Category Archives: Military spouses

What does a lobster, a job and MyCAA have in common?

I came upon a career in the legal field by accident. We had returned from an overseas PCS, the house was empty awaiting arrival of our household goods, and I was living 8 hours away in the meantime. In celebration of our third wedding anniversary, I drove to meet my husband for dinner at Red Lobster (a HUGE splurge on our meager family budget). Our waitress asked what we were celebrating, and after a little conversation and learning we were new to the area, she asked what type of job I was looking for. She mentioned this was her second job, and she was a legal secretary at a Little Rock law firm. They had a legal secretary position open.

I sent my resume in right away and was hired the next weekend. Little did I know, a career was born. I continued to seek legal secretary positions over the next decade, albeit in different parts of the country every three or four years due to PCS moves.

8-31-legal-docs

When we received orders to Goodfellow AFB, in San Angelo, Texas, the job search was slim pickings in the legal field. After three months of fruitless searching and taking an administrative assistant position, I landed the only legal secretary position advertised. The job was not busy, or as fulfilling, compared to other positions I had held, however staying within my chosen field was really important to me.

I searched for additional things to keep my mind busy, especially since my husband had just deployed. After I finished all of the filing and shredding, I took two online refresher courses, neither that provided school credits. But I knew I wanted to keep learning. A portable career was, and still is, a top priority for me, so I chose to pursue my Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies.

I was not prepared for the cost of education, but found an online school I felt our family might be able to afford, and I applied. After acceptance, my school counselor mentioned all of the possible grants and tucked neatly within them was My Career Advancement Account, or better known by many as MyCAA.

I wasn’t sure whether online school would be covered, as it looked like most spouses were using their monies for certificate programs. So I first needed to confirm that my chosen school and degree program met their covered criteria. Lucky for me, it was covered!

Although it seems silly now, I honestly wasn’t sure whether I could go to class or if I would be up for the homework. At that point, the thought of going to college for the first time when I was 32 years old was quite scary. I had two children in high school and one in elementary – what would that be like? Could I really do this?

8-31-pin-mycaa-military-spouse

Knowing that the MyCAA investment was available gave me the encouragement I needed to take the leap into my education. The process of approval for payments was seamless. I only needed to ensure I gave myself, and MyCAA, enough time to approve and process the upcoming class for payment.

You might ask yourself whether going back to school is worth it. Do we really learn anything by getting a degree? Does it help you in your career? My answer to all three is a resounding YES! My career and family has been changed for the better. My degree has made it easier to find a position and transition to a new job with a corresponding salary range over each PCS move. None of which would have happened without the help of MyCAA.

I am so grateful to MyCAA for supporting military spouses all across the globe.  For me and our little family, a seemingly small contribution from MyCAA put a fire into me and gave me the motivation I needed. It went way beyond the monetary value. Knowing somewhere, someone believed in me was enough to kick start my education.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, I would highly recommend looking into MyCAA-approved programs. A 6-week course could change the trajectory of your professional future. It is truly possible to have a career, be a supportive military spouse, mother, and full-time student. You only must begin, take the first step, have faith in yourself and you, fellow spouses, will FLY!

Have you used the MyCAA scholarship program to go back to school? What was your experience?

Posted by April May Hackleton, Military spouse

Why Military Spouses Should Consider a STEM Profession

STEM = science, technology, engineering and mathematics

I am a chemical engineer and my heart belongs to my husband, who is serving our country as an active duty Airman. Yes, I just included both of those huge, seemingly conflicting, pieces of my life in a single sentence; being a career-minded STEM professional and a military spouse, simultaneously, is possible and can be absolutely amazing and fulfilling!

What Makes STEM So Great?

If you are looking for a career with the perfect Trifecta—in demand, financially sound and portable—a STEM career may fit the bill!

Most people don’t go into STEM solely for the money. Although the money is far from shabby…

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the May 2013 annual average wage for all the STEM occupations was $79,640, roughly 1.7 times the national annual average wage for all occupations ($46,440).

