Category Archives: Military spouses

I am More Than a Spouse…So are YOU!

I have a confession to make. The #MoreThanASpouse campaign is about me. Well, not just me. It’s about me, and my co-worker, and my best friend, and my next-door neighbor. It’s about all of us.

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I’ve been a military spouse for 10 years. I am so proud of my husband and am honored to support him in his career. I am happy to follow him from one duty station to the next, because there isn’t any place I would rather be than with him. I am happy to support him as he studies for promotions, and volunteers his time, and leaves for TDYs and deployments. I am so proud of him.

His career is not mine though. It’s wonderful, and it’s something to be proud of, but it’s not me.

When we move to a new area, the most common first question I’m asked is, “What does your husband do?”

It’s rarely, “What do you do?”

Or even, “Tell me about yourself.”

It’s never really bothered me; it’s the nature of the beast. Military life means you move when they tell you, where they tell you. It means the mission comes first, and sometimes, that means there’s no one for you to rely on but yourself. It means leaving jobs, and being on call 100% of the time. It means doing what you must do rather than what you want to do.

The service member serves. The service member sacrifices. The service member follows orders. Sometimes it feels like the family only follows. But families serve, too; by keeping things quiet and stable at home, allowing the service member to do their job and focus on their mission. So many of us set aside our hopes and dreams to focus on the work at hand.

As we get older, and as the kids grow, I am realizing there is much more to me than just my role as a spouse.

I am so much more than a spouse.

There are things I want to do with my life: I want to be a leader. I want to make a difference. I want to change the world for the better. Yes, I want to support my spouse, but I want to do more. I can be more. These desires are not mutually exclusive.

pinterest-more-than-a-spouseFor the More Than a Spouse project, we sought out military spouses and asked them to tell their story. In recent years, there has been a lot of ugliness directed at military spouses. We’ve been called names, we’ve been reduced to stereotypes. Employers reject us. Communities fail to see our worth. We’ve been told, “You do nothing. You are not special. You do not serve.” (Yes, that was an actual comment we received this week on our Facebook page)

This project was not intended to claim we serve in the same way our spouses do. We know that’s not true. Our lives are deeply impacted by our spouse’s military service, but that isn’t what this video is about.

This project is intended to encourage military spouses to take a closer look at themselves. Forget what the world says. Forget what the “haters” say. What matters most is what you think, and what you want to make of yourself. What matters most is who you are, and who you want to be.

Recently, I sat down with some of the military spouses I admire most. These spouses are leaders in their communities, and wonderful mothers and fathers. They are supportive. They are doing amazing things at work, at home, and in their communities. I asked them two simple questions:

“What is special about you? What are you proud of?”

I handed them a marker and a piece of paper. They laughed nervously, shifted their weight in their seats, and sighed. They stared back at me, shaking their heads, and it broke my heart.

“I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what makes me special”

But we do. We see you.

We see you at home. We see you comforting children who just want to talk to Daddy while he’s in the field. We see you when you have the flu, but you’re up anyways, caring for your sick children because there’s no one to call for backup. We see you delivering babies alone while your husband is serving 3000 miles away. We see you attending parent-teacher conferences alone while your wife is downrange.

We see you in the community, volunteering with the booster club, or the FRG, or in the thrift store on base. We see you attending college, writing papers long into the night. We see you bringing meals to other spouses, being there when someone needs support, and helping wash the uniform just one more time as your spouse packs their go-bag.

We see the pride on your face when your spouse is promoted, and the hurt in your eyes when they hug you goodbye. We see your strength and your heartache.
We see your potential. We know you have hopes and dreams. We know it will be hard.

But we know you can do it. You’ve shown us that again and again. You can do anything you set your mind to. You are capable. You are valuable. You are important.

What makes you special? What do you want to be?

Share your “I am” pictures with us on social media using the hashtag #MoreThanASpouse, or email us at social@militaryfamily.org.

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

#MoreThanASpouse: How 85% of People Find Their Next Job

Like many military spouses, I got a late start on my career. Early on, my husband and I agreed that it made the most sense for me to stay home with our son until he was in school. Unfortunately, by the time our son was ready to head to school, we were stationed overseas for two back-to-back assignments, further delaying the start of any meaningful career.

