Being married to someone who serves in the military often means frequent moves. One year, your spouse may be stationed in New Mexico, and the next, you may find yourself packing for a move to Oklahoma, Japan, Florida, or any number of destinations around the world. This brings many challenges: finding the best supermarket, making new friends, and often, the need to frequently be on the hunt for a new job.
That’s not necessarily an easy task—particularly if you are more interested in a career rather than a series of paying roles. The unemployment rate among military spouses is higher than the national unemployment rate, according to a survey from FlexJobs and Blue Star Families. The survey also found that nearly all respondents—91%—reported that being a military spouse harmed their career.
Still, it’s not all bad news for military spouses on the hunt for employment. There are ample resources specifically available to aid your job search, including a network of military spouses who truly understand what it’s like to be in this position.
Having many different roles can be a positive when you’re job hunting.
Speaking to The Balance Careers, Charlene Wilde, assistant secretary at The American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA) and an active-duty military spouse, points out, “Every new position provides a unique set of experiences that most civilians don’t have access to because they have never had to relocate multiple times.”
Here are tips for job searching as a military spouse, along with details on helpful resources.
Network In-Person and Online
Once you are unpacked and have begun to settle in, start networking. Thanks to social media, it’s easy to know if you already know people in your new location.
“When moving to a new city or town, the first thing I do is get online and see if I know people there already,” says Nadia Anac, JD, a realtor and military spouse for nearly 16 years. As well as searching for local friends, let your connections know you’ve moved—that way, they can introduce you to people they know in your new location.
Next, look for local groups, suggests Anac, such as the local Chamber of Commerce or organizations geared toward military spouses. “I go to their events, start meeting people, ask to volunteer, and start making connections,” she says.
“There are a plethora of networking groups for career-minded military spouses,” says Wilde. “They’re a good source for advice and answers to common questions.”
Military Spouse Networking Groups
Here are some organizations specifically geared toward military spouses:
- National Military Spouse Network
- Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network
- USO Military Spouse Networking Events and USO Coffee Connections
You can also look for Facebook groups, such as the Career Military Spouses group, for tips and advice, according to Wilde. Take advantage of LinkedIn, as well, which offers free premium subscriptions to military spouses, and access to a community support network.
Since military spouses have firsthand experience with the challenges of job searching as a military spouse, they’re very receptive to meeting for informational interviews.
Pursue Flexible Work—And Think Creatively About Options
For military spouses, it’s often a good idea to embrace trying new industries. “Do not get hyper-focused on just one skill set or industry—there may not be job opportunities in that field at every duty station,” says Wilde.
Another option is to embrace the roles that are always in demand, in every location. That’s what Anac did. “After being frustrated time and time again by my lack of career options whenever I moved, I decided to go into real estate and build a client base that was also constantly moving,” she says.
Think about options beyond full-time work for employment, recommends Alex Hopkin, founder and CEO of Simply Paraplanner and a military spouse for 10 years, who has lived in Japan, Oklahoma, and Hawaii. She struggled to find full-time work as a financial planner. “Once I stopped applying to jobs and started pitching myself as a 1099 consultant in the field, I started getting so many offers,” Hopkin says.
Look for Remote Work Options
People who move frequently can benefit from working remotely. “Companies such as InstantTeams, Wise Advise, and Assist Team are not only for military spouses seeking remote employment, but were founded and are run by military spouses who saw the need for employment opportunities for spouses,” says Anac. There are military-friendly companies that offer work-from-home jobs for veterans, military spouses, and reservists.
If you are currently employed, see if your company will allow you to work remotely.
Remote work was once uncommon, but nowadays—thanks to easy access to video meetings and always-on chat programs—it’s far more typical. FlexJobs and Global Workforce Analytics report that the number of people telecommuting increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017. Meanwhile, Buffer’s State of Remote Report 2020 survey notes that 30% of respondents work for fully remote companies, while 43% had a mix of full-time and remote employees.
While it may not be an option for you, it’s worth inquiring about. It can’t hurt to ask your boss if you can work from home.
Take Advantage of Job Search Resources for Military Families
LinkedIn is not the only job search-focused company offering discounts and opportunities tailored to military spouses. Here are some other opportunities to check out:
- MSEP: Through the Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), you can find employers who have specifically agreed to recruit and hire military spouses.
- Military Spouse Corporate Career Network: MSCCN is a nonprofit that provides help with employment training, job placement, and more.
Your spouse’s branch of the military may have career service resources available as well.
Craft Your Resume to Aid Your Search
While job hopping used to have a real stigma, that’s less true these days. So having a resume that’s composed of many jobs, each held for only one to two years, isn’t necessarily a problem.
If you do think it’s a concern, or work in an industry where long tenure at a role is more common, consider opting for a combination or functional resume instead of a chronological one. This will emphasize your skills and experience, rather than how much time you spent at each role.
Include any meaningful volunteer work, particularly in military-related roles, suggests Wilde, who lists her work as chair of the Spouses' Club Ways and Means on her resume. “Those organizational and marketing skills are valuable traits in any workforce; highlighting them on my resume and on job applications/in interviews opened a lot of doors for me,” she says.
Mention Your Military Connection Only If It’s Helpful
During interviews and throughout your job search, it may sometimes be helpful to mention your connection to the military. Some companies, after all, bill themselves as military-friendly employers and might be eager to recruit you.
You may find it helpful to mention your spouse’s work as background on why you have switched jobs frequently or had a varied career.
In most cases, there’s no need to share your marital status and connection with the military. Nor are you under any obligation to tell potential employers that you may only be available to work for a relatively short time span.
Once you get hired, you never know what will happen next. Your spouse may wind up serving longer in the location, or your company may be willing to allow you to work remotely. Keep your options open by not oversharing personal information.