Category Archives: Military spouse employment

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

The Disney World of Jobs: Dreams do come true!

shannon-sebastian-jacey-eckhartIt’s not every day that the “perfect” situation presents itself – especially in a military family. No perfect deployments, no perfect PCS moves, holidays, or long term plans. In military terms, “perfect” is when the barber doesn’t mess up your husband’s haircut, or when the movers don’t break your favorite serving dish while moving your belongings from duty station to duty station.

In most cases, the term “perfect” doesn’t apply to jobs for military spouses. In fact, the words “perfect job” and “military spouse” are hardly ever in the same sentence.

Four months ago, I was convinced that what it meant to be a working military spouse meant I would always have to settle for whatever job I could find in the area around where we were stationed. Settle for less money than I deserved. Settle for just going to a place other than my house for 8 hours a day. Settle for doing work that didn’t bring me joy. Settling meant the dream job remained just that…a dream.

When my husband and I moved to our current duty station in May 2011, it took me six months to find a job. As a working military spouse, we get used to the idea that our resumes will most often look…schizophrenic. You’ll see everything from retail store manager, to receptionist, to business owner, to stay-at-home mom. All within a two year span of time.

I applied for more than 80 positions in those six months. Ultimately, I accepted a position in a field I was familiar with and had a few years of experience doing. After a few weeks there, I would dread waking up on week days only to go to a job that I considered a dark, dark abyss of crushed dreams and accepted failure.

Yes, I was bringing home a paycheck, and I was thankful to have a job. Believe me, I was very thankful. The military doesn’t pay for everything, as you know. But I thought this was what it meant to be a working military spouse. We take what we can get, right? We are resilient. We make the best of the worst situations, right?

In February, I saw something on Facebook that I hoped would change my life.

“Are you in need of a career makeover? Are you in driving distance of Washington, D.C.? SpouseBUZZ is looking for spouses who want a career makeover at our Spouse Summit on April 12. Interested? Email your career story and/or resume to us!”

spouse-buzz-summit

I saw the advertisement for Military.com’s Spouse Summit, a conference for military spouses to support each other in the most important topics of military life: Love. War. Kids. Work. Transition.

Work? Why, yes, I’ll take all the help I can get in that area.

Prior to attending, I stepped out of my comfort zone and shared my career troubles with Military.com’s Director of Spouse and Family Programs, Jacey Eckhart. Before I knew it, I was speaking in front of a room full of career specialists, professionals, and peers in a session focused on career struggles of military spouses.

At the end of the ‘career makeover’ session, a few representatives from the National Military Family Association approached me, introduced themselves, and gave me all the information they knew about spouse education scholarships, spouse employment, and even mentioned that the Association was hiring. For a blogger, no less! They were so bubbly, friendly, and genuinely cared about sharing information.

They told me about a magical place where people actually enjoy going to work. A place where they like the people they work with. Apparently, in this magical place, military spouses can thrive in careers they love while reaching out and helping other military spouses and families!

A few months later, I was hired by the National Military Family Association as the Online Engagement Manager. Part of my job (get this!) is managing this blog!

All of the things I put on paper at the Spouse Summit were coming true.

Working with the military community? Check.

Portability? Check.

Great office environment with an awesome boss? Double check.

Whether your perfect job is to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or bake zero-calorie cupcakes all day long (please bring me some), enjoying and loving the job you do makes all the difference.

I never thought I’d find a “perfect job.” I figured this was my sacrifice in our military family. But now I know differently. When the perfect anything comes along, it is not by chance. It’s put in front of you for a purpose. What you choose to do with it determines whether you were worthy of it to begin with.

You are worthy of your perfect job. Now go and get it!

Have you ever stepped outside of your comfort zone and had something awesome happen? Leave a comment and share it with us!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Staffing Agencies: Do they work for military spouses?

Hire-meYou probably know first-hand the employment challenges facing military spouses. Considering the mobility of your family and the short-term job tenures resulting from unavoidable PCS assignments, it can be frustrating to submit your application knowing that the work history on your resume doesn’t fully reflect your real capabilities to a potential employer.

Staffing firms can offer a different experience. While some people think of staffing companies as only offering “temp work,” contingent positions can lead to permanent careers with great companies nationwide.

These statistics from the American Staffing Association give a clearer picture of the value of working with staffing firms:

  • 88% of staffing employees say that temporary or contract work made them more employable
  • 77% say it’s a good way to obtain a permanent job
  • 79% work full time, virtually the same as the rest of the work force
  • 65% say they developed new or improved work skills through their assignments
  • 40% say they choose temporary work as a way to obtain employment experience or job training

Here are a few of the key advantages of working with a staffing firm:

Specialized staffing recruiters understand your experience: Let’s face it, the average recruiter doesn’t have a clear understanding of how life can be different for military families. Many staffing firms have dedicated military specialists (for example, Volt has the Volt Military Heroes Program) who “get it,” recognizing how military spouses are on a different path than other civilian employees. These recruiters understand the challenges of adjusting from military life, and can help match you with a position that suits your skills and circumstances.

