Photo: MSJDN member Josie Beets at the networking luncheon with her husband, Captain Sean Zehtab, and Lt. General Dana Chipman, past Judge Advocate General of the Army.
“What brings you to the area?” “Why did you leave your last job?” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Professional military spouses dread these interview questions even more than the average job-seeker. While many employers view military spouses as an asset, other are reluctant to hire a spouse for various reasons, often based in misunderstanding. Because of these biases and other barriers to a meaningful career, including frequent moves, relicensing requirements, and limited job opportunities in some areas, a staggering 90% of female spouses are underemployed! The 2013 Military Spouse Employment Survey also found that military spouses earn 38% less than their civilian counterparts and are 30% more likely to be unemployed entirely.
So what you can you do as a career-minded military spouse to overcome these obstacles? The first thing might sound familiar – have a plan of attack! In which field do you want to work? What kind of company do you want to work for? Do you want to work for yourself? Who do you know in your preferred field of employment? What skills do you have or need to begin and advance in that field? Spend some time mapping out your goals so that you can identify and take advantage of opportunities when they come your way. The opportunity may not always be your dream job, but it may be the chance to gain a critical skill or connection leading to that dream job.
The second important step is to network. This is where military spouses have an advantage! Each move is an opportunity to expand your network. Connect with others in your local community and the military community to exponentially increase your contacts.
On October 17, 2014, the Military Spouse JD Network will host the second annual Making the Right Moves, a career development conference for military spouses with opportunities to work on both of those critical actions. The focus of the event in San Diego, organized with platinum sponsorship from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is building and implementing a career plan to conquer the unique challenges of the military lifestyle. A networking luncheon will celebrate the service of military spouses while providing a forum for connecting with the local business, legal, and military communities.
The agenda includes input from experts on making an opening pitch, building a career plan, supporting the local community while building your resume, and more. Professional recruiters and career planning advisors will share their insight on how military spouses should present their background and skills. Community and non-profit leaders will discuss strategic volunteering to strengthen your experience. Political experts will explore Homefront Rising, a joint initiative of MSJDN and In Gear Career encouraging military spouses to engage in the political process and run for office. Free resume review and professional headshots will also be available. While tailored for MSJDN’s membership, the insight is valuable for any career-minded spouses.
Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit Justice for Military Families, a program of the Military Spouse JD Foundation. Aimed at connecting military families with free (or “pro bono”) legal help in times of need, JMF fills a void that no other organization meets. The project isn’t just good for the military community – it’s good for MSJDN’s members as well. Only 34 percent of MSJDN’s 900+ members are currently working in a job requiring a law license. Justice for Military Families allows them to keep their legal skills sharp while serving their community.
As a professional military spouse, it’s easy to be discouraged by the unemployment numbers and the barriers to maintaining a career on top of separations, deployments, and the unique challenges of the military lifestyle. But it’s important to remember that progress is being made. Not too long ago spouses were expected to stay home. Now groups like MSJDN are successfully removing licensing barriers to employment for military spouses in multiple states. Events like Making the Right Moves offer the opportunity celebrate and connect with your fellow military spouses, while gaining the knowledge and connections you need to succeed. You don’t want to miss this full day of professional development tailored specifically for military spouses!
For more information and to register for Making the Right Moves 2014, please visit www.msjdn.org/events