Making the Military a Career: How an Elephant Sat on My Dreams

flag-on-a-white-picket-fenceThere’s been an elephant in the room between my husband and me for a while. That one huge topic we’ve been dancing around. We think we know what the other is thinking, and feel okay when the topic drifts away, untouched. Because it’s a big, fat, life-changing elephant:

Are we really going to make the military a career; we’re really going to do 20 years of this?

I’ll be honest: I dreamt of a life where my kids would grow up having the same friends since second grade, like I did. I hoped to see my husband work a job with normal hours and be able to come home at 5pm and coach little league. I thought I’d get to have tons of quality time with my best girlfriends from college, since they’d live right around the corner. I relished in the idea of being able to take a vacation with little to no advanced planning.

When I first met my husband, his goal was to do a short enlistment, then transition back to the civilian work force, allowing all of my little white-picket-fence dreams to come true. Now, we’re 8 years in, and my husband has some of the most elite and prestigious tours in the military on his resume. We have had amazing opportunities because of his service – some I never imagined possible…like meeting the President of the United States in the Oval Office and using the big, important phone on his desk. Okay, so only half of that is true, but still: IT’S THE PRESIDENT.

Recently, we stopped ignoring the elephant in the room and had the talk: are we staying in, or getting out? His eyes widened with excitement as he went through all the possibilities awaiting him in his next decade of service. Mine sank to my feet as reality set in that my perfectly planned life with the white picket fence probably won’t happen.

So, what does that mean for me and my perfectly planned life and white picket fence? Honestly, I have no idea, and that scares me a little bit. But in the last 8 years, I’ve learned that life doesn’t come in a perfectly packaged box. It might come in 3 year billets and surprise IA deployments. It can require a therapist and some serious amounts of wine. And wine is totally okay.

Military life doesn’t exactly give you the opportunity to dream up a life you’d love to have. But I guess that’s the beauty of this one of a kind journey. It gives you other things you never thought to dream up.

Have you and your spouse made the decision to make the military a career? What advice would you give?

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

The Bittersweet Truth About Being a Privileged Military Family

muppets-movieLiving in our Nation’s capital and working for a military organization gives me certain opportunities—privileges that other military families don’t have. We all know that as military families, we have little control over circumstance. So when we were recently invited to an advanced screening of “Muppets Most Wanted” with the First Lady, it was a bittersweet feeling. We were no more entitled to that moment than any other military families who weren’t there—but still it was an amazing opportunity.

The Sweet
My children were so excited to see the First Lady and be given the opportunity to do something so exclusive. When Mrs. Obama spoke about how important military kids are and how proud she is of them, my son got a little bit emotional. So did I. To have the First Lady of the United States call out the hardships military kids endure—the circumstances that they go through and don’t even realize are extraordinary—meant the world to my children. As military families, we may tell our kids every day how proud we are of them and how strong they are. But hearing it from someone else, someone who doesn’t even know them, and is the most famous mom in the United States, means it must be true, right?

The Bitter
I was so grateful to have my children experience that moment, but honestly, it made me feel incredibly guilty. Thousands, upon thousands, of military families are just like us. What made us so special? Why did we deserve to feel that moment of recognition? I wanted all of our peers and friends to be there, too. They, too, deserve to see the joy in their child’s eyes. I didn’t feel right being there without them. I felt like I was cheating someone else out of the experience. I wondered if this is what my husband feels like, coming home from war feeling guilty about enjoying life at home while his peers are still sacrificing.

The Plain Truth
The truth is, although there were only about a dozen families there, Mrs. Obama was speaking to all of our military kids—even the ones who weren’t in the room. Every military kid should be told they are strong; that what they do is important; that they are heroes. They need to know that.

Every single one of them.

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director

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

Testimony Countdown: Getting the Military Family Message to Congress

Kathy-testimonyHave you ever been invited to testify before Congress? It’s a rare opportunity, and no matter how many times it happens (30+ times for our Association since Operation Enduring Freedom) it really gets your adrenaline pumping. Our next opportunity is this week—March 26th.

Years of listening to military family concerns, years of becoming experts in military health care, child care, spouse employment, and our premier issue – the well-being of military families- go into crafting our statement. Since last year, we’ve been faced with the threats of sequestration and a proposed budget that asks military families to sacrifice once again. We’ve been asking Congress to remember military families, and to understand that the resources to keep those families ready must be sustained not diminished.

So where do we begin?

