Category Archives: Military spouse employment

Military Spouses are Changing the Face of the Mental Health Profession!

soldier-hugging-childIt’s common knowledge that there’s a mental health crisis brewing in the United States. May is Mental Health Awareness month, but at the National Military Family Association, the mental health of our military families weighs on our minds all year.

From spouses who spend their days caring for an injured or wounded service member, to children who struggle with a parent’s deployment, it’s more and more apparent that the military lifestyle affects the mental health of not only the service member, but those who support them, too.

But are there enough mental health professionals out there to help military families? While the number of mental health professionals who have experience with military families grow, there’s one group of people who know they’ve got what it takes to change the face of mental health in the military community….

More and more military spouses are continuing their own educations and joining the mental health profession.

“With my degree, I hope to work with service members and their families who struggle with the after effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” says military spouse Stephanie Dannan.

But did you know our Association offers scholarship funding for spouses seeking clinical supervision hours to become mental health counselors?

Thanks to a $100,000 gift from United Health Foundation, we’re awarding spouses money to cover such hours, and move them closer to becoming licensed! United Health Foundation is the charitable arm of UnitedHealth Group, the most diversified health care company in the United States, and a leader worldwide in helping people live healthier lives and helping to make the health system work better for everyone.

Military spouses entering the mental health profession bring knowledge of the military community, and an ability to relate to other spouses and service members that their civilian counterparts might lack. These spouses have a generous spirit and want to help the communities they call home.

Stephanie was able to make her dream a reality by applying for, and receiving one of our military spouse scholarships, “I have an opportunity to give back to those who have fought for my freedom, and with this scholarship, I am one step closer to helping them.”

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program Manager

Last Chance to Apply for the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship!

African-American-female-sitting-at-a-deskThere are blog posts a plenty emphasizing the important role that a portable career can have in the life of a military spouse; there are stacks of arguments as to why education is valuable, and there are broken bats scattered along the way from everyone trying to hammer these points home.

If you haven’t yet heard it…get out from under that rock! PCS season is sneaking up, and military spouses will schedule the movers, pull the kids out of school, say good-bye to friends, oh and, yes, quit their jobs…again. I know this first hand; moving boxes are currently consuming my living room, and my pre-move to-do list grows.

Industries with mobile careers are few and far between, but by tapping into the right job markets (teaching, healthcare and fitness to name a few), savvy military spouses are finding more success in landing jobs that are portable.

I want to shine some light on the financial industry – specifically financial counseling.

According to the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE), financial counseling and planning education “is the integrative, multidisciplinary field of social science that studies personal finance and helps families from all walks of life make effective financial decisions and improve financial capability.” Among other efforts, AFCPE supports researchers, educators and counselors with the goal of building, advancing, and ensuring the integrity of the Personal Finance profession.

For the past several years, the National Military Family Association, AFCPE, and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation have joined together to provide the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program. This program is available to qualified applicants looking to pursue careers as accredited financial counselors (AFC). Organizations that hire financial counselors include: bankruptcy courts, banks, savings and loan associations, college financial aid offices, Uniformed Services family/community service agencies, employee benefits counseling firms, insurance companies, consumer finance companies and many more.

AFCPE offers a self-paced study that meets the following objectives:

  • Train a corps of military spouses to provide financial counseling and education within the military community
  • Help military spouses achieve career goals and aspirations and enhance job-related marketability
  • Develop personal financial management skills of military families.

The fellowship gives military spouses (like you!) the opportunity to become an AFC at no cost, and on their own schedule from where ever in the world the military sends them.

If you are already in the finance field, and looking to advance your career, or you want to be a part of an industry that has jobs across state lines, consider this fellowship!

Applications for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship program are being accpeted until April 18, 2014 – so apply now!

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

 

Military Spouses: Improving Your Resume by Going Back to School

chalkboardAs a military spouse, there are some questions that I grow tired of answering all the time:

What does your spouse do?

Where are you guys hoping to move to after here?

When are you going to have kids?

For me, it’s “where do you see yourself in the next five years?” While job interview questions are sometimes difficult, as a military spouse, explaining where you’ll be in five years can be an especially challenging to answer.