8-10-stem-calculator

The decision to go STEM usually starts when we act on that little fire inside: a burning desire to solve problems; a craving for knowledge; an interest in finding a better way; a yearning to make our world a better place. STEM is a calling. If you have even a little spark inside of you for STEM, I encourage you to consider the following:

Jobs are out there! According to 2014 reports from the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, STEM jobs accounted for 5-10% of all jobs across our nation. The top three states with the highest distribution of STEM jobs were Maryland 7.7%, Virginia 7.5%, Washington 7.4%.

There will be even more out there soon! STEM jobs are projected to grow by one million between 2012 and 2022. Baby boomers are retiring in droves and a talent gap is growing. Just in Washington state alone, 50,000 jobs will go unfilled by 2017 because there aren’t enough skilled workers.

The STEM field is growing! You can get started on your STEM education right now! Scholarships are available for military spouses. Overall, STEM occupations are projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations yet, of the recent NMFA scholarship applicants, only 5.8% were seeking STEM degrees. Military spouses are missing out on these fulfilling and rewarding careers!

What About the Downsides?

Let’s be real—there are challenges and there are many opportunities to improve the career horizon for military spouses in STEM. Here are a couple to consider:

Portability is questionable. There are many opportunities where remote work arrangements are possible. I know a few spouses who successfully negotiated this arrangement with their employer upon a move. Not every employer is willing, and not every job is capable of being remote. If seeking new employment after a move, many STEM industries vary by region as well so the likelihood of finding a similar job in a new area is hit or miss. The sunny side of this is that big-name STEM employers are starting to recognize military spouses as a high-value talent pool and are starting to develop solutions to attract, retain, and support the development and transition of military spouses in STEM professions.

Education is challenging. If you are worried that the education piece may be too difficult or too demanding, a little bit of love and geeky excitement is enough to give you the endurance and the resiliency needed for the rigors of a STEM education.

Work of love. I must caution you though, STEM can be rather addicting. When you discover the awesomeness of it, you may feel the calling to apply your passion and skills to every opportunity and you may feel a strong sense of loss and frustration if you run into challenges pursuing your career goals.

A Special Consideration for Military Spouses

Upwards of 95% of military spouses are female, and females are significantly underrepresented in STEM. This is important because our world needs better diversity representation in STEM professions because diversity leads to diverse thinking which leads to innovation. Regardless of your gender, your experience as a military spouse, and the breadth of your professional experiences, is extremely valuable in STEM. Beyond technical skills, the top-rated skills are thinking and communication—we are talking about some of the super strengths of military spouses right there!

What’s Next?

You decide! This is your career. Do the pros outweigh the cons? If you decide a STEM career is right for you…

We invite you to join the Society of Military Spouses in STEM (SMSS), where you will connect with an extremely passionate and supportive group of people determined to overcome the challenges of maintaining a career with the military lifestyle and to support fellow active and retired military spouses in STEM fields reach their full potential.

Society of Military Spouses in STEM (SMSS) is a member-driven 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit www.smsstem.org

Are you a military spouse in the STEM field? What do you love about it?

Posted by Michelle Aikman, military spouse and NMFA Scholarship Recipient

Mascara, Money, and the Military

It was August 2014, and I was working to find balance as a mother and military spouse during my husband’s second deployment. He had been gone 7 months. Any military spouse knows this is a challenging role that requires flexibility and patience while leaving little room for your own career path. My days consisted of the ‘usual’ military spouse duties; raising our daughter during the terrible twos, keeping up with the housework, and wondering when my husband would call next.

One evening as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a fellow Army wife post about a new mascara. I wasn’t a big makeup wearer (and still am not), but I’ve always loved a good mascara and was intrigued.

I was happy to support my friend and purchased the mascara.  As soon as I tried it, I knew I had to tell all of my girlfriends about it. My husband made me promise I’d never “do one of those direct sales companies again,” as I had tried several in the past with little to no success. But I just had a feeling this was going to be different. The cost to sign up was minimal and there were no monthly fees or quotas, so I figured it was worth a shot.

