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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.
Name: Liz George
Years as a military spouse: 7.5
Tell us your job title/profession:
Senior Qualitative Research Specialist at Market Strategies International
Is this full-time, part-time, hourly, contract or freelance work?
How long have you been working in this career field?
Total of 5 years
Do you work in an office, telecommute from home (or Starbucks) or a little bit of both?
Our HQ is based in Livonia, MI. When we are stationed nearby (which we have been twice now), I work in our office. However, my work entails a lot of travel, so when we PCS’d for a year so my husband could attend a school, they offered me the flexibility to work remote!
How did you get this position? Was it a resume, referral, job fair? Spill your magic.
Networking! As we prepared to move from Germany back to the United States, I got in touch with former mentors to see who might have contacts in Michigan. One of my mentors was putting me in touch with different advertising agencies, and then recalled that I had some research experience. His company at the time actually was a client of Market Strategies, so he gave me the contact information of a colleague there. As it turned out, that colleague was on leave when I reached out, but I applied anyway, interviewed 3 days after arriving stateside, and received an offer!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while living the military lifestyle?
It’s hard to achieve the same earning potential of some of my peers. When I finished graduate school, I had the dream job offer – and naturally, we received the dream PCS orders at the same time. It was hard to walk away from the opportunity, and positions where we were stationed were limited. I was fortunate to find work and have volunteer activities I was passionate about, but it was hard feeling like I wasn’t reaching my full professional potential, and worrisome to wonder whether I would ever be able to “catch up” to where I had been.
Tell us one thing you love about your job:
There are so many things I love about my current work, but so much of it boils down to the nature of the work. Most of the research I do is in the health care arena, which is fascinating me, and I primarily do custom qualitative research.
Everything is done a project basis, so I am constantly learning, working with new clients or a new field, and putting together a different puzzle. I’ve always loved problem solving, and I feel like that is what my work allows me to do everyday – take my clients’ problems or questions, and gather the information and insight to help them create informed solutions.
It’s quite dynamic – one month, I might fly around the world doing international research, the next I might be conducting interviews or focus groups from my home office via webcam. The variety and challenge keeps it fresh every day.
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Share your best life-hack for saving time or sanity during the work week:
Creating calendar appointments to do specific tasks has been huge – both at home and work.
In my organization, we keep our calendar availability public to one another, so if time is open, anyone can plug a meeting in. If I have a specific project that needs dedicated attention, I put it on my calendar as an appointment. It protects the time, and also gives me a push and accountability to devote that hour to it.
Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks? How do you do it?
Honestly, a lot doesn’t get done some weeks, and learning to accept that has been hard – but with two of us working and traveling, and an infant and three legged dog – “it is what it is!”
We split a lot of our household tasks, like dishes and clean-up, and some things fall out naturally. I tend to handle laundry and he takes on outdoor tasks. And while I’m not proud of it, I am grateful that both of us working allows us to afford help (like a deep house cleaning or seasonal yard work) when we need it.
We decided that there are situations where our time or sanity is worth the investment to get help.
If you have children, how do you and your spouse or partner split parenting responsibilities?
We’ve had some very real conversations about the value each of our jobs brings to our family, and that has been a solid foundation for our ability to negotiate parenting.
We try very hard each week to let each other know what our big work priorities and potential conflicts are, so that we can work out who can get home on time to relieve our child care which days.
It’s hard, because there are times it feels like the decision is about “Whose work is more important?” – and that can be a difficult tie to break. Instead, we try to approach it from “Which of us can flex more this week?” – and take it one conflict at a time, without keeping score.
We both respect and appreciate what each others’ careers contribute – both short and long term – and try hard to keep that as part of our conversations.
For example, I really need to be in Maryland on Thursday for this client, because there is the potential that it will build significant business.
But since my husband has to be in Arizona Wednesday-Thursday for critical meetings, I arrange to fly out early Thursday, he flies in Thursday night, and we arrange our child care to go long that day. We both cut our travel quick and have some long days, but we are both able to be where we need to.
Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without:
My iPhone. It has my work calendar/email and our family calendar/email integrated, which makes it easy to reference for conflicts
Favorite app for making the most of your day?
TinyBeans. This is more of a morale booster, but it’s a great app that lets us and our child care provider share photos of our daughter. Throughout the day or when on the road, it is awesome to be able to open it and see what she is up to. (And our families love it too!)
Must-have song on your productivity playlist?
Lindsey Sterling channel on Pandora
What is your No. 1 tip for a military spouse on the hunt for a job?
Keeping perspective is huge. I’ve certainly wasted time in jobs or activities because I felt the compulsion to do ANYTHING, rather than waiting to find the RIGHT thing.
For me, I am consistently evaluating where I am and where it will take me. Sometimes that position that I felt under-employed in doing actually did help me to build connections or skills that proved beneficial later.
And some positions may be frustrating at times, but the benefits or flexibility allow me to prioritize my family for that season. Looking at every opportunity from a cost-benefit analysis and actively involving my husband in those evaluations has really helped me make decisions that I felt confident in.
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.