Military spouses face particular challenges when it comes to maintaining or developing their professional career. More often than not, being married in the military means either giving up your career goals or having to constantly reinvent yourself and prove your worth in job markets across the globe.
In Gear Career is a nonprofit aiming to revolutionize the way career-minded military spouses network and gain access to top executives in their career field.
“We don’t just want to be an organization for job seekers, we really want to be an organization that allows like-minded spouses to get together,” says Amanda Patterson Crowe, Executive Director and Tampa Chapter Leader for In Gear Career. She explains the idea of each local chapter is to help spouses network and find interviews in their field without the feeling of starting over in each community where they may move. By forming a relationship with the Chamber of Commerce and receiving job listings, In Gear Career has been successful in introducing military spouses to employers and getting them job interviews.
Professionally-focused military spouses can feel isolated and silenced in the military community. “By having like-minded individuals around, it’s the first time you are kind of relaxed in the military community and, all of a sudden, you realize that you never knew there were so many people like you,” says Lauren Weiner, President of Wittenberg-Weiner Consulting and Board Director of In Gear Career.
Lauren started facing the adversities of the military life after quitting her job as a senior government civilian at the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President in order to follow her husband on a Department of Defense assignment in Italy.
When Lauren arrived in Italy she was told that as a 30 year old military spouse, she may be offered a secretarial position, at best. In a couple of months, Lauren decided to start her own company, Wittenberg-Weiner Consulting (WWC), with military spouses being the initial group they hired.
“We found out that not only were [military spouses] amazing as employees, but they all faced similar situations. They have all felt very alone in the military community,” Lauren says.
The story of In Gear Career starts in 2009, when Haley Uthlaut, a military spouse, veteran, and current Board of Directors member, approached Lauren and Donna Huneycutt, owners of WWC, to support and implement the idea of a nonprofit organization that enabled military spouses to pursue professional careers. Lauren describes it as “an outgrowth of what [they] found as military spouses and what [they] found by employing military spouses.”
In Gear Career local networking events are an unparalleled opportunity to connect and share your experience with other highly successful military spouses in your region. The topics of discussion are carefully chosen in accordance with the needs expressed by military spouses.
“We want to allow spouses to help each other and make those connections with one another,” explained Amanda. She encourages spouses who do not have a local chapter in the area to reach out to her through the In Gear Career website, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Amanda will still put out emails and referrals for military spouses regardless of where they are stationed.
Lauren’s advice to military spouses is to “stay professional. If you stay tenacious, if you stay flexible in the way that you approach everything, it is not only possible to maintain a professional career, but to actually to come up with your own trajectory that is different and even better than it would have been if you weren’t a military spouse.”
Our Association is pleased to have worked with In Gear Career from its inception, and appreciate the one-on-one career networking support they provide to military spouses.
Have you had any hardships as a working military spouse? How did you overcome them?