Tag Archives: military spouse employment

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

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

Sinking to Soaring: 7 steps to position yourself for success

successHitting the books has always come easy for me. In fact, I love school. I could easily become a perpetual student if given the chance. I already have an undergraduate and a graduate degree under my belt, and I’m currently pursuing a certification that will open many doors in my current profession.

And of course, there’s plenty of additional training in my future. I recognize the tremendous value of education. Education is the key that has unlocked many opportunities for me.

So why do I continue to struggle to reach my educational goals?

Over the years, I have found that my educational pursuits often take a back seat, because finding the time, energy, and money to spend on my schooling is a problem when life is so busy. Like many other military spouses, I struggle to carve out the time it takes to tackle my educational goals with so many other demands on my plate.

Between the endless chores necessary to keep our household afloat, and keeping all my other plates spinning, I sometimes feel as if I’m struggling to keep my head above the water and a smile on my face. With all that, how can I plug in something extra?! I think we all find ourselves in this spot at one time or another.

I would love to tell you how great it is to invest in yourself through training and education, but if we’re in a place where we’re already overwhelmed, that sort of advice is about as useful as an oar without a rowboat.

The key is to position ourselves in a more comfortable place where we can do more than just survive. We need to get ourselves to a place where we can make choices without something else forcing us to make a decision, a place where we can put in extra effort for the things that truly matter, which make a real impact on the quality of our life in the long run. We need to reach a point where we can engage in our life instead of trudging through it and feeling depleted and at a standstill at the end of each day.

Even though I have successfully completed a number of educational goals, I still occasionally find myself in sinking mode. Recognizing that life never seems to be completely in control, I have come to rely on a few steps to get myself back in a ready position when I feel like I am thrashing.

Try these steps the next time you find yourself struggling to stay afloat:

  1. Recognize. Awareness is vital to change. I first need to recognize that I am sinking.
  2. Decide. Action starts with the decision to act. I must decide that I want to stop sinking. If I never make the decision to change my situation, the likelihood that it will naturally work itself out is pretty slim. So, instead of just crossing my fingers, I will make a deliberate decision to change.
  3. Plan. The most difficult part is to figure out how to get out of it. Once I wrap my head around my current situation and identify my goals, then I can start connecting the dots. I will write down my game plan and list out the actions necessary to get from point A to point B.
  4. Rally. The journey is often exhausting and defeating without proper support. I will pick out sources of support so that I know where to go, or who to talk to, if I run into problems or want to give up on my plan.
  5. Act. Plans are worthless if not acted upon. I will make the sacrifices necessary and put in the hard work required to act on my plan. I will do what it takes to reach my goal.
  6. Rebound. Bumps, setbacks, and turns are inevitable, but the result depends on the response. I know that the road will be difficult, and when I get knocked down, I will get back up and continue towards my goals. If I need to reevaluate my plan, then I commit to making the changes necessary to ultimately reach my goal, even if it is redefined.
  7. Recognize. Just as awareness is important to start the process, recognition is important to complete the process. Once I find myself no longer sinking, I will stop and give myself a pat on the back. I will recognize my small successes along the way, and I will be sure to thank those who helped me in my journey.

These seven steps can help you change anything, from daily tasks to increase efficiency, to making a major career change to feel more fulfilled by the work you do.

However you choose to apply these steps is up to you, but make sure that they are taking you to a better place. The goal is to eventually seek out that oar and take larger, more impactful steps toward improving your life through education.

The goal is to soar.

maikman-headshotGuest Post by Michelle Aikman, 2012 recipient of the National Military Family Association Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship

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

Friends All Over the World: Hawaiian style

hawaii-1Moving in the military can be difficult, especially when you have to leave good friends behind. One of the benefits about being a military family is the likelihood that wherever you decide to visit or move to, a friend is nearby.

Recently, a friend of mine got married in Hawaii, and I made the trip there to attend. Because my friend lives in Oklahoma and my family is stationed in Virginia, I rarely get an opportunity to see him. This wedding was going to be the perfect opportunity to see some old friends from my hometown as well as some other special friends who I had not seen in quite some time.

Hawaii is an amazing place to host a wedding or enjoy a vacation, but it’s also the home state of an Army Infantry Brigade and two of my fellow military spouses and close friends are currently stationed there.

Hannah is a friend I made near Ft. Campbell, KY. Our husbands were both deployed and we leaned on each other for support and companionship. Our friendship was important to both of us, especially during some of the tougher days we faced while waiting for our husbands to return from war.

hawaii-2

Fortunately, I was able to spend some time with Hannah while I was in Hawaii. We
laughed and caught up on each other’s lives over some fruity drinks by the hotel pool. Because of her familiarity with the area, she took me to a quiet, local beach for the day. It was great to see her and her sons again!

Another military friend, Ronya, had only moved to Hawaii a couple weeks before I arrived. Her family had not received military housing yet, and was staying at the Hale Koa. It’s a military resort on the ocean and is absolutely beautiful! After finishing some shopping around the area, I stopped by Hale Koa and was able to re-connect with her.

On my final day in Hawaii, Ronya, myself, and friend from my hometown, went hiking at Manoa Falls. I never would have imagined when we met years prior, Ronya and I would someday be hiking in Hawaii!

Military life is always changing, and making friends can be difficult for some, knowing that you’ll eventually be separated again. Just remember that it’s not really “goodbye” but instead it’s “see you later,” and if you are lucky, that “later” just might be in Hawaii!

Amanda headshotPosted by Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife