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5 Tips for Career-Minded Military Spouses

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Even before I married John and officially became a military spouse, I did something that most military spouses are familiar with: I became jobless. In fact, because of my contract, I ended up resigning from my teaching position months before our wedding– even though we only moved in together after we put a ring on it. Once we got married, and school started without me, I had an existential crisis because I wasn’t working.

Statistically, military spouses are chronically unemployed or underemployed and underpaid. We move around at the whim of the military, which leaves us with strange resumes (that most of us obsess over)… but it also gives us a huge (and probably under-utilized) network and valuable skills.

It took me about six months to create a portfolio of jobs that are fulfilling, in my field, and  substantially contribute to our finances. Instead of working one career, I’ve created my own with four different jobs– two in education, one in writing and marketing, and this blog.

The following steps towards being career ready are ones that I actively do (even now) to keep up my game. After all, in our mobile lifestyle, you never know where the next opportunity will come from!

Worried about your resume and military life? Check yourself with these five easy tips. #militaryspouse #milspouse #milso #milspouses #milsos #milspo #milspos #militaryspouses #milfam #militaryfamily

1. Military spouses need to use LinkedIn

There are so many articles, opinions, and suggestions out there regarding LinkedIn and how to use it. Regardless of the details, you need to do three things with your profile: Be professional but unique, keep it updated, and be social.

2. Keep records of everything

I do this easily by creating a file on my computer and labeling and dumping anything regarding my professional endeavors. Student feedback surveys, emails from colleagues, screenshots of my work on bigger websites– it all gets cataloged and saved in one location on my computer. Having a digital portfolio at my fingertips gives me the ability to respond quickly to requests for information… and it saves time, too!

3. Update your resume regularly… even when there are holes

Besides my LinkedIn profile, I also keep an updated resume on file that can be changed at a moment’s notice depending on the needs of the situation. And if you don’t have a resume, spend a few hours creating one soon. You want to make sure that you have something you can easily use should an opportunity present itself.

4. Stay in touch no matter where you move

Because we come in contact with so many people, it’s important to use your contacts well. Every job I have that makes up my current career has come from a personal contact I’ve had– people I’ve worked with previously and military spouse friends who have suggested my name for projects because they knew that my skills matched and that I was looking for work. If you feel that your network of people is small, join a networking group on Facebook or LinkedIn. These digital connections can become just as strong as “real life” ones.

5. Be okay with the holes

The majority of military spouses have nonlinear career paths. And that’s okay! Wanna know why? Because most people– military spouses or not– have nonlinear career paths. Gone are the days where someone works 40 years in their field. I’ve had to constantly reinvent myself and pivot in order to stay relevant. And yes, I have some resume holes… but they’re easily explained and I know how to talk about them in an interview.


13 Responses

  1. This is really cool advice. I’m a nurse. I’ve never used linked in but I am assuming this could be a valuable resource for me. Right now I’ve opted not to work and stay at home full time because it simply makes things easier with the demands of my husband’s job. I’m really excited that I opted to start blogging. I am now starting to make money, and as a military spouse, I think that is incredibly exciting because I can take that anywhere in the world. Can I ask what your job is Joanna? Or what field you work in?

    Lauren

    1. Yay for your blog starting to make money! That is the best feeling! Congrats! :-) I try to keep away from the nitty gritty specifics here on the blog, but I don’t mind sharing that I work online in the education field (1 job as an instructor, 1 job consulting), and I also write for a marketing agency.

  2. I think this is a great advice for anyone looking for a job. i can completely understand as my husband moves around for the sports industry so got to stay open and use the personal experiences to help you professional.

    1. Thanks, Jessa! It really is all about making sure you’re prepared for anything, isn’t it?

  3. Hi Jo,
    I just stumbled across your blog on Pinterest and I absolutely love it. Thank you so much for blogging about all this. My fiancé leaves for basic training in February. I am so excited and nervous for him to leave. I am a senior at a small christian college where we met. We haven’t been able to plan a wedding since he signed up to go in since we are not sure when he will get leave. So now we are debating on getting married before he goes to basic training (courthouse wedding). Can you offer any advice or suggestions?
    Thanks in advance,
    Ashley

    1. Hi Ashley! I’m so glad you found me! I can’t answer your question with a lot of authority because John and I did not do a courthouse wedding. It was really important for us to have a religious service at the church I grew up in. That was the right decision for us. However, a lot of people get a legal wedding and do the religious service later (or never) and are very happy with that decision. It’s something to definitely talk about together and have a very honest discussion. I’m also going to post this question on my Facebook page (facebook.com/jomygosh) to try to get more advice and responses for you! :-) I am also editing your post so some of your personal information stays personal and you stay safe. :-)

      1. Thank you so much I checked your Facebook page and found the comments to be helpful. I am going to keep praying on it and asking God for guidance on this decision because ultimately we just want to honor him in our marriage. Keep blogging! I find it so inspirational and refreshing to hear your perspective.

  4. Thanks, Britney! I just went over to check your post out (since my blog is my home business :-) ). I haven’t seen any direct results come from LinkedIn, but I think the connections and the ability to leave recommendations for people are much more important than tangible results. It’s a great place to point potential clients in the direction of if they’d like to see more of your work, or what people are saying about you.

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