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When we moved back to Washington, D.C. from overseas, I was so excited about the prospect of finally putting my degrees to work. Our son was going to be in school full time, my husband was going to a desk job, our extended family lived close by in case we needed help, and we were finally moving back home! I remember being so optimistic; I had a Master’s degree and spoke three languages, surely I would have my choice of interesting jobs.

I was wrong.

The DC area ranks the highest in the nation for people with advanced degrees. It is also a very multi-cultural area, and most people are multi-lingual. My ‘competitive edge’ wasn’t going to be enough to make me stand out. I kept a binder full of all the jobs I applied for and the rejection letters I received. That binder was getting impressively thick when I realized I was going nowhere fast.

Thankfully, I had a wonderful mentor who encouraged me to start networking and meeting more people. My job search had been full of a few ‘ups’ and some more debilitating ‘downs,’ up to that point, and I was at the end of my wits. I was willing to try just about anything within reason to get my foot in the door, so why not start networking? I pushed outside of my comfort zone and got serious about expanding my networks. I began to see everyone as a potential connection.

While I was auditing a class on Congress and the Military, one of the speakers really resonated with me. When the session ended, I walked up to introduce myself, thanked her for everything she and her organization did on behalf of military families, and finished with an offer to volunteer if they ever needed the extra help. When I got home, I followed up with an email note sharing a little more about my background, reiterating my offer of assistance, and attached my resume.

I was mildly surprised when an email came back encouraging me to apply for a job that she thought would be a great fit for within their organization. Fast forward a few months, I did end up going to work for that organization, but more importantly, I learned a very important lesson: over 85% of people will find their next job through the ‘hidden job market’ (jobs that are not actually posted to the general public).

In order to access these jobs, you need to expand your networks. There are no shortcuts…you need to get out there and meet people! Platforms like LinkedIn have helped equalize the playing field for military spouses, to a certain extent, allowing us to start networking before we even move to the next installation. But nothing replaces that face to face interaction. You’re going to have to get out there and meet people. Be on the lookout for conferences to hone your skills, learn about the latest resources, and meet people within your industry. Make sure you have a networking card, attend events, and be diligent about your follow up. This is what’s going to make the difference in your job search.

Entrepreneurs, the advice is just as relevant for you: when you move, you’re going to need to find your niche, your community and your new potential clients/customers.

Getting started can be a bit daunting. As an introvert, I understand this well! If you’d like some more information about Networking 101, check out our easy tutorial. If you’re ready to put your networking skills to work and eager to learn more about building portable careers, we hope you’ll join us at our 5th Annual Military Spouse Career Summit to meet like minded military spouses.

Remember: the online community is great, but nothing beats that face to face interaction. Get out there and start networking!

Believe in Yourself

Ready to network? Get your pajamas, a glass of hot tea, and your laptop ready! Join NMFA and other military spouses – including myself – for a Facebook party tomorrow from 9pm-10pm EST as we chat, network, and share our education and career goals! If you’re ready to be #MoreThanASpouse: this is a virtual networking event you don’t want to miss!

sue-hoppin-headshotPosted by Sue Hoppin, military spouse, Founder and President of the National Military Spouse Network–a professional development and networking membership organization supporting the professional career and entrepreneurial goals of military spouses

Tips for Military Spouses: How to Land Your Dream Job!

I was hired by NMFA almost six months ago. When I was looking at this job, it was clear I had all the experience and expertise I needed to thrive. What I didn’t have was experience interviewing. I was so nervous! In the days leading up to my interview, I spent a good chunk of time on Pinterest looking for the internet’s best tips and tricks to help me land the job. They must have worked, because I am here to write this blog post for you today!

How to Land Your Dream Job

Fill in the Blanks

I have yet to meet a military spouse without an employment gap in their resume. Orders overseas, short orders to isolated locations and licencing transfer issues can all add up to a resume that resembles Swiss cheese.

However, many of us keep busy with unit booster clubs, spouses clubs, FRG’s, and other volunteer work. The time you spent as the events chair for the spouses club, and the year you spent volunteering with the PTA can go on your resume. Fill in those blanks!

