Remember that stay-at-home mom business? It ends. My first born is heading off to college and my second will be a junior in the fall. My servicemember is looking at PCS orders again. We will move this summer. I, like many other military spouses, will be unemployed at our next duty station.
Every time I go to a symposium, conference or lecture I learn something new. I have been a military brat and spouse for over 40 years now, and I am still learning everyday something new about the military world.
I am a military spouse that takes pride in educating herself on any and all information I can get my hands on. When I sat on the 2010-2011 Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Currently Serving Spouses Council, I had the unique opportunity to meet and learn so much about many of the other services and their military families’ greatest struggles and greatest accomplishments. I also learned some shocking details about the unemployment rate among military spouses. Because I chose to be a “stay-at-home mom,” I had no idea how difficult it was for the military spouses who were trying to get a job. I was almost embarrassed.
For the next two years I made a conscience effort to learn and read everything I could find about unemployment in the military spouse community. That included attending the last two MOAA “Keeping a Career on the Move” Military Spouse Symposiums, an event periodically held around the country, in Norfolk in 2011 and San Diego in 2012.
Though I had to travel to both, it was no problem. When you are military you know someone in almost every town, right? Too easy. And being an extrovert I wanted it to also be a party. What better way than to recruit your best spouse friends? I sold it as a “girl’s weekend away” where you get to learn something new. Who doesn’t love that? (Okay, my teenagers wouldn’t, but they were not my target).
So, you ask, what could I possibly learn from attending the same MOAA spouse career conference two years in a row? The answer is “plenty.” Here are the top five things:
I learned my top “dependable strength” is recruiting. During the conference we did an exercise that helped us learn what our greatest strengths are. I learned I can recruit! At first I disagreed with the feedback from my group that day. Then my girlfriend said, “listen, I would have never come down to Norfolk on my own.” During the second conference we added “doer” and “honest” to that list of strengths. (I have to also admit that all four of us in the second workshop group cried. I have no idea why military spouses in groups start talking about their strengths and start to cry, but we do. I think we have a hard time admitting we are rockstars.)
I learned to sell the value of my dependable strengths to a potential employer during the span of an elevator ride.
I networked with so many other military spouses and heard their stories of frustration and struggle. I was able to take their stories and share with many others in my community.
I learned the value of keeping a resume updated while translating my volunteer work into resume material. I am in the process of seriously updating my resume and have contacted MOAA to critique it in the near future.
I learned the value of keeping my Facebook page clean for the eyes of potential employers.
Editor’s note: Want to check out the MOAA spouse symposium for yourself? The 2013 conference will be on Feb. 8 at the University of Washington Tacoma campus. Join us to learn about crafting your 30-second commercial, get a professional headshot that you can share on LinkedIn to boost your profile, and land some great gifts from Stella & Dot – plus lots more! All military spouse, affiliated with any service, rank or status – reserve, National Guard, active duty or veteran – are welcome to attend. Servicemembers and veterans are also invited. Visit www.moaa.org/spousesymposium to register for this free event. Watch highlights from last year here.
Sheila Stevens is the Commanding Officer’s Spouse of Patrol Squadron 30 located in Jacksonville. She has been married 19 years and had been a Navy spouse and daughter for over 40 years, so home is where the Navy sends her. In her spare time she enjoys volunteering and working with non-profit organizations that support military families.