When I started my career in the military, my wife moved with me to my first duty station. She had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications and she was as driven as me to build a successful career. While I was adjusting to my first military role, she went to an employment seminar for military spouses. As she heard the facts about military spouse employment opportunities, she began to realize the sacrifices she would likely make as a military spouse when it came to her career.
There are many reasons why military spouses tend to face barriers when pursuing employment, such as
- frequent moves, often far from urban centers where jobs are more plentiful,
- professional licenses that need to be re-certified in each new place, and
- responsibility for the bulk of childcare when spouses are posted overseas.
As a result, military spouses are estimated to experience three times higher unemployment rates than their civilian peers. In others cases, spouses take positions for which they are over-qualified based on educational requirements. Over time, their career suffers as their job titles do not reflect a traditional promotion path. Many military households begin to take on debt as single-income households.
These challenges forge a person who is resilient and adaptable. Military spouses build a new life in each place, which speaks to tremendous problem-solving abilities. If employers understood the pressures on military spouses, these experiences could be valued rather than seen as “job hopping.”
Career Support Opportunities for Military Spouses
The good news is that many employers are becoming more aware of the untapped potential of military spouses.
Organizations such as the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network educate employers about the opportunities. They coach military spouses on how to reframe their experiences into solutions for employers. They ease transitions by helping military spouses to sit for professional certification exams for free.
Increasingly, employers such as Amazon are creating positions which cater to the military spouse life. For example, some massive Amazon fulfillment centers are close to military bases. The Amazon Flex program can fit a nomadic lifestyle, providing roles related to product delivery or virtual customer service.
It is critical that employers re-evaluate how they filter resumes so they don’t discount the careers of military spouses. Employers like LMI provide positions that fit the military lifestyle and value non-traditional and non-linear work histories.
Gratitude for Military Spouses
When I think back to my first year of marriage, I was nervous about my new career, but I had the support of my unit. My wife was equally excited, confident, and ready to take on challenges. She was looking forward to putting her hard-earned degree to work. Unfortunately, in her military spouse training, she was encouraged to look at jobs well below her qualifications. She was warned that many businesses would turn her away because they did not want an employee who would move in less than two years. The options that were presented to her did not fit her hopes and dreams.
Serving in the military is often about problem-solving in less-than-ideal circumstances. My wife persevered and invented her own path despite the challenges. She has embodied the military spirit as much as I did.
Many people remember to thank those in uniform, but they are less likely to recognize the people providing the support at home. Thank you to those spouses who sacrifice for their families and our country.
LMI currently employs 432 military veterans, a powerhouse of knowledge as we work with military services. Veterans and military spouses give LMI first-hand knowledge of the unique challenges their families face. Our employees continue to give back, by coaching at recruiting events and helping military spouses to translate their challenges into assets.
Bradbard, D.A., Maury, R., Armstrong, N.A. (2016, July). “The Force behind the Force: A Business Case for Leveraging Military Spouse Talent” (Employing Military Spouses, Paper No. 1). Syracuse, NY: Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University.