Fancy that Resume

You want your resume to stand out from the crowd. This tip really comes down to what field you are applying for, but for me, with a job in the communications field, a fancy resume was a no-brainer. This job required design work and social media savvy, so I chose to go with a graphics heavy, colorful resume that linked directly to my social media accounts. It may not have been what landed me this job, but it did help me stand out from the crowd.

Even if you are applying for a more conservative field (those finance execs may not be impressed with your use of color) you can still get creative with your layout, white space and phrasing.

Leverage your  Connections

One perk of being a military spouse is that you probably know people all over the world. When I applied for this job, I phoned in a friend I met earlier this year at Hiring Our Heroes to look over my resume. She promised she would personally send it along to my (soon to be) boss, and I have no doubt her help ensured my resume would actually be read. If you know someone who knows someone, don’t be afraid to give them a call to put in a good word for you!

Dress for Success

When you do show up for your interview, first impressions count. You’ll want to make sure you are appropriately dressed. Do your research! Did you know different colors send different messages? Do you know when to bring out the colorful jewelry, and when to stick with stud earrings?

Speak Clearly and Stand Up Straight

Now that you are in the room, it’s time for the hard part! Never underestimate the power of eye contact, a firm handshake (and a friendly laugh!).

Answer (and Ask!) Hard Questions

Be prepared for your interview! Don’t forget to do your research about the company you are applying to. Be prepared with questions about the goals and mission. Show your excitement about the job. Ask your own questions, and be prepared to give details about the experiences you listed on your resume.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard

I don’t have a Pinterest tip for this one, but I wish I had one before my interview! I was prepared to answer questions, but I was not prepared for a group interview, or, the hands-on test that followed our sit-down. In my interview, I met my entire department, answered questions from each person, and then was handed an assignment and was given an hour to complete it. I don’t think I have ever sweat so much in my life! The good news is, I really was qualified for the job, so completing the assignment wasn’t terrible… but I did go home and obsess over my answers for days.

Follow-Up

Following up feels like the most awkward part of the entire process, but I do think it’s valuable. After the interview, make sure you contact the person you met with to thank them for their time. This is a great chance to ask for a timetable (if you didn’t remember to ask during the interview) so you have some idea of how long you’ll have to wait for a decision!

Believe in Yourself

Are you unsure of your career goals? NMFA has scholarships and resources to help you make a career change or get started on your degree. Make sure you join us at our #MoreThanASpouse Facebook Party this Thursday, August 20th, for scholarship information and an opportunity to network with spouses in your chosen field!Follow us on Pinterest for more tips!

What tips do you have for spouses hoping to land the job?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

Calling All Bloggers! Share Your Story on Branching Out!

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It’s no secret—military families have collected their fair share of stories, experiences, and traditions throughout their military journeys. We know you’ve got plenty of tips, tricks, pictures, and laughable moments up your sleeve. That’s why we want you to be a guest blogger!

Our blog covers all areas of military life, including PCS moves, raising military kids, spouse employment, military marriage, and the tough stuff—like transition, being a caregiver, and even divorce.

Think you’ve got awesome blogging skills and want to share your journey with other military families? We’d love to hear from you!

What works:
Inspirational stories – we want readers to jump out of their seats because they were moved by your journey. Sharing personal stories, hardships, or humor can be just what someone needs to relate to you. Don’t be afraid to amaze and inspire!
Original content – We will not publish content that has already been published elsewhere on the web. We aim for authentic and unique content!
Well-written content –Your writing should reflect your individual voice! So if you feel excited, let us know! Had a hard time with a recent PCS? Express that in your writing. Great blog posts will grab the reader and keep their attention through awesome details!
Topics about military families or military life – We are 100% military family focused, so make sure your submission is, too! Are you a company looking to share a resource? Great! Use your original content to tie back to the military community, and keep in mind: our subject matter experts will review any resource prior to posting.
Sending your own photos – Pictures are the best! And we want to share yours! Make sure images are appropriate, clear, and don’t violate OPSEC or PERSEC.

