In 2010, when I married my airman on a random weekend with a hastily made supermarket bouquet in a Texas courthouse, I had not even heard the words “military spouse employment programs.”
In fact, I wasn’t even sure why I would need a military spouse employment program. I wasn’t aware of what I was about to encounter when my new life and my career path collided. But collide they did – and I soon found myself no longer evaluating career opportunities on merit, my skillset, or what sounded like fun.
I was evaluating every employment opportunity on the question, “Can I make this job work?”
Looking back, that makes my heart hurt a little.
I know so many spouses that have done the same soul-searching when forcing jobs to fit. I was fortunate to eventually find a rewarding career after many challenging decisions and a double dose of hard work.
Twelve years later, I see not limitations, but possibilities for military spouses seeking meaningful career opportunities. Military spouses, I am here to tell you that the time is now to jump-start your professional career.
Are you ready? Here are 3 ways to do it.
Take Advantage of Returnship and Internship Programs for Military Spouses
Returnships are designed for those returning to work. As I look at employer trends in the latter half of the year, I see many companies committing to returnships and internships for professionals and new grads who put their careers on hold in 2020. These programs provide a professional boost to anyone who took some time off from work and has a gap on their resume, or to those who are looking to pivot into a new industry.
You can visit an employer’s career webpage to see if they have this type of program available. If you search their site and can’t find anything specific to returnships, try connecting with a recruiter for that organization on LinkedIn and asking about return-to-work options.
Internships and fellowships can also be used to jump back in, but there’s usually also a component of new work experience with these programs. For this reason, fellowships are perfect for career-pivoters. Career-pivoters are new to their field. They are also those who want to explore the ins and outs of life at a particular company before accepting a full-time job offer.
To find internship programs, check with your educational institution. Or if you live in one of eight service locations, apply for the Military Spouse Fellowship Program at Hiring Our Heroes. This unique program is a paid, six-week experience on the job with one of the program’s host companies. In 2021, this experience led to a full-time job offer for 92% of participants.
Use the New Remote Work Landscape to Upskill and Reskill into Portable Career
There is an explosion of remote and hybrid work opportunities now, rendering your next PCS a small inconvenience instead of a career-stopper.
The demand for remote workers is especially high in the tech space. These jobs are very competitive, so to have a leg up, consider adding some new skills to your repertoire. Thankfully, as military spouses, we have access to a variety of educational benefits and support organizations to do this at no cost.
If you are eyeing jobs in fields like UX/UI design, project management, IT support, digital marketing, or data analytics, you may want to check out the Career Forward program at Hiring Our Heroes. This learner-to-earner program can take you from career dreams to job offers with the help of our staff.
If you love data management or have already begun to learn about careers in the rapidly growing customer relationship management (CRM) software industry, take a look at the Hiring Our Heroes’ Salesforce Fellowship Program.
Military spouses are eligible for free training to learn Salesforce through Salesforce Military. After earning the Salesforce administrator certification, you can receive hands-on work experience using your new Salesforce skills with a fellowship at one of 55 host companies located nationwide. The program currently has a 95% job offer rate.
Leverage Your Network
One glaringly obvious issue that has always made military spouse career progression difficult is the lack of professional connections when we arrive to a new area and the inability to maintain a network as we move around.
The importance of networking is not waning and, with digital tools and groups, professional networking is easier than ever.
Invest time in LinkedIn – it’s not just about your profile! Once you have most of your profile filled out, connect with people who work at companies you are interested in, who are experienced in your industry, or who have a common interest with you. Take a few minutes each day to comment on their posts and post your own job search updates to your network.
While you’re leveraging your network, lean on your fellow military spouses.
The Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network has a presence virtually and at 55 locations around the world. MSPN provides online career development resources and virtual networking platforms to help military spouses build their professional network before they arrive at a new military installation.
In case you haven’t heard it lately, your professional goals are important. You have so much to offer the business community as a talented, adaptable, and knowledgeable military spouse. There’s never been a better time to demonstrate your value as an employee. I hope you’ll take the first step toward achieving professional success according to your own definition.
And if you need additional support, there’s much more to discover at Hiring Our Heroes including webinars, virtual hiring fairs, Amplify career intensives, and Career Connectors to help you navigate it all.
Good luck – you’ve got this!
Danielle Lankford is the San Antonio & Dallas/Fort Worth Program Manager for the Military Spouse Fellowship Program at Hiring Our Heroes. Hiring Our Heroes is an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. You can connect with Danielle on LinkedIn.