Oftentimes, the moving and array of jobs on our resumes may appear as if we simply cannot hold down a job – especially when you consider the variety of different positions and descriptions that may be listed. This may indicate to a potential employer that you lack vision, or direction, in your career goals.

Usually, I want to respond, “Five years?! I don’t know where I will be living in two years, so who knows where I will be in five!”

There are certain states with notoriously difficult job markets, so if we were to live in one of those states, I probably wouldn’t be working. However, if we are fortunate enough to live where there are ample employment opportunities, I will probably feel grateful to have found a job before our next scheduled move, and my hope is to find a job that will align with my past experience and education.

Military spouses oftentimes aren’t able to experience stability, simply because of the nature of this lifestyle. It makes it difficult to use any networks or connections we make to our advantage. We are often times underemployed, if we are employed at all.

What can we really do about this?

My own journey, like so many military spouses, led me to go back to school. While I know continuing my education doesn’t guarantee me a job, I do know it will make me more marketable to future employers.

But just because you figure out the next step, doesn’t mean everything else will come as easily. I spent months bouncing ideas around with a friend about which area of study would be right for me. I also spent a lot of time weighing the cost of going back to school versus the benefits I’d have once I was finished.

I finally decided on a blended program that provided half the classes online and half the classes on a campus. I decided to pursue a field of study with a curriculum broad enough to be used in a few different areas in the workforce, but would also reflect my level of dedication and ability to earn an advanced degree.

Who knows if it will pay off for me? That remains to be seen. But I do know that education is the one part of my resume that I can control. Returning to school to earn a Master’s degree while working, and being a mother of two boys, is a challenging task, but I believe it will ultimately prove to be a worthwhile endeavor.

If you decide school might be the right option for you, our Association has all the resources for you to answer all your questions – from “Where do I start?” to “Which degree should I get next?!”

Have you decided to go back to school to help improve your resume? Share your story with us!

Amanda headshotPosted by Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife

Tired of Searching for Employment Resources? MyMilitaryLife App Puts the Answers You Need at Your Fingertips!

MyMilitaryLife graphicIt is no secret we, as military spouses, constantly struggle to find employment. We reinvent ourselves wherever our military life takes us. One new resource you should know about is MyMilitaryLife app. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, get on your phone right now and join our mobile community!

Why is this app different and how can it help you find a job? To begin with, it is created by military spouses and subject-matter experts. We get information directly from the people who use it. You can be certain the information provided is legit and the resources recommended are trustworthy. Second, you don’t have to endlessly browse through stuff that doesn’t matter to you. Personalize your experience by answering basic questions about yourself and the app filters information — you only see what you need. Finally, the app gives you a platform to share what you’ve learned with fellow spouses. You can leave comments and read what other spouses recommend.

The Spouse Employment Life Path helps shed some light on questions like:

  • What employment support can I find on/off my installation?—Know where to start when looking for employment. Find the programs, workshops and career fairs especially designed for you.
  • How can I transfer my professional license if we move?—Find updated licensure information on the state you are relocating to.
  • Is working from home right for me?—Being a remote employee or having your own e-business can be a rewarding career choice. Start by reading these tips first.
  • Am I eligible for unemployment compensation if we PCS?—Unemployment compensation is a benefit that you earned. Learn how to apply for it.

Here’s how the app can work for you. Think of moving. You don’t always know where to start when searching for new employment opportunities. You might not know anybody in the area and you once again you have to explain why your resume looks the way it does. The Spouse Employment Life Path in the MyMilitaryLife App offers a wide range of networking tips. Additionally, it points you to local spouse groups, networks and organizations that can connect you with military-friendly employers.

Having an app that filters everything for you to get the specific information you need is priceless.

Download our MyMilitaryLife app today and let us know what you think!

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Content Specialist, MyMilitaryLife App

Starting a Career on the Move: Jennifer’s FINRA Fellowship Journey

financial-documents-and-calculatorLife in the military can be both challenging and exciting. When my children started school, I began wondering what I would do next. A friend of mine recommended applying for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship to become an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC). For me, the timing was perfect, since we would be at our current duty station for another year.

After being selected to become an Accredited Financial Counselor Fellow, our family received the news that we would be moving to a different state around the time classes would start. I began to think I wouldn’t be able to complete this program because of the chaos around me – like packing up and moving the week before my classes started!

