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Why MilSpouse Employment Doesn’t Worry Me

You might be surprised that I’m not totally discouraged by this latest study on military spouse employment from the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). Discouraged? Yes. Totally discouraged? No.

The results indicate that “90 percent of female spouses reported being underemployed or overqualified for the positions they hold” according to Amy’s Military.com story.

I doubt many military spouses were surprised by those results. Okay, 90 percent is a bit higher than I would have predicted, but most of us know we and others are underemployed or can’t find jobs at all in our career fields at many military locations. We also make less money and are unemployed at a higher rate than civilians. We knew that before this study conducted by researchers with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families confirmed the facts.

Why am I not totally discouraged? I guess it’s because I take the long view.

I can still vividly remember the days when military spouses were told not to work, by their husband’s bosses no less (or their wives) … and yes it was all husbands back then.

I remember when job listings actually said, “only locals need apply” as a way to avoid even interviewing military spouses.

The fact of the matter is I have seen progress, albeit awfully slow progress.

This new report from MOAA is important. It raises the issue, raises the visibility of this issue, all backed up by research, not just us spouses saying it is so.

I also know about the many, many programs that have been created to address this issue. Many spouses still don’t know about or access these programs so we can’t fully attest to their effectiveness or lack of effectiveness… yet.

  • The Department of Defense partnered with Military.com and Monster.com to create online resources where military spouses can look for job openings and apply online, with the services free to military spouses.
  • In addition to their work on the military spouse licensure issue, MOAA itself just completed their eighth Military Spouse Symposium. Open to all ranks and all components, this free event builds the bridge needed for spouses to re-enter school or the work place (Their next symposium is in Washington, DC March 26)
  • The Navy and Marines created the Adecco Career Accelerator, www.Adecco.com.
  • The Air Force pioneered the Virtual Assistant Training program, which expanded to all services, www.Staffcentrix.com.
  • The Army partnered with corporations to promote the value of Army spouses for traditional, telework, and virtual positions. That successful program expanded into the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), with a growing number of Fortune 500 companies and other partners.
  • Forty states and the District of Columbia offer some level of unemployment benefits to military spouses who have to leave jobs because of a military move, so check that out. In some states, workforce training dollars are available for spouse education and training. Ask!

The over 100 MSEP companies have committed to hiring military spouses. That is a commitment we never saw in the past. Heck, you didn’t dare mention that you were a military spouse in an interview in the past. (As if your resume locations didn’t give you away.)

According to the MSEP Facebook page,  as of February 12 there are over 245,000 Active Jobs listed. Their banner proclaims the celebration of 50,000 hires.  Okay, that is just a drop in the bucket when we are talking over one million military spouses, but it is a start, a program that did not exist in the past.

I’m also aware of many programs created by military spouses to address key employment issues. (Again the long view…my coauthor Holly Scherer and I share a full chapter in our book Military Spouse Journey on so many important programs and benefits we all enjoy as military spouses and families because a military spouse or group of spouses stepped up to advocate for needed change even when everyone said it couldn’t be done. We know it works.)

In Gear Career is a professional networking group created by military spouse and Veteran Haley Uthlaut, with 20 active chapters and events around the military. They also created a Federal Employment Toolkit for Military Spouses.

Blue Star Families developed a Military Spouse Resume Toolkit that explains how to translate volunteer work and military life experiences into effective resume points.

Military Spouse JD Network is a group of military spouse attorneys who advocate for licensing accommodations for military spouses, including bar membership without additional examination. Lawyers, like many professionals, are required to relicense when moving from state to state, a process that can take a year or longer and cost $4,000 to $5,000.

Because of MSJDN efforts, in September 2013, South Dakota became the sixth state to adopt a military spouse licensing rule, joining Arizona, Idaho, Texas, North Carolina and Illinois. Several other jurisdictions are currently considering similar licensing accommodations for military spouse attorneys.

Early in February, MSJDN and In Gear Career teamed up to present “Homefront Rising,” a day of workshops to help military spouses interested in running for congress or at least presenting key issues to congress. Over fifty spouses attended to listen to presenters like US Army veteran and double amputee Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), military spouse and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R), USMC veteran and Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va), military brat and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-Mass), and others.

I could go on and on about important programs working to solve our military spouse employment/business issues: Military Spouse CEO Experience, Military Spouse Corporate Career Network, National Military Family Association and National Military Family Network.

See why am I not discouraged by this latest report? I have faith in military spouses and the possibilities for needed change!

Kathie Hightower is a longtime military spouse. With her cohort Holly Scherer she’s presented Follow Your Dreams While You Follow the Military™ workshops for military spouses worldwide. Coauthor of Military Spouse Journey: Discover the Possibilities and Live Your Dreams, and 1001 Things to Love About Military Life, along with many columns and articles. Find more about Military Spouse Journey on Facebook here.

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