5 Job Search Tips for Military Spouses
In a recent episode of Motivation Monday with RecruitMilitary LIVE on LinkedIn, we sat down with the co-lead of Fort Drum's Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network, Meredith Taylor, to discuss tips and tricks for military spouses on the hunt for their dream job.
Meet the Speakers:
Renee Garrett-Stores is a RecruitMilitary DoD Program Manager, and previously worked as a TAP career counselor for Fort Drum.
Veronica Sarantes is also a RecruitMilitary DoD Program Manager and has worked as a Transition Manager and TAP Counselor at 15 military installations. As a military spouse herself, Sarantes understands the challenges military spouses face in their career.
Meredith Taylor is co-lead for the Fort Drum Hiring Our Heroes military spouse professional network and previously was with the army community service as a program activities coordinator before switching over to the Employment Readiness Program. Taylor is also a military spouse.
3 Career Challenges Faced by Military Spouses
Challenge #1: Frequent Moves
Sarantes and Taylor agree that a significant challenge for military spouses is the frequent relocation. Permanent change of station (PCS) moves can occur every three years or less and Sarantes noted how frequent relocation can pose problems specifically for spouses seeking leadership-level positions.
"When you're applying for managerial positions," said Sarantes, "sometimes it's hard to break that ceiling because employers understand that as a spouse you're eventually going to be relocating. And sometimes they don't want to go through that learning curve or give you enough time to really learn the position and become a great leader because they understand that you will be transitioning out soon."
Challenge #2: Employment & Wage Gap
Taylor pointed out that not only do military spouses have high unemployment rates, once they do secure employment, they face a significant wage gap. Military spouses make about 26% less than their civilian counterparts.
Challenge #3: Stigma
And of course there is the stigma that military spouse's don't *need *to work, so they won't make dedicated employees. "I've definitely had employers ask me, 'Well, do you need to work?' and yes, I do," said Taylor. "I want to work. I want to be out there. Definitely one of the biggest challenges is trying to get away from that stigma to the fact that we don't need to work."
5 Tips to Find Meaningful Employment
To overcome the challenges that can stand in the way of a healthy career, Sarantes and Taylor offered the following advice to military spouses:
Tip #1: Find a Career That Moves with You
The good news is that remote work is here to stay, which is something all military spouses can celebrate! This means obtaining a role you can keep through multiple military moves is no longer an unrealistic goal.
"Find a career field that is transferable. When I first became a military spouse, I was looking for positions that were more state-based or required state certifications. After transitioning to different locations I realized I needed to find something that was nationally accepted. So look for certifications that can be transferable from one duty station to the next," said Sarantes.
Tip #2: Use Your Network
Professional networking contributes to over 80% of today’s job placements, which means it should be a top priority for military spouses during their job search. Maximizing social media connections on websites like LinkedIn helps you connect to others in the community, including military spouses and veterans. Your network can introduce you to new job opportunities or resources to utilize. For advice on optimizing your LinkedIn account, head over to the September/October 2022 edition of RecruitMilitary’s Search & Employ magazine.
Networking goes beyond creating an aesthetically pleasing LinkedIn profile. You must also interact with your connections on LinkedIn. You can also network at local events and career fairs. You may want to attend a combination of in-person and virtual career fairs to see which is best for you, but they are the key to success in your job search.
Events like these connect you to fellow military spouses and veterans, and they connect you to hiring managers eager to employ talented military spouses. A great place to start is with RecruitMilitary’s list of virtual and in-person career fairs, where dozens of military-spouse friendly employers are eager to meet you!
Tip #3: Optimize Your Resume
Pretty resumes are a thing of the past. In a technology-driven era, formatting and keyword optimization of your resume are crucial. Formatting varies depending on whether you are searching for a Federal or Corporate job and how much relevant work experience you have.
Most importantly, tailor your resume to the job description of interest, ensuring you include as many keywords from the job listing as possible. Websites such as SkillSyncer will compare your resume to the job description and inform you of missing keywords to maximize your chances of passing the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) screening. Better yet, for the first year, SkillSyncer is free for the first year for veterans and military spouses.
Check out our blog about formatting your resume for Federal and corporate resumes and determine if a chronological, skills-based, or hybrid format is best for you.
Want actionable tips from subject-matter experts on how to make your resume stand out to employers? Join one of our live webinars! See the schedule and sign up here.
Tip #4: Obtain Certifications & Prepare to Upskill
Learning new skills (or upskilling) is a great way to become more "marketable" while exploring career options as a military spouse. Some industries require specific certifications, but all certifications are resume-boosters. Whether you have a degree in a particular field or not, job-specific certifications can be a great way to stand out to a hiring manager.
If you’re struggling to narrow down what you want to do, consider obtaining certifications to enhance your transferrable skills. For Sarantes, that was her Project Management Professional Certification (PMP), which she was able to acquire free of charge with the assistance of Syracuse University's Onward to Opportunity (O2O) program. O2O provides one free certification to all veterans and military spouses.
Search remote jobs requiring certification on RecruitMilitary's job board.
Tip #5: Utilize the Resources Available to You
All across the nation, there is a momentum to hire veterans and military spouses for internship and employment programs. More than ever, companies see the value in your transferrable skills and want to help you succeed in the civilian world.
Increase your chances of obtaining meaningful employment by making use of the resources available to you. For example, organizations like Veterati provide professional mentorship and support to veterans and military spouses for anything from resume assistance to networking advice and beyond. Another great resource is USO's Pathfinder Transition Program, which offers support to veterans and military spouses by developing personalized plans to help them succeed. And Military One Source provides employment support through resume optimization assistance and employment navigation.
While there are more resources available than ever, you must advocate for yourself and ensure you find the meaningful employment you want and deserve. Remember your worth, and don't discount skills obtained from volunteering, education, and experience.
The path to your dream career might sometimes be bumpy, but no one is more equipped to handle rough roads than military spouses. RecruitMilitary is here to help you in every step of your journey to finding meaningful employment.
Have you checked out any RecruitMilitary Live LinkedIn sessions? Join our hosts each week as they discuss various aspects of the job search experience for veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses.
By Brittany Tucker