One of the greatest sacrifices of a military spouse is a career. Whether it’s the limits of the military lifestyle, or the the limits of the job market at your duty station, moving forward can be hard.
The tough part about approaching the job search as a young professional, is knowing what to do. You kind of need a mentor to tell you where to place your energy. In this post we will discuss some lessons I learned from my unemployment once I made it to Fort Bragg.
Should You Wait to Find a Job Before You Move?
As a person who was unemployed for 14 months, my answer is “no.” I may have never made the move to Fort Bragg!
If you can afford to live on one salary, go ahead and move to be with your spouse and look for a job there. If your career is important enough to you that you would be willing to live in a completely different city long term, then it makes sense that you would want to wait.
Otherwise, the time you spend as a stay-at-home spouse can be fulfilling in itself. There will be plenty of time to be away from your spouse with military imposed obligations, so the time you can spend just focused on being a family is valuable. But everyone’s priority and willingness to sacrifice is different.
Be Creative and Consistent with Your Search
The worst part about finding a job is that there is really no end to the amount of time you can spend looking and applying. My advice is to commit around two hours a day if you’re home all day to scouring the web for jobs
If you aren’t finding jobs in your field, focus on more creative places jobs may be posted. Try LinkedIn jobs, Facebook Jobs, JUNK MAIL, and make sure people and other professionals around you know you’re looking for a job. Also check job boards in your field and alumni associations.
Once, I found a legitimate opportunity in my junk mail for a company called NHE fitness. It was a shock to find it wasn’t a scam! I pursued it but sadly couldn’t pass their exercise physiology test.
I Know I Deserve to Make at Least $…
Truth: It is very typical for the first job you get out of college to be much less than you think you qualify for, and it won’t be because you’re in a military area. That’s just how it is, and it is a very disappointing, frustrating experience.
I have met a few spouses who said they didn’t want to bother trying to get a job because they wouldn’t be paid what they’re worth in that area. And some who were just sure they could be making $60-70,000 per year with their business degree and no experience, if they wanted to bother.
I laughed on the inside.
When considering your projected salary as a new professional, experience matters, as does the cost of living in your area. When I finally found a job, my salary was wildly lower than what I had been stating I wanted on my applications. I don’t know if that impacted who reached out to me for interviews. I do know that the salary I ended up with was high for the area even though it was low to me.
You may feel you have the knowledge base to run an office or team. However, there are many skills for working in a professional environment that can only come from working in an office. A grasp on office culture and administrative skills are what everyone has to have to be an effective leader.
Get Resumé Help
There are plenty of resources available to help with your resume. But if you are confident in your skillset and have the resources, I would consider investing in a professional revision.
The other option is to attend a resume class offered on the military post. There are classes for transitioning servicemen as well as spouses to help craft effective civilian and government resumes.
Government resumes have their own format. Don’t neglect to put your best foot forward by submitting a traditional resume. If you can’t attend a class, do a google search to ensure you are following protocol.
Note that your resume should be tailored for each different position you apply. Your resume should reflect the skills the job post states are needed in order to make it through the screening process.
Look For a Work Force Solutions Office on Base
I eventually found my way to the Department of Work Force Solutions in the Soldier Support Center. There, I met Denny who was the voice of reason I needed to formulate a plan for getting a job.
Denny was able to inform me of jobs he knew were hiring and give me advice on my prospects. I was both surprised and relieved when he advised me to get a different degree. From his experience, a Health Management degree simply wasn’t marketable in that area.
His suggestion was to obtain an associates in something like Physical Therapy Assistance or look into Nuclear Medicine. I was grateful for his guidance and am sure some of you other weary spouses would benefit from it as well.
Not only is volunteering a good way to invest your free time, but it can lead to employment. If you volunteer at an agency in your industry, you have a good chance of being aware of new jobs even before they are posted. And if you’re spending time showing that you are reliable and competent, that agency might be motivated to hire you over a stranger.
In the least, the time you spend volunteering in your field will reflect well on your resume.
Go to Job Fairs
Employers attend or put on job fairs to find new talent. Therefore, job fairs are where you want to be. At many events, interviews are done there on the spot, so it can really be an effective way to find employment.
Because employers will be there, you need to be dressed like you’re going to an interview. If you aren’t sure what that would be, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. If your prospects are entry level position, being dressed for a better job than your competition might just put you in a better category.
A safe outfit would be dress pants, slacks or a skirt, dress shoes (no tennis shoes), and a blouse, with a cardigan or blazer. Avoid wearing shorts or sleeveless shirts as many workplaces don’t allow those types of clothing.
Get to Networking, Girl
I once attended a women’s professional meetup and stood up and introduced myself as an ambitious professional looking for work. The ladies were impressed by my courage.
I’m not suggesting you do exactly that, but even if you aren’t in the job you want, putting yourself in the company other professionals can only make you more marketable. You’re learning from other professionals, making connections who may keep you apprised of new opportunities, and seeing among who you want to be your peers.
You can find these events through meetup.com, young professionals groups, or even Facebook groups and organizations in your field.
Keep in mind that you aren’t there just to move up in your career. You want to make relationships where you can also provide value to someone else, even before you jump back into your career.
How Long Should You Wait Before Taking Just Any Job?
This was a question I asked myself over and over. I wanted to make money but also wanted to be free to go to interviews and start a new job.
I would suggest giving yourself a good three months to focus on finding a professional job. If in that time, you don’t have any prospects, go ahead to your plan B.
One thing to realize is that it will be okay if you quit an entry level job after only working there for a few months for a professional job. Your employer would certainly not having a problem doing it to you, so that isn’t something you should worry about.
Finding a new job in a new city can be stressful and time consuming, but it really is only a matter of time! Be consistent about looking for jobs and be open-minded about salaries and roles. You may be surprised at what you enjoy despite what you set out to obtain.
Be aware that it can take employers a while to start interviewing people, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear something right away. Stay strong and optimistic. You are worth more than the salary you do or do not earn.
While you’re in your season of unemployment, remember you have value besides being in the work force. Check out the podcast episode “Making Lemonade ft. Stay-At-Home Wives” (Apple link) to start the conversation about finding purpose and redefining success!