Set up in a hotel room, I logged on for my very first webinar! I was very nervous…I didn’t even know what a webinar was! Logging on was easy, and the presenter was very knowledgeable. Prior to, I received the slideshow via email, so I was able to take notes. Even in the midst of a PCS move, and using hotel wi-fi, the flexible AFC program allowed me to learn right where I was!

As I unpacked at my new home, my husband arranged for the Internet to be set up the day of my second webinar. When it came time to start, I sat in the middle of a room full of boxes – nothing was going to stop me! The rest of the classes went smoothly with no major problems. Then it came time to take my exam.

WAIT. How do I do that?? Another thing I had no experience with…finding a test proctor. The education center on our base gave me information to contact the local community college to find a proctor, and after a call and a few emails, I was set up to take my first of two exams. While I was studying for the first exam, I was also attending webinars for the second class. This flexibility allows you to work at your own pace. I passed my exam and moved on to focus on the second class.

However, I also had 1000 hours to complete for my practicum. Thanks to helpful hints from past fellows, I started volunteering on base. It was slow at first, but by the time I finished the second class, I had started shadowing a counselor. I gained more confidence and started teaching classes. Instead of focusing on my second exam, I focused more on my family, as well as on those practicum hours. After the summer was over, I finally scheduled my second exam. I passed this exam within 10 months of the first webinar.

This fellowship is wonderful for military spouses because it is so flexible. I didn’t have to worry about attending classes in a set location, and I was able to schedule exams at my pace, and within my schedule. The ideas for practicum hours were invaluable, and this fellowship is tremendously encouraging. I am so thankful I was selected to be a part of this fellowship, and I can’t wait to continue helping fellow military families here, and at our next station! Yes, we are moving again, but with this program I know I can get my certification without a problem!

Thinking of a career change? Maybe the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship is your next step! Find out more and apply by April 18, 2014!

Jennifer-WakePosted by Jennifer Wake, Military Spouse & 2012 FINRA Fellow, Fort Leavenworth, KS

Catering to the Job-Seeking Military Spouse: MSCCN Gets It Done!

woman-in-suitWe all know that, as military spouses, we face all kinds of challenges with employment, even in the best economic times. I used all of the resources that I knew of: the Airmen & Family Readiness Center, Military One Source, USAjobs, etc.

I also used the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), created by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces Initiative, and maintained through the Department of Defense Spouse Education & Career Opportunities Program. MSEP has more than 200 corporate partners that have hired more than 50,000 spouses since 2011. MSEP has a portal where corporate partners post job openings aimed at military spouses and take a pledge to provide employment with promotion potential and can endure through a PCS move. One of those partners is the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN).

MSCCN is the only non-profit organization specifically for military spouse employment. They provide training, job placement, and services to military-affiliated spouses, retiree spouses and caregivers for wounded warriors.

I think what drew me in was the “corporate career” part of their title. Because of my advanced education, I found that (like many military spouses) the jobs most frequently posted would force me into underemployment. I needed to make enough money to cover the cost of childcare, and also advance my career goals. I couldn’t justify the financial and non-financial costs of working outside of the home, otherwise. I was very serious about my career, and that is the kind of spouse MSCCN wants to help. It is not just a job placement service – it is a career service.

When I called MSCCN, I was connected with a career counselor that had at least a Bachelor’s degree level of education. She also knew how to help me craft a resume for federal employment, as well as the private sector.

Prior to contacting MSCCN, I had used services that were not created for spouses with advanced levels of education, most topped out with help for those with a Bachelor’s. They didn’t know what to do with me beyond helping with a resume.

The counselor I had from MSCCN was not intimidated at all. She jumped right in, helping me with ideas for new areas of employment that I might qualify for. She also sent me job postings regularly, and checked in when she didn’t hear from me for a while. Though I didn’t ultimately locate a placement through them (because I found one on my own), I did receive coaching and encouragement that helped me secure my current job. I am eternally grateful for what she did for me…giving me personalized advice, coaching and confidence.

MSCCN doesn’t just provide great job placement training, advice, and assistance. It produces the Military Service Employment Journal, which is a great resource for hiring tips, information on companies that are military friendly, and success stories of job seekers.

