“So, I see from your resume that you’ve moved around quite a bit…”
Every military spouse has heard a variation of that phrase during a job interview. That’s the moment where you freeze and consider the common conundrum – to tell, or not to tell?
During my time as a military spouse I have met so many career-minded military spouses, and tend to hear two viewpoints on this topic: 1) DON’T EVER TELL, or 2) share your military journey with your potential new employer.
1) DON’T EVER TELL
Many of my military sisters and brothers have decided that they WILL NEVER proactively share that they are a military spouse during a job interview, or even for the short-term after employment.
Perhaps you have been burned first-hand by revealing this truth, or witnessed this experience in your community. So instead of explaining that your geographical relocations are due to military PCSing, you instead speak in vaguer terms like, “We move around for my wife’s job,” or, “My husband got a promotion,” and then cross your fingers under the table that they don’t ask any specific follow-up questions.
Because up to this point, you haven’t really lied, right? Every day your spouse spends in the military is a day slightly closer to a higher rank and promotion than yesterday!
Many take this approach because there is a risk that an employer will not hire a military spouse in fear that regardless of how qualified, valuable, and outstanding the candidate is, they won’t be able to stay with the organization to “break-even” on their investment.
While it is illegal for organizations to refuse employment based on race, disability, sex, or veteran status, the reality is that we as military spouses are not a legally protected employment class at this point – and perhaps never will be.
However, the truth is that regardless of the candidate, employers ALWAYS take a risk in offering a position. Trends show that all millennials tend to stay with organizations for much shorter periods of time than previous generations, making 1 to 2 years the “norm” in some industries.
As a hiring manager, I have on various occasions been burned by an employee who was hired, and shortly there-after either voluntary left the organization for a more attractive position or didn’t perform to the role’s standard and was terminated—and none of them were military spouses!
2) SHARE YOUR MILITARY JOURNEY
While you might be apprehensive to disclose that you are a military spouse during the interview process, I have personally always subscribed to the thought that military spouses can – and will be – a unique and invaluable asset to an organization. It all comes down to how you proactively message and market that value.
You are adaptable
Organizations today operate in an ever-changing, global marketplace. It is critical that all employees be agile, dynamic, and adaptable to change. If there is any subset of the American population who is adaptable to change, it is military spouses!
With every PCS, unexpected training, or deployment, you are constantly having to adapt to the circumstances and conditions around you. Additionally, you are usually the cornerstone that shoulders the weight of that change, and bravely leads your family through that turbulent time. These experiences – while difficult – provide you with a wealth of change management experience that is very appealing to organizations.
You are resilient and independent
With adaptability also comes a distinct ability to be resilient and independent. You, as most military spouses, have probably been ripped away from your family and friends, and had to start over. Maybe you even had to put down in roots in a state or country that is totally foreign, and sometimes undesirable. But guess what – you lived to tell the tale!
All organizations go through ups and downs, and hiring managers desire candidates who can persevere through those hard times while maintaining positive morale and achieving business results.
Additionally, living apart from your family network, you had to “figure things out” without help, which is a luxury that so many others have. Again, you are uniquely qualified to operate in even the most unpredictable and challenging environments, without much supervision or support.
You are engaged
The success of an organization rests on the engagement of its employees, and one important component of that is the desire to be there. If you are reading this, and have faced the challenge of finding a job as a military spouse, something tells me that you are going to be very grateful to have a professional job, financially contribute to your family, and stimulate your brain every day.
For that reason, I have observed that military spouses are some of the most engaged and excited employees on the market.
You represent diversity
Diversity and inclusion is a very important cultural component of an organization’s ability to attract, engage, and retain good talent. While it might not seem like it, many organizations actively seek to hire military spouses and veterans as a means to contribute to said diversity.
Additionally, organizations often look to drive engagement and corporate responsibility via volunteerism and community outreach. As a military spouse, I have actually had the opportunity to drive initiatives within the workplace that support military causes, like Christmas cards for deployed troops, the Marine Corps Toys for Tots, and Veteran’s Day activities. Thus, your diversity not only drives business results, but also contributes to the organizations’ community engagement.
It’s your truth to share
Ultimately, as a military spouse, I know how challenging it can be to go on interview after interview, and know that this process may just be repeated in 2 years when you PCS again. So at the end of the day your “truth” is yours to guard or share with potential employers.
But if you – like me — choose the latter, hopefully with this guidance you can feel confident about “how” to position the message and articulate what a remarkable asset you ARE! And once that happens, they might even want to keep you in a remote capacity when it’s time to PCS, but that’s a conversation for another day….