Editor’s Note: Give us your lawyers, your accountants, your massage therapists. Give use your teachers, your engineers, your real estate agents.
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: Katie Lopez
Years as a military spouse: 3
Tell us your job title/profession:
I am the Director of Military and Governmental Affairs for the Christian County Chamber of Commerce.
As the program director I am able to help shape legislative policies at the State and Federal level that impact military families in our community as well as develop and implement new programs that improve the quality of life for military families in our region.
I love the fact that when I am in meetings with our local industry leaders and community leaders I am able to contribute my perspective as a military spouse and how the proposed changes or action items would impact military families.
Is this full-time, part-time, hourly, contract or freelance work?
How long have you been working in this career field?
Do you work in an office, telecommute from home (or Starbucks), or a little bit of both?
How did you get this position? Was it a resume, referral, job fair? Spill your magic.
Networking! My husband and I married shortly after I graduated with my master’s degree. I then moved to be with him and learned quickly that job searching while being a military spouse (no matter how qualified you are for a position) is rather difficult. Not only were the opportunities limited but I was faced with the realization that most employers were hesitant to hire a military spouse because of frequent moves.
That first year of our marriage was the most difficult. I was unemployed and personally struggling with the prospect of not working in my dream field.
After linking up with our local In Gear Career chapter I spent my days networking, volunteering and taking just about every class on post I could. The relationships I built throughout that time are what ended up helping me land my dream job.
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.
When they were hiring for my position I was able to leverage the relationships I had cultivated to have a by name referral to the Chamber President.
Looking back on it, that year of unemployment was worth it! I learned a lot about myself and strengthened my professional skills.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced while trying to maintain a career while living the military lifestyle?
We’ve been very fortunate that we are still at my husband’s first duty station so relocation has not been an issue, yet.
However, it can be overwhelming sometimes when our (my husband and I’s) schedules do not line up. Working for a Chamber is very demanding – not only are there a lot of meetings, administrative tasks and overall program operations but we also have a lot of events. This can be difficult for me to balance when my husband is up at 4 a.m. and in bed by 8 p.m. Most nights I’m not finishing up at the office until 6 p.m. or working an event until 8 p.m. or later.
But we’ve learned to make the most of the time we do spend together and make it a priority to communicate throughout the day.
Tell us one thing you love about your job:
I love the fact that my personal and professional life coincide with this position. While I’m sure most people enjoy the separation of their military and civilian life, I love the fact that I am able to serve military families through my profession.
I’m also very fortunate that I have some flexibility with my work schedule that allows me to still be an active member of our FRG. Serving as the Treasurer there are times when I need to be available to discuss the financials or attend an FRG function and my company allows me to step away to do so.
Share your best life-hack for saving time or sanity during the work week:
Organization! I am a planner and love having things organized.
I usually spend Sunday afternoon/early evening making sure everything is laid out for the week. I always make sure outfits are picked out, my work bag is packed (any documents I took home over the weekend to work on) and I take the time to look over my calendar for the week and month. Monday mornings I sit down and make out my to-do list (color coded by priority).
By spending some time outside of the daily grind to collect my thoughts and make sure everything is set for the week I’m able to be a more relaxed and focused person.
Do you and your spouse or partner split household tasks? How do you do it?
We don’t really have a system in place as to who does what. It’s just whoever sees what needs to get done first does it.
But I find mental clarity in a cleaning routine so Saturdays I am up bright and early making sure all of the laundry gets done and general cleaning around the house.
My husband takes care of the outdoors tasks like mowing and keeping up with our vehicles’ maintenance (thank goodness because I’d probably never get an oil change otherwise).
Tell us one piece of tech you couldn’t live without: My iPhone
Favorite app for making the most of your day?
My calendar. It keeps me on track with where I need to be.
Must-have song on your productivity playlist?
At work I usually have The Black Keys radio playing on Pandora.
What is your No. 1 tip for a military spouse on the hunt for a job?
Network and say “yes!”
You have to actively put yourself out there to find your dream job and the right people who can help get you there.
Sometimes we say “no” to new experiences because they are outside of our comfort zone but in reality those experiences are what help to strengthen our professional skills and help land professional contacts.
Don’t ever doubt attending an event or pass up an opportunity because you feel like you aren’t qualified. While there are very real challenges facing military spouses and meaningful employment sometimes we can be our own biggest barrier by saying “no.”