As a military spouse, you can get used to putting yourself on the back burner. The military life can make it hard to do what you want to do, whether that is going to school yourself or working in your own career field. There are so many different hurdles for military spouses that want to pursue their own careers. Here are some of the most common struggles for military spouse employment and if there is anything military spouses can do to get through them.
As a military spouse, you are probably going to move often. Usually, that means every three to four years, although some military families move more often than that. They are a couple of different challenges that come with this type of lifestyle.
The first is employers not wanting to hire you when they see or know that you are a military spouse. They don’t want to hire you over someone that they know probably isn’t going to move as often. They don’t want to spend the time and energy to train someone that they feel won’t be around long enough.
While it is illegal for a company not to hire someone based on their marital status, this is very hard to prove and in most cases not realistic or financially worth pursuing. An employer can not hire you for a multitude of reason, and you might never know if it was because you were a military spouse or for something else.
So what can you do?
Work to show companies what you can offer. If you have the right skills and a good worth ethic, that can go a long way for some employers. Make sure to highlight why they would want to hire you over anyone else.
Work to show employers in general that hiring military spouses is a good thing. There are ways to make a job work, even if the military spouse has to move away. Many jobs can be worked at home, even if they have not been done at home in the past.
Find companies that do hire military spouses and see if they are a good fit for your career goals. If a company has stated that they are welcoming to military spouses, that is one part of the career journey that you don’t have to worry about.
Another issue with moving often is always being the new person at your job. This makes moving up a bit more difficult. This is more of an issue in some careers over others but something military spouses struggle with. When starting a new job, it can be frustrating to know that once you get to a place of seniority, it could be time to move to a new state or even country and have to start over.
While there are not a ton of solutions to this, the best thing to do is plan before a move. Keep good track of the jobs that you have had and the education you bring to any job you apply for.
While it can be frustrating to feel like you have to start over all the time, finding creative ways to continue your career from place to place can be a good option. This can mean building your own business from the skills you have or working for a company that will allow you to take your job with you from place to place.
Not having access to the right jobs
Another big struggle for military spouse employment is not having access to jobs in your career field where you live. Sometimes the only jobs available have nothing to do with what you went to college for.
When you go to college, you expect to be able to use your degree afterward and find a job in your field. You know you might have to start at the bottom but nothing can be more frustrating than not being able to even start your career in the first place.
So what can you do?
The biggest solution to this is taking advantage of any educational or career resources your local military installation has. From job fairs to extra classes, being able to figure out what all of your options are in your area is important. Sometimes you can assume that your area doesn’t have a job in your field but you might be surprised what you find.
OCONUS rules and regulations
If you are a military family who gets stationed overseas, you add even more challenges to military spouse employment. For one thing, due to SOFA laws (Status of Forces Agreement,) you might not even be able to keep up with your home business. This can mean giving up a business you have poured your life into for the last few years.
It can be easy to tell a military spouse in this position to just don’t worry about their career while they are overseas and to enjoy everything in the country they are stationed in, but it isn’t that simple. For some, taking a three or four year break in their career can be devastating. For others, the idea of not working at all, just isn’t going to work for them and their career goals.
So what can you do?
Be aware of the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) laws in your country. Make sure to abide by them but also see if you can work with your military installation on some of the rules they might have for home based businesses. Never assume that what is allowed in Germany would be allowed in South Korea as each country has their own rules and regulations about what you can do.
You can also take your time overseas to go back to school or to work on a degree that will help you more easily find a job when you move back to the states. There are options for going to school online while you are overseas and even taking classes at your duty station.
For some spouses, staying back home might be an option and while it isn’t ideal for family life, it might be the best choice to make for their career path.
Volunteering can also be an option. You might have trouble being able to work in another country, but you might be able to volunteer. Then you can add that experience to your resume which can help you in the future.
Some careers require gaining a license to be able to work in that field. For a lot of people, this happens once in a career lifetime. For the military spouse, this can become a big headache, especially if different states have completely different laws about what you need to do to get your license in each state.
So what can you do?
When it comes to transferring licenses, this can apply to a wide range of careers.
Teachers need to have a state license. The laws vary from state to state, however some states will offer a provisional license if you do have a license from another state. The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) can help with the teacher certification reciprocity process. In addition, the Department of Defence schools accept teaching license from any state or territory.
Nurses also need to have a state license. As of January of 2018, 29 states are apart of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact which allows you to work as a nurse in your state or any other state in the Compact.
In addition to teaching and nursing, other careers also require licenses. These are attorneys, child care workers, cosmetologists, massage therapists, paralegals, real estate agents, social workers, as well as others in the medical field.
If you do practice in any of these careers, make sure you are aware of what you need to do as well as any updated information about legislation in your state. Being aware of what is required, staying organized, and making sure you are prepared will go along way in helping your with your licensing requirements.
The Department of Defense State Liaison Office (DSLO) as well as their website, USA4MilitaryFamilies has been setup to help educate state policy makers on the unintended barriers that have been created by policies as well as other issues that are important to service members as well as their families.
Hectic military lifestyle
Being married to someone in the military means living a different type of lifestyle. For one thing, your spouse is not always home. And when they are gone, they can be gone for months and sometimes over a year at a time. Beyond moving, the military life brings a lot of frustrations to the military spouse working on their career.
If the military spouse has children, childcare is really important, and not being near family can also bring up challenges. If the spouse works a lot of hours and their spouse is deployed, their career can suffer trying to balance everything alone.
The unknowns of military life can be frustrating too. If you are not sure when you are going to move, it can be difficult to tell your employer what is going on or when to start looking for a new job. Plans can change and you could apply and find a good job at your new duty station only to find out that your spouse’s orders get changed to a different duty station, 1,000 miles away.
So what can you do?
One solution to this is to be aware of the different childcare options in your location. The Child Development Centers on post might offer what you are looking for as well as FCC providers or other daycare options.
In some cases, working towards a portable career is the answer for a military spouse who wants a career while her spouse is serving in the military. There are plenty of areas to go into if this is something a spouse wants to do and can start with going back to school for an education. Using MYCAA, a military spouse can get a degree or a certificate which can help them in a portable career.
While these struggles can cause some spouses to decide to wait on their education and careers until their spouse retires, that doesn’t have to always be the case. There are ways to move forward and to be able to achieve your dreams, even within the military lifestyle. Look for new ways to doing things in your career field and be open to something you might not have thought about doing in the past.