I majored in mechanical engineering at Manhattan College because I wanted a career specializing in math and science. Then I married a soldier.
I was worried that his career and mine would not go together. After all, I didn't know any engineers who were military spouses as well. How was this going to work?
Yet over the years, I have developed a great relationship with my employer. I have been able to work from home as an engineer from four states over the last five years. I also spend time in the office in my “home” state while my husband is gone for long periods of time.
Combining a career as an engineer and a life with a constantly moving military member is possible. I thought I would pass some ideas to you in case you are also looking for a flexible career.
Specialize. When I started my job, my employers were looking for a recent college graduate to explore some new areas of our industry. I said I was willing to learn the new advances and methods.
That willingness to learn new things has resulted in a very specialized skill set and knowledge base for me. My employer may be more accommodating about my moves because I can offer them skills a new employee just doesn’t have.
Take a chance. It can’t hurt to ask an employer if they are willing to work with you and the lifestyle of a military spouse. You may be surprised to see that companies are willing to adjust schedules, allow for working remotely, etc. to keep a valued employee.
In fact, it seems from my experience that many small businesses consider it an honor to help out military families, acknowledging that we do a lot for our country, and their flexibility is a way to show their appreciation
Go the Distance. I spent time away from my husband to start a career and build a relationship with my employer. I gained my employer’s trust and proved that I am a valuable asset and a reliable employee.
When the time came to finally start our life together in one household (after a 15-month deployment), my company was willing to allow me to work remotely from home while coming into the office as needed for some face-to-face time and meetings with clients.
Postpone Children. My husband and I could have started a family soon after we were married, but we waited. We wanted to enjoy being a married couple and go on weekend trips and explore the places we have lived along the way. We also wanted to have the time for both of us to excel in our careers.
I was able to study for and pass the Professional Engineering licensing exam in New York, which would have been a much more challenging task with a little one to look after.
Our time without children allowed me to have flexibility to make my career my priority. We were both in great places professionally when the time came to have our first child this past March.
Gather Stalwart Supporters. Every military family needs a strong support system, whether it is a wonderfully helpful neighbor, or a friend on the other side of the country who is just a phone call away.
Adding a second career to a military family can be difficult at times; making sacrifices and spending even more time apart can be a struggle. We are fortunate to have great family and friends to help remind us that we are accomplishing so much for both of our individual careers as well as providing for our family. My husband and I have both also learned the value of supporting one another.
I truly enjoy my profession and am excited to be on a successful career path. I found comfort in working and maintaining my own sense of identity in addition to being an Army wife. Work got me through multiple deployments, trainings and other challenging times during our relationship, before and after our wedding.
Building a career that works with military life (even engineering!)requires sacrifice, true. But it is possible. It does work. Add me to the list of those who are living proof.