What Happened At #NMSNSummit16 Made Me a Better Person


I had the pleasure of attending the National Military Spouse Network’s Summit, outside of Washington, DC. You never know what you’re going to get out of one of these conferences.img_0826

It seems as if Military Spouse conferences are a dime a dozen these days. With everyone talking about hiring and networking, National Military Spouse Network (NMSN) is trying to bring something different to the table, and they might just be hitting the mark.

With an environment that encourages open conversation with real speakers, it’s hard to find something exactly like it out there.

The NMSN team has put together a stellar line-up of speakers who don’t just speak at you, but get the attendees involved in the discussion in such a way that you can’t help but walk away from it with at least a few things that will help you in your path.

Not only are those that are speaking to you experts in their field, but they are actual Military spouses who have been successful in their chosen fields and have accomplished exactly what they are talking about. This is a particularly important piece of this conference’s puzzle. Real-world, relatable advice from actual Military spouses who have been there.


The first day of the conference was all about Entrepreneurship and preparing spouses for going into business for themselves. Trish Alegre-Smith, a Veteran and Military Spouse, spoke to us all about branding your business and image through photography.

Trish is the owner of So Your Life Photography, offering personal and commercial photography services in Germany, where her spouse is stationed. She encouraged spouses in the room to put themselves out there and learn how to do a good majority of their photography themselves!

img_0776Trish then encouraged us to practice in the room and gave us all time to practice some the tips she suggested. This is the type of thing other conferences are sometimes lacking. It is one thing to give suggestions, advice and tips, it’s an entirely other thing to give time and a safe space to put those tips in action and then reflect upon them in the group.

Instant feedback is a true key to making sure there is continued follow through. Confidence is given and a sense of community is built when you encourage people to navigate new waters together.

We heard from non-profit experts, HR professionals, career counselors and military spouses who have worked their way up in corporate fields of work. Attendees were exposed to things like Informational Interviews and how to take the next step, negotiate a salary, and answer tough questions.

Empowering those in attendance to know their worth and to answer questions was one of the biggest takeaways.

While spouses know that they aren’t required to tell employers about some of the issues surrounding their military status, (like how long, or short, they will be here for), employers can be quite skilled at taking the conversation there in an organic way.

Educating spouses on how to frame the conversation about their gaps in employment and their volunteer expertise is an important part of the hiring education discussion.


During the second day, attendees were treated to encouragement from Bonnie Carroll, founder and President of TAPS.

Susie Schwartz, President of Military Spouse Programs at Victory Media continued the day of empowering with an emotionally charged testimony about her life as military spouse and encouraged us that we can be empowered as well.

One particular section of the second day that really spoke to me was an excellent discussion about Communication Styles from NMSN Expert, Carol Bowser, President of Conflict Management Strategies Inc. Carol is an entrepreneur and an expert in managing workplace conflict. (And WE got to interview with her!)

We have all heard about personality styles in the workplace, but I have never spent this much time discussing communication styles.

Not only was it eye-opening to think about working with individuals that are different than you, Bowser made a point of making sure you identify your own communication style and how you relate to others. Equipping spouses with a unique perspective to help them navigate the workplace environment that may or may not be new to them, is yet another piece of the puzzle that NMSN Career Summit provides it attendees.img_0769

There is truly something at this conference for everyone.

Even when a particular session wasn’t relevant to where I was in my path, it sparked an interest in me or made me think of someone that could really use that information. That is what this community is all about. We, as military spouses, are truly a unique community, all with different experiences and life goals that make us who we are.

But despite our ranks, branches, or career goals, we band together and lift each other up. That is the message of National Military Spouse Network. Here there is no branch, there is no rank, and it isn’t about our serving spouse.

If you get the opportunity to attend this summit next year, take it. You won’t be sorry.

If you missed this year, you can follow along with all the tweets from the Summit, using #NMSNSummit16.

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