7-27-makeup-brushes

The days and months that immediately followed my decision to join Younique filled my life with much more than money and makeup. Don’t get me wrong…I am proud to be a mother and military spouse; these will always be my favorite “jobs,” but this little makeup business gave me a PURPOSE outside of “mom” and “wife.” This was something for ME, and I soon realized that I could help change the lives of other women.

Twenty-two months have gone by and it’s hard to imagine my life without this business. The success I’ve had, the relationships I’ve built, and the customer base I’ve created, has been more fulfilling than I can express. I am now a Top Leader in Younique with a team of 1,708 amazing women. I am proud to live and share our mission every day, “To uplift, empower, validate, and ultimately build self-esteem in women around the world through high-quality products that encourage both inner and outer beauty and spiritual enlightenment while also providing opportunities for personal growth and financial reward.”

We have PCS’d twice since December 2014, and I am so grateful I haven’t had to worry about finding a job, or child care, with each move. In fact, the military lifestyle has allowed me to expand my network with each new station. I work my business 99% through Facebook on my iPhone, and I can work whenever and wherever I want. I am able to coach, mentor and build my team around the world, all while providing stability and balance to my family. It’s a dream come true!

As a military spouse and stay-at-home-mom, it is empowering to be able to financially contribute to our family. I love to support fellow military spouses in Network Marketing and truly believe it is the perfect opportunity for us. I am so grateful for the freedom and confidence that Younique and Network Marketing have provided to me and so many women. We have a saying in our company, “so much more than mascara”… There really couldn’t be truer words spoken for myself and my family.

Posted by Tracey Greene, military spouse, and Exclusive Black Status Leader with Younique

My Date with Michelle Obama and the Star Trek Cast

Despite just having a few weeks under my belt at the National Military Family Association, I was lucky enough to receive an invitation of a lifetime this week.

My husband and I got to tag along with four coworkers for an early screening of Star Trek Beyond at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

13754570_10210075039973789_1568993888030120426_n
The screening, hosted by none other than First Lady Michelle Obama and members of the cast, was part of Joining Forces, The First Lady’s initiative which helps connect service members, veterans and their families to employment, education and wellness resources. Joining Forces also host events (like this one) to show appreciation for service.

After going through some real deal security checks, we made it inside a building that houses a majority of offices for White House staff. We took our seats next to a mix of service members, veterans and their families, and waited (what seemed like forever) until Chris Pine, Simon Pegg and Karl Urban showed up. The trio explained how their involvement in the Star Trek series allowed them to better understand the military. Fun fact: The last installment was even dedicated to post-9/11 veterans and even featured four vets in one of the movie scenes.

I’ll be honest. Although I won’t ever turn down an opportunity to stand next to Chris Pine, my husband is the real Trekkie in the family. While he was pumped to see Kirk, Bones and Scotty, I’d been counting down until the First Lady graced us with her presence. After a sincere thank you, the actors introduced her and basically made my life.

Tweet

There we all are in the third row!

Sadly, no #FLOTUS selfies came of our visit, but the First Lady talked about Joining Forces and the last seven and a half years she’s spent using her platform to promote appreciation for our military families. I especially loved her focus on military kids’ sacrifices and spouse employment. Afterwards, she introduced the movie we’d all been waiting for with a comical, “May the force be with you.”

FLOTUS has jokes, in case you didn’t know.

I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but if you like action movies it’s one to add to your list. After the screening, we got a chance to cheese it up before heading out.

FB_IMG_1468979689612

My husband is partial to Next Generation, but still geeked out when introduced to Simon Pegg, Chris Pine and Karl Urban after the film. He never smiles for pictures, but there he is grinning like a kid in a candy store.

It was an amazing night and one I’ll be forever thankful for. I’m definitely going to take the First Lady’s advice and “lord this event over my friends.”

