The world likes to divide military spouses into exactly two types: employed and unemployed. Once they have us divided, the experts like to reveal the rate of spouse unemployment, which is always a huge and shocking number to civilians. The whole exercise is designed to light a fire under employers and get them to tap into that natural resource, baby!
Which is super nice, but not that helpful. When you are the military spouse who is unemployed and looking for a job, those stats can make you feel like a wild animal trapped in a turtleneck and desperately seeking a way out.
Been there. Worn that turtleneck.
That is why I was so glad to put together a FREE 60-minute Spouse Employment Master Class for you full of the surprising secrets you and your service member need to make two careers (and a family?) happen.
4 Types of Spouse Employment Success
One of the secrets is to identify which type of spouse worker you are. There are more than four types of successful spouse workers out there, but these are the ones I see most frequently in my work with military spouses.
By identifying your type, you can avoid the pitfalls common to your type alone and focus your efforts and your strategies to increase your chances of getting hired. In all of these areas, expect to find entry-level jobs, management jobs, and opportunities to work for yourself.
1. The Organizing Type
Are you the type of milspouse who was born with a to-do list clutched in your tiny little hand? You are probably one of those detail-oriented finishers who turns things in on time and wakes up with ideas of how to do things more efficiently. You might, in fact, have more hours in the day than other people.
This is a good thing. When we talk about spouse employment programs, know that you are the spouse worker the world is looking for.
COMMON ORGANIZER PITFALLS: Because you actually can do anything, you often make the same mistake transitioning veterans make: confusing ability to do the job with the experience hiring managers want. Even though you can do the work, employers will be reluctant to hire you until you prove yourself.
BEST ORGANIZER STRATEGIES: Because you need to prove yourself before you get hired, spouse fellowships are the way to go for you, especially if you have an associate's or bachelor's degree. Fellowships provide on-the-job training that leads to connections and experience that can result in a job offer.
For example, Hiring Our Heroes has several different kinds of fellowship programs for spouses, including the Corporate Fellowship Program, the Salesforce Fellowship Program, the Military Spouse Fellowship Program, and the M-TEN Program.
Look for additional defense industry fellowships and programs for spouses that are usually listed on companies' websites, such as Lockheed Martin's Heroes Program. The FINRA Foundation also has a fellowship program that helps you earn your AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor®) certification. The Department of Defense can see the sense in fellowships and is working toward a spouse fellowship program.
Mentoring is especially helpful for generating ideas about where else you can apply your skills in corporate America. I like the active-duty spouse program at American Corporate Partners.
2. The Tech Type
If you are a tech type, the world is hunting you down. You majored in computer engineering or computer science. You can code. You can provide support for cloud services or cybersecurity firms. Or you can learn to do these things by certifying with Salesforce Fellowship Program or Amazon Web Services.
COMMON TECH PITFALL: The most common tech pitfall is that entry-level tech jobs can be either extremely boring or frankly overwhelming. Consequently, you jump out of the field too soon, declaring that tech is not for you. Or you move to a new duty station and find that the only offers you are getting are at a lower level than you actually qualify for.
BEST TECH STRATEGIES: We live at a time in which every job is a tech job and every company is a tech company. You have a lot of options. To optimize both your career and your military life, aim for companies that offer more remote work options. Even if you don't need transferability now, military families move across state lines every 2.4 years on average, which is 10 times more often than civilian families. Spouses report it is a lot less painful when your job can go with you.
Another strategy is to find defense contractors or government agencies that hold the contracts at your current base. They are far more likely to have an in-person position to offer you at your next duty station.
Then, there is you. Don't quit too soon. Get enough experience that you qualify for a better position with your firm or another company. And be transparent about where you are in your skills. Tech is a field that changes so fast you can't possibly know everything – no one can.
If you run into something you don't know, you can always tell your supervisor, "I haven't heard that yet. Let me search on it."
If you are not in this field yet or you are trying to get into this field, sign up for our FREE Tech Without Tech Master Class coming in February.
3. The People Fixer Type
Many spouses are the kind of people who naturally reach out to fix other people and their stuff. Think of therapists, counselors, teachers, dental hygienists, event planners, coaches, medical folks and personal assistants. This may be a contributing factor to why the spouse unemployment rate went as high as 30% to 35% during the COVID pandemic, because that kind of work is usually not available as a work-from-home option.
COMMON FIXER PITFALLS: ONLY APPLYING FOR JOBS ONLINE. No matter what group you are in, applying for jobs online rarely works. You need a network to get hired at a job that requires a great deal of trust. This is particularly important for more senior positions.
BEST FIXER STRATEGIES: The key behavior for your group is networking, which is a major problem if you move frequently or if you just moved. Unlike the service member who takes their network with them, spouses lose most of their network when they move.
To overcome the PCS move, take aim at organized in-person events as they start to occur again. Certain states such as Virginia, North Carolina and Florida are all about getting spouses employed. To find your local spouse employment programs and job fairs, just google your current state and military spouse programs and contact them.
Next, think about your online self and decide to be where the jobs are. This means LinkedIn. It also means participating in virtual programs like AMPLIFY from Hiring Our Heroes. AMPLIFY is a two-day intensive program where you work on your resume and your pitch, and you get to talk with a mentor in your field. (Full disclosure: I volunteer as a mentor for them.)
4. The Creative Type
This is my group. Writers, painters, YouTubers, graphic designers, influencers, crafters, poets, comedians, illustrators, interior designers, website designers, jewelers, woodworkers, body painters, tattoo artists – if you create, you belong in this group.
So you won't be surprised to find there are fewer jobs and fewer spouse programs out there in Corporate America for us. Instead, you are all about finding ways to make your talent lead to great work that pays.
COMMON CREATIVE PITFALL: We have what Stanford's Bill Burnett and Dave Evans call gravity problems – they are a fact of life and cannot be changed. We creatives often get into this when it comes to pay, like wishing you could earn a six-figure income from the government as a poet. Or a weaver. Or a performance artist.
BEST STRATEGY: Our best strategy is to know and accept the market. Informational interviews are priceless for this. Sometimes, we have great ideas, and the world simply does not have a budget line item for that.
The next best strategy is to find your tribe. The IVMF entrepreneurship program ARSENAL is good for us. Also, I like ASAP– Armed Services Arts Partnership, which is available in four locations plus online. They offer programs for comedy, storytelling, writing, acting, improv and drawing.
You can stop.
best part of identifying your type is that the sooner you do it, the sooner you can do something really important. You can stop. Just stop. Stop working at things that do not fall into your skillset. Just because you can do something or something needs doing or someone is pressuring you to contribute doesn't mean you should do it.
Focusing your work efforts in one of these four fields will also help you focus your resume so your work life makes sense to a hiring manager. If you need more resume help, start with our FREE Reverse Resume class.
Check out Our FREE Military.com Transition Master Classes.
No matter which spouse success type you are, you could also benefit a lot from our FREE Reverse Resume class. Take a look at our library of past classes to teach you the strategies, skills and secrets designed for success at every stage of your family's military life.
Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project
To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.
– Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's Transition Master Coach. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.