Military spouses offer advice on finding a career
WASHINGTON — Building a career is difficult even without changing addresses every two years. For constantly moving military spouses, it can be even tougher.
On Tuesday a panel of military wives shared their years of success and failures in the job market as part of the Military Officers Association of America’s annual symposium.
Among their tips for those just starting the job search:
Use military resources:
"All the services have worked very hard with spouse employment, to help them find jobs as they move from place to place," said Sheila Casey, wife of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey.
"For many spouses, work isn’t a choice. They’re hitting the pavement, looking for jobs."
Panelists said along with the military-sponsored employment programs, other military spouses and members of the base community can be an important resource, too.
They often know of job openings in the community, know people to meet about getting an interview and are aware of other opportunities not covered in the official listings.
Be flexible: "It’s sometimes challenging, but it is possible to have a career," said Gail Kramlich, wife of Lt. Gen. Richard Kramlich, Director of Marine Corps Staff.
"Each obstacle can be a springboard, can propel you down a path you didn’t know was there."
Kramlich said she has worked as a counselor for disabled patients, worked in physicians’ offices doing various jobs, and "other jobs I never would have tried if they hadn’t come my way."
She said even at overseas posts, spouses can find work that provides rewarding experiences and helps build their resumes.
Include volunteer work on resumes: "You can take some of those skills and find that you are qualified for a job … because of the work you did in service to others," said Paula Sumrall, wife of Maj. Gen. Michael Sumrall, Assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on National Guard Matters.
Sumrall, who now works as national volunteer coordinator for the Guard Bureau, said the administrative work, public relations lessons and organizational skills spouses can learn from volunteering can impress employers.
Use day care without guilt: "If you’re going to pursue a passion, something has to give at some point," said Ellen Roughead, wife of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughhead. "So if you can, get a housekeeper. Get a babysitter. And get rid of the guilt about it."
Roughead and the other panelists said many of the military spouses they talk to feel like they’re supposed to be stay-at-home parents, even when they have a job.
But plenty of civilian families find ways to balance work and home responsibilities without thinking their being selfish.
Don’t wait for military retirement: "Your time is now, not after a spouse retires," said Bev Fraser, wife of Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. William Fraser.
"Don’t identify your passions with your husband’s career."
Fraser said ignoring one’s desire to work outside the home will only build resentment later, and spouses who wait 20 years to start their careers may find their skills are no longer relevant to the job market.
Instead, she encouraged couples to talk about how to make both careers work without sacrificing time with the family.