Recruiters are simultaneously trying to fill multiple jobs: When you apply with a private employer, they are trying to fill one job, and if you aren’t a good match, the door closes. A staffing firm may have dozens, even hundreds of open positions at one time, and while you might not be the right fit for one, you could be great for another. For that reason, many recruiters for staffing companies will want to talk with you, to get to know you a little more. Not every recruiter, and not every staffing firm, but generally, there is more advantage for recruiters to dig a little deeper on your experience and skills.

Contingent positions offer more flexibility: Short-term positions can be a good fit for mobile military families, providing financial security as you settle into a new location. Contingent work also enables you to gain experience and learn skills that you can take to your next position, and with a national staffing firm, strong performance on an assignment in one location makes you easier to deploy for assignments in a new region. Short-term assignments also provide flexibility without having to burn bridges when a new PCS assignment requires you to leave a permanent position.

Access to jobs not posted elsewhere: Most companies aren’t in the recruiting business, and many find it more efficient to outsource their recruiting to a staffing firm. That means the company’s open positions are listed only with their staffing partner. Having your resume on file with the staffing firm gives you the chance to be considered for a position that never made it to the job boards because the recruiter already knew a qualified candidate.

When it comes to finding work, it’s important to take advantage of every possibility – and few employers offer as much access, assistance, and opportunity as staffing firms. While they can’t promise to find you work, they can definitely help put the odds more in your favor.

Guest Post by Volt Military Heroes Program

Got Baggage?

baggageOn any given day, I carry anywhere from 4-5 bags to work.

On my right shoulder, there’s my purse, which contains everything I hold dear—my phone, my money, a diaper, a small package of wipes, and my keys (if it’s a good day).

On my left shoulder, there’s my computer bag, which weighs an estimated 15 pounds. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Next to my computer bag strap, rests my workout bag. Yes, I bring my gym clothes to work. If I don’t strategically plan my exercise time to land between the time I leave work and the time I go home, I will never get to it.

Then there’s my lunch bag. This is not just any ordinary lunch bag; it has three compartments and an ice pack for my many small meals.

Sometimes, I go home with more bags than I came with. Bags full of clothes or toys for my kids from my generous co-workers. Or, bags with information and promotional items from conferences.

There are many moments where I feel like I’ll be buried alive by all of my “bags.” You know—the purse, which is really everyday life. The computer bag— the reality that work and family constantly overlap. The gym bag, making “me” time despite the insanity. My lunch bag, which I’d like to say contains only healthy and smart choices, but really is the fuel that keeps me going.

Not long ago, I had an additional bag—my school bag. I was one of those working adults, with a small child, who decided to go back to school to continue my higher education. This was not an easy or inexpensive decision, but it was the right decision for me and my family.

I am not a military spouse, but like many of them, I attended several colleges and universities before finally getting the chance to finish my degree. It took me a total of 3 schools and 9 years to have my diploma handed to me.  My school bag was the symbol of my future.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot of baggage, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I know there are people out there who would give anything to carry some of the bags I do. Our bags symbolize who we are and the many life paths we travel.

We need to remember that these same “bags” have been carried by many before us who have put resources in place for our benefit.  If you’re a military spouse and you’re looking for information to make your load a bit lighter, look no further.

Visit our Spouse Employment section for job tips and our Spouse Education site for steps to help you attain your education goals.


What about you? What bags do you carry every day?

hannahPosted by Hannah Pike, Communications Deputy Director, Online Engagement

Rock the Interview: 5 tips for military spouse employment success

jobfairYou’ve graduated, enjoyed a taste of summer, probably PCS’ed across the country recently and now it’s time to hit the ground running and secure your dream job. Not quite sure how to build your resume to showcase your volunteer experience? Worried that you won’t know how to answer the questions the employers may ask you?

Before you hit the career fairs or begin interviewing, here are five tried and tested tips to help you get hired!

1. Research. Make sure you understand the industry you want to be a part of. Research companies that are hiring and keep an eye out for companies that are military spouse friendly. Research career fairs in your area. Use the Military Spouse Employment Portal to help you in your research and don’t miss the career counselors at Military OneSource.

2. Prepare. Update or create your resume. There are great resume builder workshops and guides available to you. It’s important to customize your resume according the job description you are applying to. Not only perfect your resume but understand it. Be able to explain in detail every point you make on your resume. Be able to back your skills up with examples. If you have gaps in employment, be ready to explain why. Also prepare questions and answers. Have a great set of go-to questions to ask potential employers at the end of an interview or at a career fair.