No shame. Now to work on that #FLOTUS selfie.

margaritaPosted by Margarita Cambest, Staff Writer

The Struggles of a New Military Spouse: I Signed Up For This

I became a military spouse 2 years ago, and I am still learning the “ways” of this new life! I thought I knew what I was in for–I grew up with my brother-in-law in the service, and saw all the things my sister did and experienced. Despite having that perspective, I was still in for a rude awakening! Yes, having some background knowledge was helpful, but it certainly didn’t give me everything I needed.

I think one of the biggest hurdles I still face is that my husband and I waited to get married until we were older. I was 34. Sometimes I feel like people think I know everything, or assume that I have been through enough moves or changes that I am a pro at this. That is so far from true!

This life is different, and not only am I not a pro, but I am just as scared and freaked out as the rest of the new spouses. I often find myself wondering where to find my “New Military Spouse” handbook?

7-14-new-military-spouse-struggles

Sometimes I even ask myself, “What the heck did I get myself into?”

I dove right in at my first base, though. I became a Key Spouse and was very involved in unit activities. I always felt up-to-date on what was going on, and what was coming up, and found that I fit in with my new military family very well! Then, out of the blue (or what felt like out of the blue to me), we got our first PCS orders as a family! We headed to a joint base, with very little Air Force family and no unit, and I found myself lost and out of place.

This year, I am learning what it’s like to live on a joint base where I am surrounded by families from other services, instead of being immersed in our own branch of service. This is a very different experience for me, and one that has already taught me quite a bit in a short period of time!

For example, I am learning all the Army words for the equivalent offices, or buildings, I used a lot at our last base–PX instead of BX, Family and MWR instead of Family Readiness Center. I am still overcoming the “not part of a family” feeling and being in the dark about activities, either on this base or with my husbands office; he is not part of a unit, per se, so I don’t have the option to be part of anything.

Despite these challenges and the constant feelings of discomfort, I remind myself that we are on this wild ride as a family. I am privileged to be able to see so many new and wonderful places, and my children get to grow up with such a diverse culture around them. I have an amazing neighbor and friend that I am more than thankful for, and without her I would truly be lost. I remind myself (and I sometimes remind friends and family) that this IS the life I signed up for, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

How do you deal with feeling out of place in the military community?

Posted by Joleen Sickbert, Air Force spouse and National Military Family Association Volunteer

Passing the Post-9/11 GI Bill to a Military Spouse: Yes or No?

For me, making the decision to use my husband’s Post-9/11 GI Bill, rather than save it for our kids, or for my husband when he gets out of the military, was difficult. The decision wasn’t hard for my husband, though. He has told me time and again that he wants me to use it. But it’s been difficult for me.

I am not the one who raised her right hand, and swore an oath to our nation. I am not the one who works countless hours, and follows every order, even when that order means missing out on holidays and graduations and plans with the family. I am not the one who deployed, or is ready and waiting for the next time someone needs to put their life on the line for Uncle Sam.

Not me.

I’m just the spouse. I am his cheerleader. I am proud to support him and do what I need to do to keep our home happy and healthy so he can do his job. I am doing everything I can to pitch in for our family, and that includes working, and hustling, and yes, going back to college.

My degree program is expensive. Very expensive. And climbing a career ladder as a military spouse isn’t easy.

Sometimes I wonder if spending this benefit on me is a worthwhile investment. I am not sure we’ll be in this area long enough for me to finish this degree program, let alone use it to it’s fullest potential. I am not sure I am going to be able to reach MY fullest potential as long as my spouse is active duty.

I’ve been struggling with this icky, dirty, rotten feeling, and wondering if my family made the right decision to invest in me, and this degree, right now.

6-15-gi-bill-studying

I shared these concerns with a friend, and fellow military spouse, who reassured me that I am not alone. She reminded me that degrees do not have expiration dates; if now is the right time for me to be working towards a degree, then I should do it. Even if we have a PCS looming, or I am unsure of what the future holds. I can get that degree, and hang it on my wall, and stick it on my resume, and it will be there for me when I need it.

She reminded me that struggling with guilt is normal, especially for a woman who is also a mom, like me. We are used to giving our kids the last scoop of ice cream and putting our needs to the side to care for them. So using a benefit for myself that could be passed to them is tough for me.