What doesn’t work:
Incomplete, unedited articles – Always be sure to proof read your work before submitting it. If you’re unsure if something is well-written, have a friend or family member read over it and give their thoughts!
Inappropriate content – No profanity, graphic, obscene, explicit or racial comments will be accepted. Make sure you aren’t oversharing, or violating OPSEC or PERSEC! If you’re submitting photos, please be sure they are tasteful.
Advertisements – We don’t promote any business or organization we are not in direct partnership with, and we do not offer advertisements on our blog; however, we do have advertising opportunities through our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife. Please email App [at] MyMilitaryLife [dot] org. Please keep external links to a maximum 3 links.

How to Submit:
Email your completed article to Blog [at] MilitaryFamily [dot] org. Because Branching Out is 100% military family focused, we will review each submission to ensure it aligns with our content strategy. If it does, you’ll receive an email from us to let you know your article will be published. Please allow us some time to respond – our little fingers type as fast as possible!

Blog submissions must include:
First and last name
Contact email
Service affiliation and location
250-700 words per post
Headshot or clear photo of yourself

The Fine Print:
Sharing is caring – We want your original content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share the link on your own website after we’ve published your submission! Share like crazy!
Editing and adapting – We reserve the right to edit and adapt your guest blog content as we see fit.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Is Cyberbullying a Sign Our Military Community is Imploding?

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Why are service members making it a point to create hateful, misogynistic jargon online about military spouses? And what makes military spouses turn on each other creating the same?

By now you’ve probably seen the op-eds in Task & Purpose, and the Washington Post, declaring a ban on ‘entitled’ veterans, active duty service members, and their families. I’m sure you’ve read the counterparts to these articles in the Huffington Post, and on Military.com.

Anti-bullying campaigns have been around for quite some time, and an overwhelming number of them just don’t work. They aim to ‘fix’ the bully, and ‘teach’ the victim with an overarching theme reminding us we’re just doing it wrong–we’re just existing wrong. (Read: when we don’t stand up for ourselves, we become victims. When we stand up for ourselves, bullies emerge to fight back.)

Bullying stops when an environment is positive, supportive, and enriching, and when character and value are promoted.

I think that’s where the mess happened; our environment shifted, and we had to fight back.

Since September 11, 2001, 2.5 million military families have seen a loved one deploy, 600,000 service members have been wounded, and nearly 7,000 lives in our all-volunteer force have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Add in Sequestration, force reduction, and politics, and you’ve all but knocked out our military and their families cold.

Those who once supported our nation, and this military, have quieted. Flags that used to be as bright as the sun that shone upon them, are now torn, faded, and walked upon in protest.

The bigger picture is this: military families don’t feel entitled.

We feel unappreciated, ignored, stuck between a rock and a hard place, not supported, and now, hated. With nowhere to turn, our community has imploded, finding acceptance and support by picking apart each other, and the network that has long supported our service members: military spouses.

The internet is full of viral videos of veterans and active duty service members calling out others who illegally impersonate a military member in uniform, and controversial Facebook groups which exist to target unsuspecting military spouses by making fun of them.

The viral videos and hateful social media groups have given others a pass to rip into anyone who ‘impersonates’ anything. Ask the Washington Post and Task & Force op-ed authors what they think of military spouses, like me, they’d say we’re ‘impersonating’ service members in our own way: by declaring our own sacrifices, demanding support from our government, and by wearing our husbands’ rank for power.

In such a climate of hatred, it’s hard to see the ones who are trying to clean up the mess. We ignore the spouses who are receiving death threats for asking people to stop the tormenting. We mock the spouses who are trying to disbar the ‘Dependapotamus’ stereotype by pursuing higher education, getting their own insurance (gasp!) through full time employment, and who are being recognized by the White House as Champions for Change.

Yet, nothing seems to be good enough to make the cyber-bullying stop.

What we need are positive, supportive, enriching communities who are steadfast with their loyalty, and encouraging even in times of stillness. Our military and their families need to be reassured that we are accepted, wanted, and appreciated.

That’s not ‘entitled,’ or high-maintenance. It’s human nature. Calling us entitled is adding fuel to the fire. We ferociously defend ourselves, only to be met by more hate, name-calling, and follow up articles putting us in our place.

