How to Control Your Future & Career as a Military Spouse [MarketHer Ep. 51]
By Kate Fodera
One of my favorite things about being a new co-host on MarketHer is that I now have this new, exciting platform to connect with people and hear their story.
When we asked people to tell us their perspective on opportunity, I’ll be the first to admit that I assumed the stories would be based around the marketing industry.
Boy, was I wrong -- and thank goodness.
Danielle Russell reached out to us because she wanted to share her story about being a military spouse and what she thought that would mean for her future.
When she first became a military girlfriend (turned wife after a few years), she quickly realized that she felt as though she didn't have a unique identity or value as the 'other half' of the relationship.
And, once they married, it didn't get better -- it was assumed she would sit at home, volunteer for opportunities at the base with other spouses, and she wouldn't be able to advance her own career.
However, she went against the status quo, took hold of opportunity, and crafted her own future, all while sitting on various military bases.
The good news is that she's not alone and other spouses, just like her, are working together to advance their professional careers outside of the military.
But... is this the norm?
The Military Structure Has Overlooked a Generational Shift When it Comes to the Workforce
There has been a profound shift in how generations are approaching their careers and how those careers have impacted family dynamic.
Baby Boomers and generations before that typically had the male of the house going out, earning a paycheck, and supporting the family financially, while the female raised the children at home. A.k.a. they survived on one paycheck.
The military is still structured around this outdated generational mindset. However, as time marches on, later generations are no longer following it.
According to CNAS.org
78 percent of the millennial workforce is in a dual-professional relationship, and it is reasonable to assume that the trend will increase with subsequent generations. This generational trait is a significant departure from baby boomers—who constitute much of the senior leadership of the military—of whom only 47 percent are in a dual-professional relationship.
Military Spouses Are More Than Just Statistics
So, with many millennials approaching careers and family life differently, what can be done?
Simply said -- the first step is having the right conversations.
If you're a military spouse and you feel as though you're unsure about how you continue to advance your own career, talk to your employer about:
- Realistically how you can continue to do your position remotely
- Ways you can continue to support your team, even in another state or country
- What you'll do to make sure that no one is feeling added pressure or stress
- Will you work different hours to make sure you're on the same time zone?
- Will you have regular meetings with your boss to ensure that you're still hitting your performance marks?
And if you're unable to keep your current position, begin having conversations with other spouses who are also passionate about their careers. You can use each other as a support group, like Danielle did.
"With the Community Spouses' Club, we aimed to fill those gap years in spouses careers by hosting resume writing workshops, teaching them LinkedIn (and hiring a professional photographer to take their headshot), starting a book club all about Professional Development and Leadership, and engaging female military leaders to come and speak to the spouses. As the Vice President of the Club, I pioneered this program and tried to expand by speaking at several military events in Baumholder. From there, I was invited in a small group of spouses to represent the community and speak to GEN. Mark Milley's (the Chief of Staff of the Army) wife about spouse empowerment at overseas duty stations."
Companies are shifting and changing the way they've always done business because the landscape is changing.
More and more businesses are considering a remote workforce to be the norm and if you're a military spouse who wants to keep advancing your career, you could lead the change at your company.
How a Remote Culture Can Support Military Spouses
At IMPACT, nearly half of our team works remotely and we've been lucky to work for a company that embraces it.
While many of us have not been in Danielle's shoes, we do have employees who have been active duty in the past and others who are married to currently active members.
I reached out to them to get a better understanding on how this military structure impacted their families and how their families or spouses had to adapt:
Note - this will be updated as more stories come in!
"The struggle is maintaining “normal” family status. A lot of military spouses get caught up in this “I can’t do this mentality.” Really, everything is still available. You just have to adjust the roles a bit and scheduling is hard.
My wife had to raise a 3-year-old, do school interviews, babysitter interviews, and worked full time. All while I was gone. She also had to schedule all the family stuff. Still does to this day even though I’m out now."
- TC Jennings
"Supporting your Marine is paramount. This includes have a positive mental attitude when dealing with extended periods apart ("deployments") for 6 to 9 months; often in austere, combat environments. There are many challenging days where having supportive co-workers makes the difference.
When it comes to working, no matter your level of industry expertise and experience, the majority of private sector companies simply do not understand the military life and won't hire you for remote work. They require you move to their office location. This is extremely frustrating, mostly because their HR has no empathy and they make you feel like you are the one preventing yourself from being hired."
In regards to the importance of finding a flexible, remote job
"Nothing could be more important. There are often days in the week that require you to step away from your civilian life and be on-base for family readiness training and support activities."
- Jennifer Howard
"Kathleen had to get certified in each state we lived in, she is an elementary school teacher. Part of our time on active duty, she worked as either a part time teacher and one year as a full time teacher.
When we left the army, it took her 4 1/2 years to get a long term sub job and still hasn’t gotten a full time gig. Mostly based on the fact that she got her masters while we were on active duty and doesn’t have a ton of experience, because we moved a bunch.
Bottom line - spouses of active military service members bare a ton of weight, especially when transitioning out of active service. They have usually bore the responsibility to take care of the family and handle things at home, which impacts their ability to find work easily. Something needs to be done to help fix this."
- Chris Duprey
Remembering that you're in charge of your own destiny, despite the odds, is one of the most important things we can all do.
Take hold of opportunity and make it work for you, MarketHer listeners!
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