If there's one thing we know about military spouse careers, it's that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?
But military spouses don't just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they've learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.
The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.
Here are some of their best tips.
1. Show up.
Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.
But it's especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company's conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.
"Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have," she said.
2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.
Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it's just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it's based in your home.
3. Use all the tools you can.
Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It's not about working harder -- it's about working smarter.
4. Do things that make you happy.
Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It's all about the little moments, she said.
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