But, I can still use my degree to help them. Getting this degree will raise my earning potential, and impact my family’s budget. By the time my kids are ready to go to college, I could be earning much more money, and have an easier time helping pay their tuition. Before they are ready to go to college, our family will have more money to invest in sports and activities and tutors, so my kids will be more competitive when it comes to earning a college scholarship.

I need to remember that my husband and I are a team. We are in this together, and he believes I am a worthwhile investment. I need to believe in myself, as well. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has the potential to make a real difference for my family NOW. He is a “lifer,” and won’t be out of the military for another 10-15 years (knock on wood). By then, he won’t need the benefit. But I need it now, and our family needs my employment income now.

Lastly, my friend reminded me that many military spouses are struggling with employment issues. Many have put themselves, their educations, and their careers on the back burner. They’ve given up…and I don’t blame them at all. It’s hard to be ready and willing to work, and have the education and experience you need, and STILL hit a brick wall. Getting this degree will help me become more employable. It will make me more competitive. I may still struggle to find a job, and military life may still present it’s own challenges, but it’s always better to make sure there are multiple doors (and windows!) open to me. This degree will unlock them all.

I have an opportunity that has been lovingly given to me by my husband. He earned the right to choose where that benefit was best spent. He has chosen to invest in my education, and our family’s future. The best thing I can do for all of us is to continue to work my tail off, keep my head up, and know I am doing my part to help my family in the long run.

Are you a military spouse using the Post-9/11 GI Bill? How did you decide it was right for your family?

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

To Master’s Degrees and Beyond!

Each year our scholarship application opens to military spouses pursuing any level of education. Each year I am pleasantly surprised with the number of spouses seeking graduate level degrees. In 2016, out of our entire applicant pool 26% are pursuing Master’s degrees.

So should you consider a Master’s degree? Let’s ask the experts…in this case the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

  • According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ (BLS) Career Outlook, “In 2013, the median annual wage for full-time workers ages 25 and over whose highest level of education was a master’s degree was $68,000, compared with $56,000 for those whose highest level was a bachelor’s degree—a $12,000 a year wage premium.” The BLS does note that some occupations and fields of study benefit from advanced degrees while others may not. Which ones benefit? BLS highlights: business, education, healthcare and social service and STEM.
  • In a Monthly Labor Review published in 2012, The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects that the total employment is expected to increase by 20.5 million jobs from 2010 to 2020, with 88 percent of detailed occupations projected to experience employment growth. “The fastest growth is projected in occupations assigned to the master’s degree level; these occupations are projected to grow by 21.7 percent.”

060616-tomastersdegreesandbeyond

The stats are supportive but as a military spouse is it feasible? Over the past couple years NMFA has partnered with 2U on offering military spouse scholarships at various online graduate level programs. 2U partners with top colleges and universities to offer service members, veterans and their families the chance to earn a world-class degree from anywhere in the world — even while serving the country. Programs like the ones powered by 2U make it feasible for transient military spouses to complete their advanced degree at reputable schools.

  • Charity Mathis is enrolled in an online master’s program at Simmons College. Charity explains, “The program has worked well for me as a military spouse. I can get my kids off to school and sit down at my computer and attend class. I have even attended class in my soccer mom van at softball practice. I have seen other military spouses in my classes as well which is very encouraging to see others embarking on the same journey.”
  • Beth Ramsey, a Nursing@Simmons students explains, “I waited to pursue this degree due to the multiple military moves we have made. All that was previously offered was on campus options and I was always afraid that I would begin a program and then need to move. With this program, you get the best of both worlds, an “in class setting” from the comfort of your own home. Many of my classmates and myself have attended class from hotel rooms, other countries, and even our cars.”

Register with NMFA online to explore our 2U partner programs. There are programs for social workers, teachers, nurses, lawyers and more! Scholarships available at each partner university can reach up to $7,500.

If you need help deciding if graduate school is right for you, check out Peterson’s “A Guide for Potential Grad Students: Should You Go To Graduate School?