You know how there's always one, two if your lucky, person at work that just drips knowledge. Every time they speak your ears perk up a bit because they have an overflowing bucket of incredibly knowledgeable facts and stories; for me, that's Kathy. She's my counterpart in the career consulting firm, Power Connections Inc., we both work with. Her experience at our company is just the tip of her expansive work history iceberg. Her diverse resume has been collected over many years as a military spouse. (Photo by Kwang Mathurosemontri on Unsplash)
Prior to this blog and working with an outplacement firm, I worked as a career coach at a university. It was in this position that I learned of the hardships many military spouses face in regards to employment. But my respect for military spouses began with my dear friend Raphaella, she lived down the street from us and had a boy my son's age and a babe on the way. I met her when her husband was deployed and hung out with her most days throughout the few years we lived in the neighborhood. I learned so much about the military counterculture through our friendship, and my respect for military spouses grew exponentially.
Prioritize to Find the Right Fit for You and Your Family
I wanted to interview Kathy about her experience as a military spouse and learn from her wisdom to share with potential readers in similar circumstances. I learned that Kathy moved every couple of years, like most military families, and she went about gaining work by being open and adaptable to the available opportunities in the area she landed. Kathy recalls, "I had to be flexible with what to do work-wise to keep our son taken care of, do my Military Spouse obligations to families, and work. I took on different kinds of roles and also used my university teaching background to get part-time teaching jobs. I left a great position for one move from DC area to CA, took on a part-time consulting role in HR for a company for 6 months, then went to work full-time for Price Waterhouse but given travel then switched to a more local job. I learned that I can parlay my talents in many ways and that I should be open to all experiences and not be locked into tunnel vision of what I think my career should be. I also negotiated to work virtually."
See what I mean about the wealth of knowledge and experience. Kathy taught, consulted, worked part-time, full-time, switched due to travel; like her husband and son, she had to grow where she was planted. Part of her growth was refraining or leaving positions which called for travel. Kathy had to make sacrifices in her career to be a home base for her son and elderly family members. This is a huge nugget for military spouses looking for work. I recommend: questioning whether the travel for the position is worth coupling with your husbands. For most positions, the amount of travel is listed in the job post by percentage, feel free to discuss the travel schedule within the initial interview stages so you get a clear picture and make an informed decision to meet your family's needs.
Research to Boost Your Interview Confidence
In working with military spouses I have learned that the interview is a point of anxiety for most. They worry that if they are exposed as a military spouse the ambiguity of their residency may be a red flag for employers. This was echoed in a HireAHero survey which found that 41% of spouses felt that they would not be hired because they might move (Pentagram, 2018). I asked Kathy about how she handled this, she mentioned that many company's give priority to military spouses. She's right. Here's a list of bone-a-fide military spouse supporting employers. Kathy also stated, "Nowadays it's much better, there is still a stigma that a spouse might move, but sometimes you don’t need to disclose that or keep open the possibility that they might stay. I always was very transparent." Ultimately, it's a personal decision to share familial information with an employer but doing a bit of research to learn about the company and their stance is time well spent.
Mama, You Deserve Support-Take It!
I concluded my interview with Kathy by asking what resources military spouses should lean on while exploring their career options. She said, "Each base regardless of branch of service has offices and counselors to provide resources and counseling and help with resumes. The Command they are a part of can help them with that. In the Marine Corps, they can also go to their Family and Community Services Offices. There are Ombudsman and Family Readiness Officers that can help too. MilitaryConneciton.com, Psych Armor Institute, etc. Also, there are mentoring workshops I developed for Spouses through the Tragedy Assistance Program (TAPS) and The Elisabeth Dole Foundation. Also the US Department of Defense."
As a mom, I'm the worst at seeking help, but if your husband has been away for 3 months and you have a colicky baby and a toddler who frequently tantrums over snack choices, you don't have time to research the most current resume trends! As for help, mama.
Take-away from Kathy's Insights:
1. Be open and flexible with your career. You may step away or to the side of your ideal career path for a couple of years, THAT IS OK, more and more employers value a diverse career past because you bring a unique perspective to the table as oppose to those who may have been in the same position for years and exposure has been limited.
2. Visualize the job in your life right now. Ask questions about potential travel, day-to-day schedules, childcare, and work/life balance culture. This research can help you to stay in a role and find a solid work support system to counterbalance your busy family life.
3. Take advantage of military support. Why waste your valuable time reading countless articles about job search, LinkedIn, and interviewing when there are knowledgeable professionals who want to help you. It is so important to have a support system during your career search. I call myself a career cheerleader. There are folks waiting to support you!
I'm so grateful for the incredible military spouses who have come into my life and shown me the grace, integrity, support and steadfast love for their family and country. It is truly incredible. I hope this article supports a reader to share their strengths in a professional setting, as well. I honor you, military mama.
(Photo by Jonathan Tajalle on Unsplash)