3. Practice. Work on your interviewing techniques with your spouse or friend. Give them questions to ask you and practice reciting your answers. Remember and repeat your ‘elevator pitch’ that describes yourself and tells why you are a good hire in 30 seconds or less. Practice in front of the mirror to help perfect your delivery.

4. Polish. Put together a professional outfit and go in with a polished look. If you need a suit or new outfit visit retailers that offer military discounts or look for business attire at the nearest exchange store or installation thrift shop.

5. Present. Make eye contact and use a firm handshake to make a good first impression. Don’t sell yourself short; present your best qualities and skills. Have a positive attitude and have confidence!

These simple steps will guide you in your employment pursuits. Visit our website for more military spouse employment resources and if you are in the area don’t miss any of these upcoming career fairs for military spouses!

  • September 5, 2013 – Quantico, VA Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • September 9, 2013 – West Point, NY Military Spouse Networking Event
  • September 12, 2013 – JBLM, WA Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • October 24, 2013 – Fort Sam Houston, TX Military Spouse Hiring Fair
  • November 7, 2013 – Fort Bragg, NC – Military Spouse Hiring Fair

Find out more about the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse career fairs and initiatives here.

What tips do you have to help military spouses get hired?

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Coordinator

2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellows

accountant-womanThe job market for military spouses can be intimidating, and employment can be daunting. Especially when you know you won’t be in one spot for long. Portable careers are the most coveted among military spouses. One career that fits the portable bill is financial counseling.

In 2012, Forbes reported positions for financial advisors were one of the fastest careers in desperate need of talent. The Forbes report states, “The demand for financial advice is increasing as Baby Boomers approach retirement and seek help getting there.” The world of financial advisors is expected to grow at a rate of 32% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the average growth rate of all occupations is 14%.

This financial industry is an excellent option for military spouses. Thanks to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, military spouses have the chance to break into the industry by obtaining their accredited financial counseling certificate at no cost. In March of this year, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship Program opened the application process, for the eighth straight year, for its class of 2013 military spouses. The FINRA Fellowship Program provides military spouse recipients with the education and training needed to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) designation. Hundreds of military spouses applied for the program in 2013. Fifty military spouses throughout the U.S. and overseas have been awarded the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 Military Spouse Fellowship.

Here are the 2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 Military Spouse Fellows:

Karen Bond
TruVonda Boone
Ana Brown
Michelle Budzien
Lauren Chaplin
Tisha Curry
Katelynd Day
Kira Dentes
Kornkamol Diskul
Jessie Ellertson
Maria Firestone
Hyunhi Flot
Dawn Foster
Prece Fountain-Reid
Mari Fries
Patricia Geiger
Cynthia Giesecke
Adrianna Gonzalez
Sara Griffin
Olga Guy
Brynn Hanson
Julia Harris
Meredith Hathaway
Diana Hook
Katrina Horsley-Watts
Sabrina Johnson
Karin Knapp-Parham
Rebecca Lenard
Sarah Malufau
Michael Matheny
Emily McConnell
Sara Miller
Diana Mitsch
Meghan Northcutt
Uchenna Oranebo
Lucie Pak
Andrea Peck
Kia Plumber
April Postell
Angela Reyes-Hill
Angela Setering
Elaine Smith
Rebekah Strausheim
Sarah Tellefsen
Gideon Thomas
Whitney Thomas
Jennifer Trimble
Kelley VanDyke
Tuawana Williams-Jenkins
Valarie Young

Update: Military Spouse Employment and Education Advocacy

military spouse education and employmentAs an Association, one of our top priorities is to ensure that military spouses are able to pursue their education and continue professional career development that works with the military lifestyle.

We highlighted these priorities in our testimony that was submitted for the record on April 17 to the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and asked Congress to take steps to support military spouses in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.

Here’s what we covered in our testimony regarding military spouse employment and education initiatives:

  • Collaborative work between the three Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunity (SECO) program components to include the Military Spouse Career Center at Military OneSource, Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), and My Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) Program
  • The reinstatement of the MyCAA program to include all military spouses regardless of the service member’s rank
  • The extension of the MyCAA program to spouses of the Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of NOAA, and the U.S. Public Health Service
  • Expansion of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employers who hire military spouses
  • A tax credit to military spouses to offset the cost of obtaining a new license or credential when the service member is relocated to a new duty station
  • Reciprocity of professional licenses or alternative license arrangements across state lines

For the latest information on our advocacy efforts and support for military spouse employment and education initiatives, please visit our website’s policy issues section or subscribe to Military Family Topics to have updates delivered to your inbox.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest news concerning military families and tell us what you’re seeing in your community.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association