Career Madness

18 Feb

If you ask just about any spouse, he or she will say one of the toughest obstacles we face is maintaining a career. Applying for a job with a resume that clearly identifies you as military affiliated, answering interview questions without telling the company you are a military spouse (while at the same time not avoiding the questions either), balancing a job as an on and off again single parent, then reluctantly saying goodbye to a good job only to start the process all over again at the next duty station.

All too often I hear spouses voice their frustration in finding a job. I hear “they won’t hire me because they know we will be moving eventually” or “they don’t want to hire someone who they assume will encounter struggles while their spouse is deployed.” Of course these are just that, assumptions. If they knew what military life was really like, then they would see the many benefits associated with hiring a military spouse. Looking at it from a business perspective, can you blame a company for not wanting to hire someone they know will leave at some point? Consider all the time and money a company spends in training a new employee, so you can’t really blame them for wanting to hire a local who will likely remain in the position longer. However, a business perspective should also consider diversity and the many benefits a military spouse can bring. Knowing that we not only have experience from many different companies, but also from many US locations and overseas. A company should see military spouses as a great source of possibilities. Change is a must in the business world, so why not hire someone who has seen A LOT more change than a local individual?

Additionally, military life can make it extremely difficult to grow within your career field. Too many times I have reached the point of advancement only to see the orders and know I do not have enough time left to receive that promotion. Then I’m faced with selling myself to the next company and explaining how I was “about” to be promoted. Thankfully I am always able to list my skills and responsibilities on my resume, so at least the next company can see what I did even if I did not officially hold the title.

With all this said, military spouses have to let themselves be seen! They need to stand out compared to local hires! They need to voice why they would provide a company with more benefits than a local hire! Most importantly, they need to counter attack the negatives of military life with the possibilities it can bring to an organization!

The biggest and most powerful suggestion I can give to any spouse who is struggling to find a job, is VOLUNTEER! You will be amazed how quickly you will get hired after volunteering at a company. Think about it, the company is able to see firsthand just how dedicated, hardworking, and talented you are. Sure you may not get paid, but the time of working without pay will provide so much more than the same amount of time spent handing out resumes and searching for a job. While stationed in Japan, I volunteered at the Human Resource Office two days a week for three hours. At the time, I had one child in preschool and one at a sitter during my time of volunteering.  It is not easy paying for child care out-of-pocket, but the possibilities it provides are huge in the long run. There are also companies who are willing to reimburse childcare for volunteers, such as the Red Cross. Even with only volunteering for six hours a week, the HR office was ready to hire me when a position came open I was interested in. Of course I could not accept the job because it was time to PCS, but the experience taught me to use volunteering to gain access to companies I am interested in while obtaining valuable experience and networking!

Also, do not forget the volunteer time is not just for the company to learn about you. Those volunteer hours provide you with an opportunity to get a feel for the company, employees, advancement opportunities, work/life balance, etc. Discovering whether you like the company will save you time and stress. Plus all those hours and duties go right on to your resume and provide great experience for the next job you apply for. Remember, DO NOT forget to request a recommendation letter when you are finished volunteering.

One last bit of advice, look into what interview questions are considered legal and illegal. This means US Laws, as well as base laws. For example, while volunteering at the HR office on base I learned it is illegal for a base organization to ask how much longer you will be stationed in the area. Do a simple Google search for legal and illegal interview questions and check with your base family service center to gain insight into obtaining jobs on base. Just remember if you are asked a sensitive question, you have three options: answer the question, refuse to answer the question, or consider the intention of the question and respond with an answer that may apply to the job. For example, if you are asked who will care for your children while traveling on the job if you spouse is deployed, you can respond with “I can meet the travel and job requirements of this job.” This answers the question without saying one way or another if you have children or if your husband is in the military.

We, as military spouses, have so much to offer, so take control and show companies you are what they want!

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