There’s nothing like a job search to make me feel underqualified and undervalued. As a military spouse who has moved five times in the six years since getting married, I don’t really have a career. I have hobbies, I have passions, and I have kids (which sometimes feels like an endless unpaid internship).
Despite spending way too much money on an English degree from a fancy college, I haven’t used my degree much besides writing the words you’re reading now and helping my husband (then boyfriend) write every paper in college.
I’ve worked in childcare, teenage group homes, event planning, graphic design, etc. I basically took any job that sounded fun and was hiring. And after every PCS, I found that I would fall back into my comfort zone of what was familiar and what I was good at but not what I loved.
Because what’s the point to try really hard to get the elusive “Perfect Job” that translates perfectly into your career when you know you’re going to move again in 6-24 months??
And all the spouses said, “Amen!”
I have since used the MyCAA military spouse scholarship program and changed career paths to become a personal trainer. I absolutely love fitness and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to advance my education for this career change. But after having three kids in three years who are all currently three and under, anything that involves leaving the house to be anywhere on time is just not realistic. I taught mommy-and-me stroller fitness classes after having my firstborn, and whereas it was an ideal job for me, a certified pre/postnatal personal trainer, it’s just not the best fit for this season.
But my family has financial goals.
We have debt, and we have bills, and I have two toddlers who are already eating me out of house and home. We are so blessed that I can stay home, and I don’t need a job, but I want one.
I want to help my family pay-off debt faster and achieve financial freedom sooner.
I want a job to help feed our insane Chick-Fil-A addiction (Can I get another “Amen?”). And I want a job I can do at home, preferably in the off-hours, when my kids are asleep.
I’d be lying through my teeth if I told you that sifting through the endless, mindless, bottomless hole of job search boards is life-giving. Because let’s be real: it’s life-sucking. Especially when every remote job that excites me has requirements I somehow don’t meet. And those that I’m qualified for are looking for full-time work. Of those that I’m qualified for are hiring part-time, they require availability within the typical 8-5 workweek.
And the one job I found that I was overqualified for that was hiring part-time and had flexible work in off-hours and sounded really freaking fun, turned out to be a phishing scam. Great (*insert sad eye-roll here*).
But I continue to apply and hope, and in my darker moments, I wonder if I’m just wasting my breath and time.
The Astounding Statistics
Military spouse unemployment and underemployment is a national epidemic; so I know I’m not the only one to feel this way, and I’m not the only one who has been turned down for a job based on my spouse’s career.
According to a study which the President’s Counsel of Economic Advisors referenced here, military spouses earn $12,000 less annually than their civilian peers. When accounting for a typical 20-year military commitment, that would be a salary loss of nearly $200,000. And despite having 15 percent more education than their civilian peers, military spouse unemployment was double the national average in 2016. That’s astounding.
Not only are military spouses getting paid significantly less, but we’re getting hired less, too.
The aforementioned report entitled, “Military Spouses in the Labor Market” postulates several reasons why this is happening. In addition to unequal licensing requirements between states, many bases are more than 50 miles outside of urban areas which means less opportunities. Even though some spouses choose to work only part-time, 50 percent reported a desire to have a full-time job but were unable to find one. The bottom line is that military spouses have an inherent disadvantage in the labor force and when searching for a job.
So what are we to do?
The Better Way to Job Search
Did you know there are companies who intentionally and actively recruit military spouses? It’s called the Military Spouse Employment Partnership. There are over 330,000 positions posted here in all fields for all career levels, and many offer remote positions, too. Plus you can explore various careers, education, training, licensing, and more.
I rave about Military One Source ALL THE TIME. In the age of frustrating automated menus, it’s refreshing and unheard of to interact with a live human on the first ring. But that’s what you’ll get when you call the Military OneSource Spouse Career Center. Check out its free career counseling and other services here.
A wise, anonymous person once said, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Well, I will tell you, “Never underestimate the power of networking.” If you’re an introvert, it may require you to come out of your shell, but you’ll be surprised at how many doors it can open. In addition to local groups and organizations, The USO offers coffee connections and Military Spouse Networking, which is basically job search speed dating. To find one on your installation, look here. In networking, social media is your best friend. There are countless Facebook groups for a myriad of job types and fields specifically for military spouses. Utilize these resources and connections!
If you need extra certifications or education to make your career portable and PCS-proof, MyCAA offers up to $4,000 towards these expenses. Plus, it will give you free career counseling as part of the scholarship. Check here to see if your program is offered and for detailed eligibility requirements.
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There’s Hope for Our Careers
Once a week I go through a professional identity crisis. I am a mom-of-all-trades; I have experience in so many fields and industries that I find myself applying for jobs in various vocations. Which means I have to restructure my resume with every new job search and application. After I spend all day (or rather all my free moments in-between kiddo chaos) and all my mental capacity researching and applying, I start thinking about who else might be applying for this position. What if they have more education or experience than I do? What if they’re more eloquent than I am in conveying how they are the best person for the job? What if they are the best person for the job?? It continues into a spiral of self-doubt.
I cry, I panic, I doubt, but then I buck-up and pick myself up by my proverbial bootstraps. I brush myself off , dry my pity tears, and remember I am strong, I am capable, and I can hold my own in a pile of applicants from across the country. Maybe you have a stronger resolve than I do, but I bet many of you can relate to my emotional turmoil.
However, I am reassured that more companies are taking advantage of our unique situation and unparalleled qualifications to create a solution.
If you find yourself lost in the military spouse job search conundrum, too, know that:
YOU are strong,
YOU are capable,
YOU can hold your own in a pile of applicants, and
YOU have a wealth of resources and people to help.
We’re all in this together.