Military spouses find hope at Camp Lejeune job fair
The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — For Jodie Kosnik, being a military spouse has its disadvantages. While she loves to follow her husband around the world as he moves with the Marine Corps, the opportunity to find a job at each new location isn’t always easy.
Kosnik has been actively searching for a job in Jacksonville for the past three months. Her husband is a Marine stationed at New River Air Station, and her struggles to find a job are common for most military towns.
“I have gone on a couple interviews, and with each place, especially with certain jobs I would go to, it was always the same looming question of ‘Why are you in Jacksonville?’ and when I would answer ‘I’m a military spouse,’ I could always feel the hesitation,” Kosnik said, adding that most employers she’s interviewed with follow with a series of questions about her husband’s career and how long they plan on staying in the area. “They want to know if I’m going to be here in three years, and I don’t even know where I’m going to be six months from now.”
That’s the main reason Kosnik went to the military spouse job fair at Camp Lejeune Thursday, because the employers present knew who they were hiring. Their first question to the potential employees wasn’t if they were a military spouse or how long they planned on being in the area, but rather, Kosnik said, they asked about her education, professional experience and life-long goals.
“It’s nice to go somewhere where they know I’m a spouse and they know that I could move or something could happen, and it won’t be a big deal,” she said.
Kosnik, who has a bachelor’s degree in business, said she was looking for a position in accounting, or as a receptionist or desk clerk. One particular position, as a teller with Credit Union, caught her eye immediately.
“I really want that job,” she said.
Another military spouse, Elizabeth Elteto, brought her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Adam Elteto, with her to the fair. Adam Elteto said that with his wife’s bachelor’s degree in international business, he wasn’t concerned about her landing a job, because her work ethic is there.
“It’s not that she doesn’t have the dedication, persistence or high work ethic (for the job),” Adam Elteto said. “It’s that she has to come with me wherever I go.”
Luckily for the Eltetos, Elizabeth is bilingual and the employers from a local community college were highly interested in having her teach Spanish for them, she said.
“All of these employers are very supportive of the military,” Elizabeth Elteto said. “I’ve found multiple opportunities already, many more than I expected.”
The opportunities available to Elizabeth Elteto were no accident; they’re the result of the efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, which partners with the Military Spouse Business Alliance, the Defense Department’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership and the first and second lady’s “Joining Forces” campaign to support military families.
“We don’t ask businesses to hire spouses because it’s the right thing to do, we ask them to do it because it’s good for business,” said Laura Dempsey, director of military spouse employment programs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “They’re incredible employees and all of our members at the chamber who we’ve talked to who have hired spouses want more (to work for them).”
Dempsey said military spouses volunteer at three times the national average, and are suffering from a 26 percent unemployment ratethat’s three times higher than the July 2012 national unemployment rate at 8.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Spouses have such different challenges, a lot of them have applied for jobs many times over, they’re good at that; so what they need help with is career planning,” Dempsey said.
Hiring our Heroes is having 400 career fairs this year, and 20 of them are specifically targeted toward military spouses and helping them plan a career.
Spouses who attend one of the fairs have the opportunity to attend networking workshops, get resume help, and learn how to turn their volunteer experience into a bullet point on a resume, Dempsey said.
Camp Lejeune’s fair on Thursday had about 30 employers ready to hire, and more than 350 military spouses looking for jobs.
“Spouses come with their own dreams and ambitions and they’re a great asset to a business,” Dempsey said. “They volunteer so much, they’re engaged, they’re self-starting, flexible and loyal if an employer will keep them. They can really be an incredible asset to a company who will take a chance on them.”
For information about upcoming job fairs on military bases throughout the country, visit hoh.greatjobs.net.