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: Thea Pitzen
Years as a military spouse:
Tell us your profession:
Is this full-time, part-time, hourly, contract or freelance work?
How long have you been working in this career field?
9 years, but not always full-time. I’ve done contract work, adjunct teaching, and various writing and volunteer gigs in addition to traditional private practice.
Do you work in an office, telecommute from home (or Starbucks), or a little bit of both?
In an office
Tell us one thing you love about your job.
As a litigator, I love that every day in my job is different. I learn something new and gain valuable skills from each and every case on which I work, and I’m incredibly thankful to have been able to continue to progress in my profession as we have moved with the military.
I also love that my job is, at its core, problem solving. I love being able to help colleagues and clients find solutions that work for them.
And, yes, I love to win.
How did you get this position? Was it a resume, referral, job fair? Spill your magic.
I found my current position when a legal recruiter found me on LinkedIn! I have found my past couple of positions through my military spouse network (specifically, the Military Spouse JD Network) and through sending cold copies of my resume to prospective employers.
As a military spouse, I try to never discount any potential avenue for job seeking.
What is your No. 1 tip for a military spouse on the hunt for a job?
Don’t discount ANY of your networks for job searching, and prepare yourself for the inevitable questions if your resume shows frequent moves and/or employment gaps!
I’m so passionate about these tips I even wrote about them for the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division. I think most of the tips translate well beyond the legal profession. Your alumni networks, former coworkers, local business groups, and even LinkedIn and Facebook can be valuable resources when you are job searching.
And, don’t be afraid to mention that military spouses are adaptable, resilient, team-oriented, and AMAZING!
How do you feel about failure?
I’m not a fan. Having said that, I think it teaches some very valuable lessons. As a litigator, I have a competitive personality, I am driven to win, and I don’t like to fail.
However, failure – on some level and at some point – is inevitable. I think the best and most productive response to failure is to consider why it happened, what it can teach you, and how you can avoid a similar failure in the future.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while living the military lifestyle?
As an attorney, I have to be licensed in each state where I practice law. And while groups like the Military Spouse JD Network have made amazing advances toward licensing accommodations, for me, our military moves have still resulted in me taking three bar exams…so far.
Becoming licensed in a new state is expensive, time consuming, and stressful, and by the time you succeed in becoming licensed, well over half your time in that state may have already passed. And there are so many professions in which military spouses face these same issues.
Gaps in employment while seeking licensure can also make it difficult to accumulate the years of experience that many prospective employers want to see on a resume. I consider myself fortunate to have gained over three years of very valuable experience right out of law school, which set me up well to re-enter the profession, even after taking a step back for several years after my daughter was born.
But the licensing issues have been a very real hurdle time after time in my career.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? Tell us the worst too, while you’re at it.
The best has been:
“you can say no.”
A little back story. Early in my legal career as a very junior associate attorney, I was working in my office late one evening when a senior partner popped his head into my office to ask if I could complete a research task for him. I’m not sure what my exact facial expression was (exhaustion? panic?), but his next words were, “you know you can say no, right?” At that point in my career, I really did need to learn that I could say “no” and sometimes needed to do so in order to give my very best effort to everything on my plate.
I’ve carried that (advice) with me ever since.
The worst career advice has probably been not to attempt to maintain a legal practice while my husband is active duty or not to have children prior to reaching a certain level of seniority in practice.
You can make both scenarios work. I have.
Who is in your support squad?
So many people – from my husband to my parents to my child’s preschool teachers, it really does take a village when it comes to most things, in my experience. But, I would be remiss not to specifically mention the Military Spouse JD Network. Finding a like-minded group of military spouses who can truly appreciate the issues you face (and help you solve them!) has been absolutely invaluable to me.
Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks?
Yes, 100%. We have taken on different tasks over the years, depending on my employment status and his deployments and travel.
For example, when I have not been working full-time, I’ve shouldered more of the household tasks, like cooking, cleaning and laundry. When I work full-time, my husband actually does most of the cooking, which is awesome! I handle the morning routine with our daughter, and he does most bath times and bedtimes when he is home.
We do what makes sense based on our schedules, and it works for us!
Share your best life-hack for saving time or sanity during the work week.
I’m not sure it qualifies as a life-hack, but Blue Apron has been a big sanity saver. Not having to figure out what to do for dinner a few nights a week is so helpful for our family!
Also, investing in one really nice piece of home exercise equipment so that I can squeeze in a workout after my daughter is in bed has been a big improvement.
What’s your must-have song on your productivity playlist?
It varies (a lot), but lately it’s been “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons.
If you had an extra hour in your day, what would you do with it?
With an extra hour on any given day, probably just have a little “me” time! Between work, parenting, and attending to the house, bills, chores, etc., almost every hour of most days feels full. I relish any time to just watch a little TV, work out, or scroll through my social media to catch up on the news and what my friends are up to.
If you were a superhero, what would be your super power?
The ability to actually add that extra hour (or two) to my day!
Especially since becoming a parent, it never feels like there’s enough time for everything I want to do. An extra hour of snuggles with my kiddo whenever I want it (or she does) would be super power enough for me.