilSpouse is going beyond traditional career tips and tricks for military spouses! We are sharing the real stories of working military spouses (just like you!) and their professional success stories on Wednesdays. 

Jessica Johnson stepped out of her comfort zone when she asked her management team to work from home.

Name: Jessica Johnson

Years as a military spouse:

1

Tell us your job title/profession:

I am a Product Development Engineer and Consultant in the Medical Device industry. I am also co-founder of edge co-working, LLC.

Is this full-time, part-time, hourly, contract or freelance work?

Contract

How long have you been working in this career field?

5 years

Do you work in an office, telecommute from home (or Starbucks), or a little bit of both?

I used to telecommute from home, every coffee shop in our town, and the base library, but now I work from a co-working space every day and it is a life-saver, career-saver and sanity-keeper!

Tell us one thing you love about your job.

I love that I get to solve problems. As an engineer in medical device, I am able to design new products or update existing designs to meet patient and surgeon needs.

How did you get this position? Was it a resume, referral, job fair? Spill your magic.

The company that I am under contract with currently is the company that I worked with for 4 years prior to marrying into the Air Force life. My husband’s duty station was in a very remote location where my industry did not exist. The only options to stay in my industry were to switch into a sales role in which I would be on the edge of a territory spanning 400 miles or pursue remote contract work.

If I had to pick some sort of magic, it would have to be that I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked for the opportunity.

I struggled with asking to work remote because it felt like I was asking for special privileges.

After lots of discussion with mentors and the realization that if I didn’t ask, I would never know, I approached my management team. At first, they said “no,” but 2 weeks after I left, they called and asked me back under a one-year contract.

Please note that I gave the company several months notice that I was leaving and that I had a very good relationship with my management team. The conversations about remote work started as soon as I knew that I would be moving to my husband’s duty station.

This was not a one-time conversation, but lots of discussions over several months. It wasn’t an easy road, especially after they said “no.” However, when they needed someone, they knew I was a available and exactly who they were calling.

What is your No. 1 tip for a military spouse on the hunt for a job?

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

How do you feel about failure?

Keep doing it. I love it. I have a million quotes on why, but I will sum it up to this:

If you haven’t failed at something, you’re not trying hard enough. I would rather fail a million times than never try at all.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while living the military lifestyle?

There were two – 1. asking to work from home 2. actually working from home.

Most people that I encounter like to comment on how wonderful it must be working from home. The truth is that it’s not so glamorous. You’re lucky if you actually have a dedicated office in your home and not just a desk in your bedroom, kitchen or living area. Laundry, dishes, and general household chores taunt you. You don’t get social interaction. You miss out on professional growth opportunities. There is no such thing as a snow-day unless your power goes out.

The challenge of working from home, led me into my second business – co-working.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

It’s difficult to narrow it down to one piece of advice. Here is one that has been on my mind a lot recently

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

-Sheryl Sandberg

Who is in your support squad (i.e. spouse, neighbor, bff) and what role do they play in supporting your career?

My support squad consists of my mother, my mother-in-law, a few of my fellow military spouses, some long-time friends, and a few co-workers. They are all bffs in my book. They always lend an ear. They encourage me to never give up on my career and they provide constructive feedback and advice.

Are you looking to connect with career-minded military spouses? Join one of In Gear Career’s 20+ local chapters around the world. In Gear Career is a part of Hiring Our Heroes and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks? How do you do it?

Yes, he takes care of outside chores, I take care of inside chores and we split cooking.

Share your best life-hack for saving time or sanity during the work week:

Saving time – weekly meal prep.

Sanity – using a co-working space.

Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without that isn’t your phone:

My second monitor for work. One screen just isn’t enough.

Favorite app for making the most of your day?

I recently discovered Asana and use it for tracking business tasks.

Must-have song on your productivity playlist?

Beyonce – Flawless

If you had an extra hour in your day, what would you do with it?

Tackle something from tomorrow’s to-do list or learn something new.

If you were a superhero, what would be your super power?

I would want the ability to be in multiple places at once.

Are you a working military spouse? Do you want to share your career tips and tricks? Fill out the MilSpouses Who Work It Q&A today. Click here to complete our form. 

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