Instead of making a military spouse feel ostracized for not knowing the TRICARE handbook, respond positively, and share a resource. Rather than laughing when a young spouse admits they’re having trouble making friends, be their mentor. And for those service members who call us ‘Dependas,’ ask yourself where that hate is coming from and remember that we are here to support you.

It’s up to us to clean up the mess, military community. If we don’t provide ourselves with the environment we want to live in, how will anyone else?

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

Win a FREE Photo Session for Your Military Family!

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In honor of Military Family Appreciation Month, we’ve teamed up with 25 amazing military spouse photographers to bring you the contest to beat all others! You’re not going to want to miss out on this opportunity!

We’ve got photographers in all corners of the world, ready to offer you a free photo session for your military family! Yes – we’re talking to you, in Germany, and you, in Japan! And entering is as easy as a few clicks. If you’re near any of these locations or installations, we want you to enter!

All of these amazing photographers are military spouses donating their time for this awesome contest. Stop by their websites and like their Facebook pages to check out their work!

Colorado Springs, CO:  Reflections by Rosie Photography
Fredericksburg, VA:  Jessica Green Photography
Washington, D.C.:  Tiny Sparrow Photography
El Paso, TX:  Julie Rivera Photography
Montclair, VA:  Judith Lovett, Photographer
Des Moines, IA:  Britney Brown Design Photography
Newport, RI:  Ellie Lynn Photography
Jacksonville, FL:  Amy Hensley Photography
Pensacola, FL:  DJENNphoto
Sangdahlem AFB, Germany:  Little Bit of Life Photography
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA:  Simply Immaculate Photography
Naples, Italy:  Athena Plichta Photography
San Diego, CA:  Ashley Langtry Photography
Taunusstein, Germany:  Little B Memories
NAF Atsugi, Japan:  Lina Elyse Photography
Ft. Leavenworth, KS:  Patton Portraits
Charleston, SC:  Haley Hickman Photography
Ft. Hood, TX:  April Kroenke Photography
Huntsville, AL:  Vanderport Designs
Monterey, CA:  Momma Mea Photography
Oahu, HI:  Tabitha Ann Photography
Maine: Neola Photography
Ft. Rucker, AL:  Emily Grace // Photography
Ft. Drum, NY:  Wunderkind Photography
RAF Lakenheath, UK:  Danielle McCown Photography
Ft. Polk, LA:  Chaque Bonne Memoire Photography

Are you ready to win? ENTER HERE!

Entries are being accepted until midnight on May 31, 2015. Winners will be selected June 1, 2015.

Have trouble viewing the entry form? Visit our Facebook page and click the “Enter to Win!” tab.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager

This One’s For You, Military Spouse!

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May 8th is Military Spouse Appreciation Day—a day to recognize and thank the person who ties up all the loose ends in our lives that we don’t always have time to deal with ourselves. In my nine years of active duty service in the Navy, my wife has been with me for eight of them. I couldn’t have accomplished as much as I have without her. Our spouses deserve to have the spotlight on them, not just on Military Spouse Appreciation Day…but every day we put on our uniforms and lace our boots.

Being a military spouse is sometimes harder than most people think. Let me tell you just a few reasons why my wife is awesome:

She keeps me motivated. She’s always encouraging when I miss rank advancement by only a couple of points. And when I don’t score as high as I want in my college classes, she’s there to push me harder in the next class.

Her skills in the kitchen. I’ll just say this: award-winning chicken salad. Literally.

She’s involved in my Command. I love that she cares about other military families, and serves voluntarily as our Ombudsman. (And it’s nice to see her during the work day, when she is doing things for our command Sailors, Marines, and their families)

Her unending support. Whether I’m shining my boots, ironing a uniform, or studying for an upcoming exam or an awards Board, she’s always there to help…even if we just talk to pass the time.

If you’re a service member, take my advice: on your break today, call your spouse, say “Thanks for doing what you do!”

And to my wife: don’t worry about dinner tonight…Chick-Fil-A, Franzia, and I have it covered.

Have an awesome spouse? What do you appreciate most about them? Send them an eCard to show your love!

matt-s-headshotPosted by Matt S., Logistics Specialist, United States Navy