They are also part of a new collaboration called Spouse Nation, which gives spouses an opportunity to connect with other spouses, or programs, through lifestyle paths like caregiver, entrepreneur, parent, or fun-seeker!

MSCCN has agreements with each branch of the Services to operate as an employment partner, and it maintains the National Guard Employment Program with its sister organization, Corporate America Supports You (CASY).

CASY performs the same services as MSCCN, but for veterans, transitioning military, and wounded warriors. CASY-MSCCN also gathers metrics for DoD, the White House, the Service branches, and others. They have a well-trained staff that understands the military experience, ready and waiting to help you get launched into your career!

Are you a job-seeking spouse with an advanced degree? What hindrances do you often face? Let us know in the comments!

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

HomeFront Rising: Military Spouses are Changing the Face of Politics!

working-womanA few weeks ago, something amazing happened. And it happened because of military spouses. Like many things that military spouses get frustrated by, a conversation happened and that conversation became an idea, and that idea became Homefront Rising – Political Action Training. A group of forward thinking, career-minded spouses decided to bring experts together to teach military spouses how to become leaders, advocates, and politicians.

In Gear Career and the Military Spouse JD Network hosted the day long workshop focused on teaching military spouses to pitch and message themselves, raise money for campaigns, get political leaders to listen and follow through, and how to overcome gender barriers in politics. All of this was done without leaning toward any political party. It was spectacular! And much of what we learned could apply to any career or leadership role, not just politics.

We heard from great speakers; Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-3rd/MA), Governor Nikki Haley (SC), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-2nd/HI), Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-1st/OK), Congressman Dave Reichert (R-8th/WA), Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-8th/IL), and a list of professionals who coach, fund, train, and connect political candidates at different steps in their careers.

My takeaways from this workshop were many, but I will share a few of my favorite nuggets:

  • For building a career (including a political one): You must build your network wherever you are. If you are still moving because of your service member’s career, then engage in a network that has a national presence so you can connect in each new location (think League of Women Voters, Toastmasters, etc.).
  • For getting what you want (funding, votes, legislation, a job): Find out what you want in common with the person you are making “the ask” to. Put a face to the issue by telling a story, and be part of the mutual solution.
  • For preserving your public face: Use kindness as a rule, and wait for two hours to do or say anything that doesn’t meet that standard. After that, do another gut check before going forward. If you make a big public mistake, own it, and fix it.

This workshop came at a great time because fewer and fewer members of Congress have been service members. As spouses, we care as much about the future of the military, veterans, families, and survivors as anyone who has served in uniform. I think Homefront Rising inspired military spouses to speak up and get involved in their communities and to change the political conversation!

Over 60 very motivated and dedicated military spouses attended the event, and I don’t expect this will be the end of it. You can read tweets from the event at #HomefrontRising, and find blog posts inspired by spouses who attended.

Keep your eyes and ears open for military spouses changing the conversation, because they are! Or will you will be inspired to try it out for yourself?

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

A New Chapter and A New Career: Life After the Military

FINRA-fellowship-1As a military spouse and parent, I know the frustration of thinking about my own goals and wondering “When will my time come?” For me, the small steps I took during those active duty years, combined with opportunities like the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation, have guaranteed an amazing new chapter in military retirement!

Life changes quickly as a military family; our lives are packed into boxes every few years as we change time zones and weather zones. Like death and taxes, change is about the only constant.

Constant change frustrated me! I wanted to buy a house and put down roots, find a great job and become an asset to the company, go back to school, and plan my life in detail 3, 5, or 10 years down the road.

Money management was frustrating, too. Housing and cost-of-living-allowances were always changing, military housing was available here and there, and I was always losing my accounting job, and ultimately losing the extra income. Going back to earn a master’s degree was a well-coordinated effort of location and my spouse’s duty assignments.

Many times, it was hard to see beyond the day-to-day challenges of supportive spouse and parent.

Retirement brought promises of stability. We finally bought that great house knowing we don’t have to move again. The nest was empty as children headed off to college. Now was my chapter!

I reflected on my future after being a full-time mom, all-around volunteer, and part-time accountant. I wanted to help people with their financial lives and be part of the solution to our national financial crisis. Plus, I could give back by supporting military families in making the most of their finances and the positive benefits of the military life.

