As the executive director of In Gear Career, I have heard a lot of military spouses talk about their perceptions of what employers must think of them. I have also heard real-life stories of what employers have SAID to them. These types of discussions always spark the debate about whether or not you should advertise the fact that you’re a military spouse.
The idea that we have to think about our “military spouse-ness” as a title or status-of-sorts kind of irks me.
I am proud to be married to a military member, but my current affiliation with the military is only part of who I am. In fact my “military spouse-ness” is probably the least relevant thing about me when considering me for employment (my current job aside of course). I also have a great education, tons of experience (both volunteer and paid) and a dedication to work hard and give my position with your organization my all. Don’t you want to know those things about me? Don’t those things hold weight?
Why must it always come back to what my spouse does?
I understand the perceptions that accompany the military lifestyle and certainly there’s no escaping the fact that most military families live in an often changing and often unpredictable life, but the following list are 5 things that I think all employers should know when the hiring of a military spouse seems “risky” or even daunting.
1. We didn’t choose this life.
I realize this one may ruffle a few feathers, but hear me out. Of course I chose to marry my husband—and for me, he was already in the Navy when I made that choice, but here’s the thing: I had no idea what it really MEANT to be married to a Navy guy. At the time we were married I worked in the Defense sector so it seemed super easy. Anywhere he has to go there will be a job for me: WRONG.
Does anyone ever really know what a marriage is going to be like the day they say, “I do”? I don’t think so.
There are too many things to learn along the way. For military spouses that can be anything from getting orders to a country that literally won’t let you work outside the home (hello resume gap!) to getting orders to the ONE place in this country that doesn’t have your career field (Ft. Polk, anyone?).
So please, please understand that when we joined our lives with our service member we literally could not imagine all the effects it may have on our careers. You can bet we’re working our tails off to keep that career on track though and we’d love to bring our dedication to those career goals to your organization.
2. We really do want this job and we’ll do what it takes to do the job well.
If we’re applying for jobs, it’s not because we want something to do. It’s either a financial necessity for our family or simply because we have a desire to work and career goals of our own (or all of the above). Please know that just as any other employee you have, we will have a plan in place to assist us with the uncertainty of life so we are able to give our full dedication to the position with your organization.
Although we may not have truly known what we were getting into when we married our service member, we’re learning along the way and we’ve developed strategies to navigate whatever may be thrown at us on the job or off.
I’d actually say that being a part of the larger military community may mean we’re better equipped from the starting gate. Just like anyone we have to get to know new people in a new town, but we’re often put in the path of those folks very quickly in the military world. We’ve learned to lean on our village when needed.
3. If you’re wondering how the skills we have on our resumes apply to the position you’ve advertised, please ask us.
Due to the fact that we have moved a lot and have had to reinvent ourselves, our resumes may look a bit disjointed. We get that, but if we applied to your position, we know we can do it. It’s often hard to get everything we’re capable of on a resume, but we can definitely fill you in on our experience and how we can be an asset to your organization in a short phone call.
4. Our varied experience can be to your benefit.
There are plenty of articles calling military spouse employees dedicated, adaptable and capable of thinking on their feet. All of those things are true, but let’s take all of that one step further.
Military spouses have lived everywhere. Many of us have had the experience of living in a big city, living in a small town, overseas and just about anywhere you can think of. This varied experience can make us very relatable to even a very broad customer base. We’re chameleons that way.
5. We don’t think we’re special.
This may actually be the biggest thing of all. We don’t want charity, we don’t want special attention or special consideration.
We simply don’t want what our spouses do for a living to count us out before we’ve even started.
We want to be recognized for our own skill set, our own accomplishments and viewed as the valuable asset we know we can be to your organization.
As I said at the beginning of this article, there is no denying that the military life can bring some unavoidable realities, but with millennials expecting to change jobs every 2 to 3 years, please don’t view us as transient employees. If given the chance, military spouse professionals may just prove to be the best risk you’ve taken.
What else do employers need to know about potential military spouse employees?