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MSCCNBy Kate Midden, Military Spouse Corporate Career Network

It’s a proven fact that military spouses have a tougher time building a career or even finding employment than their civilian counterparts. We have to think smarter, work harder and be more creative in searching for jobs because we move more often, don’t have a built-in network of friends and acquaintances and often bear the stigma of being a military spouse. Even though we know we’re typically more flexible, more independent, more adept at handling crises and capable of juggling multiple tasks without breaking a sweat because of our “military” training,   corporations often only focus on the time and expense involved in replacing us when we move to our next assignment.

 
POLISH YOUR RESUME
 
Your resume is as important as your military ID, your birth certificate or your driver’s license.   It is your passport to entering the workforce and it needs to be perfect. Your contact information must be up-to-date and correct and you email address should be professional, not cutesy. Don’t use jargon or confusing terms, focus on your skills and successes and if you have a lot of gaps in your employment or have more volunteer than paid experience, consider using a functional resume format. Review your resume with your ERPM on base but don’t hesitate to work with other professionals, even if it might cost you money, to ensure you’ve painted a picture of your talents that will stand above your competition in the job market.
 
BE PROACTIVE
 
Start early - don’t wait until you reach your new location to begin your job search. Put together a list of current references with their addresses, phone numbers and email. Talk to your current Employment Resource Manager (ERPM) and get the contact information for the ERPM at your new assignment. Call them, send them your resume, let them know the type of job you’re looking for and ask them to point you in the right direction. Conduct an Internet research campaign to locate and research companies near your new assignment and send the Human Resources manager a letter and resume expressing your interest in a position with their organization. Better yet, give them a call. Use job boards like Monster, CareerBuilder and Craig’s List but don’t forget special sites geared specifically for spouses like MSCCN (www.msccn.org) where you can post your resume and apply for opportunities with organizations seeking military spouses. 
 
 
NETWORK
 
Spread the word that you’re in the job market. Tell every contact you meet – at church, at spouse group meetings, at base functions, in your neighborhood, at the library or at your child’s school that you are looking for a job. Have a personal “business” card with your contact information available to hand out so people can contact you if they hear of opportunities. Visit the Chamber of Commerce, the Labor Department and Unemployment Office and keep your eyes open for job fairs in your area. Develop a short elevator speech so you’ll be ready if someone asks “what do you do?” And always remember, people like to help other people so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. 
 
HONE YOUR SKILLS
 
You may find yourself in the position of being unemployed or underemployed for long stretches of time. Instead of stressing, take advantage of the many opportunities offered to military spouses in the area of education. Explore your passions and think longer-term. My career in high tech sales and marketing came to a screeching halt when I moved to Valdosta, GA. I struggled to find a job for six months before deciding to take a few on-line writing classes to keep me sane. I ended up started a business from home writing magazine articles, developing web content and consulting for companies in the area of marketing, public relations and sales training. One of my friends took advantage of the free education programs for military spouses in our area and got her nursing degree. She can now get a job anywhere she goes. Another friend took classes in web design and has now started on a new and successful career path. Don’t waste your time and energy beating your head against the wall – take care of yourself, your sanity and your future by improving your skills and expanding your horizons.
 
MAKE YOUR OWN JOB
 
Take the time to truly access your interests and passions and if necessary, create your own position. If you love animals, consider starting a pet-sitting service. Many people don’t want to utilize kennels and would prefer having someone visit their homes to feed, water, walk and love their pets. If you excel at math or English, consider offering tutoring services.   If you love children, babysitting is always a good option but for a more full-time position consider a live-out nanny position – some of these jobs even offer benefits. Love to cook? Have you ever thought about “catering” dinner parties or even “special occasion” meals? Use your imagination, talk to resources like SCORE (www.score.org), write a business plan and make it happen. I’ve known several spouses who built successful businesses, turned them over at PCS time to another spouse for “a slice of the pie” and then went to their next assignment and started all over again. These are simple examples of ways to earn extra income doing something that you love.
 
Another way to get started in business is to investigate a career as an independent consultant for a network marketing company that offer great products, marketing ideas and support.   (Examples: Arbonne, Avon and Longaberger).  You typically need to make a small investment to get started but it’s a way to build your own business,  get great products, meet lots of people and inspire others. Just be careful that if you choose this route, you investigate the company fully, interview current representatives and fully understand the time, money and commitment needed to be successful in this choice of career.   
 
UTILIZE YOUR RESOURCES
 
The Department of Defense has invested millions of dollars in providing resources for military spouses and families in a number of areas. Military OneSource (www.militaryonesource.org) offers information on a host of topics including education, employment and financial counseling. These services are free to military spouses, so take advantage of them.
 
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF
 
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Searching for a job or building a career path as a military spouse offers a multitude of challenges but remember you’re not alone. Talk to other spouses and you’ll quickly see that your “story” is similar to theirs.  Make time to do good things for yourself – exercise, visit with friends, focus on the positives and realize that in the military world, even if you’re stuck in a crummy location,  changes are you’ll be moving someplace new in a couple of years. Take advantage of all the opportunities you’re offered and hold your head high. Build and maintain a support system and never, ever forget that you are an “unsung hero”, minding the home front. You are the support system behind the warrior protecting our country’s freedoms and that’s your most important job. 
 
Please feel free to ask any questions or make comments to the author, Kate Midden, a fellow military spouse, by sending her an email at askus@msccn.org
  

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