The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship helped me tremendously in my career shift to personal finance. The experience and connections from my practicum hours (the experience requirement) increased my skills and confidence when working with the military and civilian community. Still today, after earning the Accredited Financial Counselor designation in 2012, incredible opportunities arrive continuously for teaching, writing, networking, and counseling.

I have no doubt that everything associated with my Fellowship contributed to my acceptance to Kansas State University’s competitive PhD program in Personal Financial Planning, in 2013. As part of that program, I have also started the education classes towards the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation. My time has come, and the possibilities after my 2017 graduation are exciting!

Thank you FINRA, National Military Family Association, and the AFCPE for recognizing and honoring my role as a military spouse and financial counselor volunteer –and providing this Fellowship for military spouses.

The 2014 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship applications period opens March 3-April 18. Visit http://www.militaryspouseafcpe.org/
for more information.

2011-09-04-Cherie-Christian-PFGuest Post by Cherie Stueve, 2011 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow, MBA CPA (Inactive) AFC®, and Proud Coast Guard Spouse

Are You A Career-Minded Military Spouse? Join This Network!

in-gear-careerMilitary 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 ingearcareer@ingearcareer.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?

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Content Manager for MyMilitaryLife

How to Get the Job: Interview secrets from a hiring manager

interview-secrets

Military spouses, wake up! The National Military Family Association is trying to hire YOU!

Unfortunately, as a hiring manager for the Association, my experience with interviewing many military spouses has been, well, quite disastrous. We military spouses love to share our lessons learned and I hope sharing some of mine will help you reach your employment goals.

Interviewing with the National Military Family Association can be your dream interview. We know you are competing for a position which may need to be flexible to your needs. Flexible in ways many other employers are not able to support.

We know that as a military spouse, you will likely relocate at some point. You will want time off to spend with your family when your service member returns. We need your experience as a military spouse. In fact, being a military spouse HELPS you get a job with us. We’re flexible. Many of us are military spouses, too.

I can be your dream interviewer. I want you to succeed. I want to hire you, but you have to be prepared to be hired. Here are a few tips and resources to empower you to rock the interview:

Resumes should be concise and interesting! Before I interview you, my first impression of you will be the one you create with your cover letter and resume. Because we move, our resumes can get to be a bit overwhelming. Choose a resume style that will highlight your skill sets and chronologically list your employers. Highlight the most important skill sets for the position you are seeking. Include volunteer positions in your employment chronology – those skills are important, too!

Dress for interviewing. Know your target employment market; if you’re unsure, a suit will do. Friends who work in the world of academia will tell me wearing a suit is a big no-no. For that, you may want to rock the tweed jacket. If you live in a humid climate, a light suit will do. But, I can assure you that even in the tech world, flip flops are never a good choice.

Do your research. Know about the company you are interviewing with. I don’t expect you to tell me everything we do, but know the mission of the organization. Know the major projects or clients.

Be excited! Show some enthusiasm! If you’re not excited about the opportunity, please don’t apply.

Apply your answers to fit the requirements of the job description and your past experience. I don’t expect you to be able to walk in on day one and know how to do the job. I do expect that you have the skill set to be successful and to learn. It’s OK to ask for clarification of a question.

Be prepared to answer why I should hire you. This is your time to shine. This is your time to sell yourself. You know your skill set. Connect your skills to the position. You know why you are perfect for this job, so tell me. I can assure you the answer, “Because I’m awesome” is not an appropriate. Think that. Feel that. But, please, don’t say that.

Ask two or three questions of the hiring manager about the position, the company, or the work environment.  You are not the only one who’s being interviewed. You need to know if my organization is a good fit for you too!

And last, but most importantly, do not give me reasons why I shouldn’t hire you. I understand you want to be honest and upfront with a potential employer. You have to decide how up-front you want to be with a hiring manager. You may be giving reasons why you shouldn’t be hired.

I encourage you to take the time to review the resources out there. There are how-to-interview articles, YouTube videos, and other support available to you. Here are a few of my favorites: Interviewing Tips for Military SpousesDo I Tell The Interviewer I’m a Military Spouse?, and Rock the Interview: 5 Tips for Military Spouse Employment Success .

What’s the best interview practice advice you would give a military spouse?

christinaPosted by Christina Jumper, Volunteer Services Director