  1. We develop our position. We start with our blueprint – the 2014 Legislative and Policy Priorities. We add in the newest information from the budget proposal and analyze the impact it will have on military families. We spend a lot of time in discussion – with other advocates, with subject matter experts. We talk to military families – our volunteers, the ones we interact with on social media. We ask questions through surveys and through our scholarship applications.
  2. We write, rewrite and then rewrite again. All the Government Relations deputy directors – Eileen, Karen and Brooke – have been glued to their keyboards crafting their sections of the testimony for the past two weeks. We worry about writing too much or not writing enough. We need to include enough background to put the issue in context. While I have certain sections to write in my areas of expertise, it’s my job as director to compile all the pieces.
  3. We make tough editing decisions. Our initial document—all 30 pages of it—then went to our Government Relations advisory committee. They all agree it’s too, too long. But what do we leave out??? Joyce Raezer, our Executive Director, and I spent several hours one evening going over the statement line by line to make sure we captured every concept we needed to. Katie, our information manager, did a long distance final edit that (hopefully) captured every typo.
  4. We seal it with a social media kiss. On Friday morning, we declared it “done” and sent the statement on its way to the Subcommittee staff. This year, we’ve incorporated our Communications department more closely into the process. We want military families like yours to know exactly what we are fighting for, and we want to give you the opportunity to raise your voice with us.

I have one thing left to write: my 3-minute oral statement that I’ll give at the hearing. Condensing everything we’ve worked on into a few short minutes will be difficult, but I won’t be alone. Three other members of The Military Coalition will testify alongside me. Those panelists will talk about compensation, health care, and the concerns of the National Guard and Reserve. I’ll use my time to talk about why the savings we get from shopping at the commissary are vital, and how our families rely on family support programs and resources not only during deployment but to empower us during uncertain times. I’ll also reinforce the importance of support for surviving families and for the caregivers of the wounded, ill and injured.

After our statements, we’ll answer questions from the Senators who attend the hearing.

You already know what I’ll say – it’s what you told us to say. We’ve listened, and we’ll make sure that Congress hears you loud and clear on Wednesday and on the days to follow.

You can read our statement on line right after we present it. You can also watch the hearing live online and follow us on Twitter where we’ll be live tweeting throughout the day.

Tomorrow is the day. Will you tune in to see our testimony before Congress?

kathyPosted by Kathleen Moakler, Government Relations Director

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

Insta-what? Insta-who? 10 Must-Follow MilSpouses on Instagram!

Living a military life can be stressful and beautiful, all at the same time. What better way to document such an adventure than through pictures? Military spouses are out in full force on the Insta-sphere, sharing everything from their homecomings to their workplace selfies…and we think they’re awesome!

Here are ten of our favorite #MilSpouse Instagrammers. Check ‘em out and get your double tapping finger ready!

TheYoungRetiree
TheYoungRetiree
  Elizabeth is a Navy wife, blogger, crafter and the queen of the thumbs-up selfie. We give her Instagram feed two thumbs up for making us laugh and want to be her best friend.

Jordanlees
JordanLees
  Jordan is a Marine wife who oozes Southern charm. She’s full of life with an energy that shows through her photos. Check out her photos of food and fun times!

McKenzieHarding
MckenzieHarding  McKenzie’s photos of her new baby girl are awwwww-inducing. She and her Marine husband are currently living in Japan, which transforms her feed into a beautiful travel scrapbook.

DaniGrace
Danigrace_  Dani’s got lots of love for her Marine and their pet Westie, Lady. She’s also chock full of fashion and hair inspiration (suddenly we want to buy some emerald green pumps!).

Wifessionals
Wifessionals  Kaitlyn is one of those Instagrammers who has a point of view, as they say in the photography world. Her pics are clean, simple and inspiring. She became an Army wife a few years ago and is now a new mom who shares openly and honestly.

JenHatzung
Jenhatzung  Jen has brought West Coast flair to the East Coast, thanks to her Navy husband. Get to know the diva with the dark rimmed glasses as she shares her fashion and fitness inspiration.

HooahAndHiccups
hooahandhiccups  Samantha is a proud Army wife and mom who started blogging while her husband was on a 10 month deployment to Afghanistan. Her Instagram feed is like her blog in picture form—plenty of family, fashion and fun.

KimberlyKalani
Kimberlykalani1122  Kimberly’s an Air Force spouse to a female Airman. She shares lots of photos of their love, their fur baby, and their life as an LGBT military couple. Plus she has some pretty sweet tattoos.

MrsBe72
MrsBe72  Mrs. B is an Air Force wife, mom to a sassy toddler and adorable newborn. She also has an infectious smile and is one of the most fashionable pregnant women we’ve ever seen.

ThenSheLostIt
ThenSheLostIt  Shannon is a blonde beauty who’s married to a Blue Angel and living in her home state of Florida, y’all! She keeps it real…and sarcastic. Check out her feed for a smile, a laugh, and some hair envy.

National Military Family Association has an Instagram account, MilitaryFam. Add us – we’re a bunch of military spouses, too!

And tell us in the comments below… who are your favorite #MilSpouses on Instagram?

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

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