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Military spouse unemployment at 26 percent

WASHINGTON — Think a 12 percent unemployment rate for recently separated veterans is bad? Officials from the Pentagon’s office of Military and Community Family Policy reminded lawmakers during a Capitol Hill event today that the unemployment rate among military spouses currently sits at 26 percent.

That’s not shocking to military families. Frequent duty moves and inconsistent state credentialing rules create constant headaches for military spouses looking for jobs.

Last month, the National Military Spouse Network held an employment summit geared toward addressing those challenges. While the White House and Congress have focused on veterans and military spouse hiring in recent months, most of the attention of those efforts usually falls on the veterans’ side, even though the spouse can be just as critical to a military family’s financial situation.

Much of the job advice at the event mirrored tips in Stars and Stripes’ Get Hired guide, but here are a few pieces of spouse-specific advice from career counselors there:

** Talk about those military moves: Sure, those long gaps between jobs stick out on a resume, said Kathleen Smith, chief marketing officer for ClearedJobs.Net. But if they’re there, you have to explain them.

Smith said even employers unfamiliar with the military understand the sacrifices that troops and their families make. Be honest about why you had to cut your career short.

** Document any volunteer work: Many military spouses fill their time with volunteer work, either for charitable groups or family support organizations. But simply listing those casually on a resume isn’t enough, according to Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of iRelaunch.

Military spouses need to explain in detail what they’ve accomplished in that work, not just leave it to the interviewer’s imagination. Cohen said the key is to translate that volunteer experience into business terms wherever possible.

Publicity for an event? That’s a marketing campaign. Worked with new members? Say how many, and what personnel skills you developed. Spent a lot of time volunteering? List those hours and responsibilities.

And don’t forget to get references from those organizations just like you would for a paid position.

** Play to your strengths: Smith said the No. 1 request she hears from employers looking for jobs around big bases is familiarity with military culture. That means someone who can understand jargon and acronyms and military ranks, and can explain that quickly to civilians.

That’s not something that always shows up on a resume, but it should for military spouses, she said.

 

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