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!
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.