Saturday, November 29, 2008

Job search, military spouse style

In the last few months, I have received several inquiries on job hunting, many of these from military spouses. So many inquiries that I decided to put together a post to try and help consolidate the information.

As the wife of a (retired) naval officer, I am keenly (and painfully) aware of the unique challenges that the military can create for family members, especially spouses who are looking for a job. For all the years my husband served our country, we moved 14 times in 20 years. That doesn't bode well for a spouse trying to create a career, a pension, a retirement. Several of the questions have included - how did you create a career when moving so much?

While not terribly sophisticated, here are a few of the steps that I took trying to create a career while moving every couple of years.

1. I tried to identify a couple of fields (in my interests) that would allow me some kind of portability when moving. For military families, we know that 'moving' doesn't mean down the street; rather moving typically means across the country. We have driving across this great land nine times moving from San Diego to Newport, RI to Monterey, CA to Norfolk, VA. What could I do in each of those cities?

2. I used temporary agencies. I found the best resources in the world came through agencies. They had great local jobs and accelerated my time in trying to connect in the community. I was eventually hired by one of the agencies as an internal staffing consultant that opened many doors.

3. I made use of the Family Service Centers (Navy) on all the bases. (Names will vary with each branch of the service). Each center had terrific networks and community links that helped, links to 'military friendly' employers. (I was turned down more than once for being a military spouse, we were short term in the area). And when I was in a position to hire, I made sure to go back to those service centers and help others in transition - posting jobs, speaking to families, helping with resumes, coaching interviews - those kinds of things.

4. When we moved, my husband and I always lived off base. It was an intentional decision so that we could experience and enjoy ourselves in a broader context, being part of a larger community. I did stay involved with the military families and networked like crazy with family support groups. I went to meetings, outings, coffees, picnics and asked a lot of questions of the people already there. I also volunteered when I could, as it was another great way to meet people.

5. And when possible, took classes. After finishing my bachelor's degree, I took classes at the local college in areas of interest. While it didn't always help my job search, it did give me access to the career services center in the college. The career services area had connections and leads in the community as well.

6. There where frankly times when I didn't move. While painful, pre-internet and pre-cell phone (can you imagine?), I needed to stay in one place to really kick my career in gear. I had a chance to relocate to an area with no military at all. So, we lived apart for a few years, racked up the frequent flyer miles and are here now because of some short term sacrifices. While not ideal, it was the right decision for us.

These are just a few suggestions. I am happy to post more as I receive them. Feel free to add your two cents!


Marie said...

From one military spouse to another - great post! Moving across the country can take its tolls, networking is one of the best ways to get through it. While relocating is challenging, it's also rewarding. Thanks for sharing your own story and putting together this list of resources for everyone out there.

Jessica said...

Great post! Spouses of those serving in the military have many challenges and opportunities. Relocating to different cities provides workers opportunities and life experiences they will not find anywhere else.

I would only add that networking and the use of social networking sites becomes even more important for those on the move. Military bases offer a variety of family support services as does the internet.


Jessica Miller-Merrell

HR Maven said...

Marie, it wasn't easy but I can't imagine any other life for us. Thanks for your husband's service and your sacrifice!

Jessica, great idea - adding all the social networking venues possible. I can only imagine how much easier it would have been with these sites back in the day!

Thanks for stopping by!