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Top 3 Things I Learned From the Career Forum

I am a lucky duck. Every now and then I get to hangout on behalf of Military.com with the smartest military spouses and military support experts from around the county. I hear their wisdom. I learn their secrets. I walk away with great new ideas and tools. And while they are the ones expecting me to bring the ideas, I’m pretty sure I’m getting the better end of the bargain.

Which is why the MOAA Spouse Career Symposium that I attended last week in Tacoma, Wa. was such a success. I got to spend six straight hours with the brightest bulbs in the MilSpouse career box, learning how we spouses can make our careers a success despite moves, deployments, kids and the inevitable career gaps.  And while Id did get to share a little bit about that at the forum myself, here’s what I learned about military spouse employment from the others there.

Smart employers love military spouses. Why? Because we’re the most adaptable and hard working folks out there, according to Ann Marie Hawryluk, the military relations manager for the Amazon.com North American fulfillment centers. It’s never a surprise to me to hear that — after all, I know us. I know how strong we are. But it is always refreshing when it is acknowledged by those who actually do the hiring. The other employers who spoke with on a panel with her, including Mick James from Starbucks, nodded in agreement.

Our career woes matter for a reason. Over dinner before the event I passed Karen Golden, a lobbyist MOAA, a question I see a lot here in the SpouseBuzz comment section: Why should the government care about spouse careers? Shouldn’t they be spending money on more important things?

Her answer? It’s a retention issue. She said statistics show that the overall happiness of the spouse — and that includes happiness about their career — has a huge impact on whether or not a servicemember stays around. And while, yes, we’re in a draw-down season, the military still needs to worry about retaining members they’ve put time and money into training. If spouses know that they can have their own career in conjunction with service, they’re more likely to stay military, she said.

We have no plans to settle for second best — and that’s a good thing. What I saw at the spouse symposium was a room full of Washington State-based military spouses with big dreams and big plans — and no intention of backing down. By even taking the time to come to a career symposium on a typical dreary Washington day they made it clear that having a career and fulfilling their own dreams is just as important as supporting their spouses in theirs. And they are just like a lot of spouses I know through my work here on SpouseBuzz. No, making a career work with a life of constant moves isn’t easy. And sometimes it doesn’t look anything like you thought it would. But that tenacity is the thing that makes us successful at the careers we pursue and with the employers who give us a chance.

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the managing editor of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is an Associate Editor. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on NPR and in the New York Times. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.