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Advice for the career-driven MilSpouse (from a career-driven MilSpouse)

Six different short-term jobs, a degree that spanned over three colleges and took five years …

2013 Military Spouse of the Year, Alicia Hinds Ward

Six different short-term jobs, a degree that spanned over three colleges and took five years to complete, while moving to four different states and two countries?  Is this the resume of a nomad who can’t hold a job or could it be a military spouse? Would you hire this person if you didn’t know the context? Seems like a loose cannon… well guess what, this is my resume; a military spouse that moved across the world and back while juggling a communications degree and trying to keep my career afloat. The life of a military spouse who dreams of being more independent comes with a long line of breadcrumbs left at each past duty station. But you don’t have to let the foreseeable unknown put a damper on your future career and your dreams. 

Never stop learning

The biggest piece of advice I can give to a milspouse who doesn’t know their next career move is to educate yourself. Maybe you find that the job you really want in your dream field just isn’t going to work for your current location. If you take a different job in a career that is similar, you will no doubt learn a new set of skills that you can add to your skillset for when you do land that dream job.

Can’t find a job? Start school and take classes that relate back to your field of interest or finally finish that degree. Gaps in your resume aren’t bad if you are able to fill them with knowledge and skills that keep you ahead of the competition.

There are so many options for education as a military spouse. You can go the university route and take advantage of the MyCAA milspouse scholarships or see if you’re eligible for the GI Bill credit transfer. Can’t find the funds to go to an accredited university? No problem! Try taking a couple of classes through Coursenvy or get a certification you can display on your LinkedIn profile through HubSpot Academy. There are plenty of ways to sharpen your skills while you are on the waiting list for that dream job. 

Take advantage of your situation

milspouse career
(DoD photo)

Speaking of dream jobs, it may not always be at the right place or the right time. When we were stationed in Japan, I was given the potential opportunity to work for Bloomberg doing financial news. This was the big girl job I’d always dreamed of but there was a huge catch. We lived on the outskirts of central Tokyo which meant a position there would come with a 4-hour commute both ways on a train. It may have been the dream job, but not the dream situation.

Don’t sacrifice your happiness and sanity for a fancy job title on your resume. Always remember there’s going to be other fish in the sea and your time at each location is limited so use it wisely. I decided to accept a position with no commute that also offered more vacation time which allowed us to travel all over Asia. 

Be prepared to roll with the punches

milspouse career
(Air Force photo)

This feeds into my next point which is that you need to be a chameleon. The constantly changing military lifestyle will require you to be flexible and understanding. Your time will come, it just may not be now and at this location. You’ll get that degree, it just may take a little longer and you may have to navigate through a foreign country to get it (speaking from personal experience). You’ll land the job, it just may not be the job you had originally dreamed of but you may find you like it better. It won’t be easy, no one said it would be easy, but if you really want it, it is possible. 

Another way to roll with the punches of the military lifestyle is to make your profession mobile. Having said that, some jobs are very difficult to do remotely and there may be obstacles to finding the same job you had back home when overseas. This includes nurses, doctors, and really anything involving the medical community other than medical coding. If you can find a way to make your passion something that can be done remotely, being a military spouse with a full time career is totally doable. A job that can move with you makes it easier when you get the next orders. You might be surprised at how many jobs can be remote. Here’s a list of some basic remote jobs that may work into your career path and only take a couple of extra courses to get started: 

  • Graphic designer
  • Travel agent
  • Tutor
  • Freelance writer
  • Accountant
  • Freelance translator
  • Digital marketer
  • Operations manager
  • Social media manager 
  • Personal Assistant 

Put the time into your resume and cover letter

milspouse career

Still having trouble getting employers attention? Get help building a killer resume, even if it’s obvious you’ve jumped around a bit. One thing that can really help is having a different set of eyes take a look at your resume. A lot of bases have resume help offered at their Family Readiness Center. Check out the Family Readiness Center on your base to see if they offer any resume classes or sessions with a career counselor. Military One Source also offers a whole gambit of information to help you get your resume looking slick for your next big break. 

But it’s not all about your resume. A cover letter is a MilSpouse’s biggest career-secret weapon. It’s a great place to open up and explain why you’ve been bouncing from one place to the next. Cover letters allow the employer to put a face to the resume and truly get to know you. Make sure to add a little personality to your cover letter. I’ve found recruiters respond better to cover letters that tell a story rather than the cover letter templates you may have used in the past. Paint a picture of your career and how you’ve adapted into the professional you are now. Think about it, if you had to go through cover letter after cover letter, would yours be the one that stands out? Would you enjoy reading it or would you skim over it waiting for it to be over? 

Here’s the good news, this isn’t a pass or fail situation, it’s your life. Much like a stream, it will twist and turn, speed up or slow down, and in some situations completely stop. It’s up to you to decide which paths to take and where you want your knowledge and experience to go. Just don’t get so caught up in the raging rapids that you can’t stop and enjoy the flowers by the stream. 

The editorial team at Sandboxx.