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 two MOAA “Keeping a Career on the Move” Military Spouse Symposiums, an event periodically held around the country, in Norfolk and San Diego.
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.
Want to check out the MOAA spouse symposium for yourself? Join MOAA Spouse for a FREE Military Spouse Symposium “Keeping a Career on the Move” on Monday, March 23rd in Alexandria, Virginia. For more information and to register, visit: www.moaa.org/spousesymposium.
This article was originally published on SpouseBuzz in 2013.
Sheila Stevens is the Deputy Director of Programs for Blue Star Families, and is responsible for overseeing the operations and implementation of Books on Bases, Caregivers Empowering Caregivers, Blue Star Neighbors, Blue Star Arts, Blue Star Careers, Special Projects and Warehouse Management. Sheila is an experienced executive in military familiy affairs. Sheila grew up in a military family; her father is a retired Navy officer. Years of deployments and moves helped her transition from Navy daughter to Navy spouse. She is a strong leader with a history of success planning and executing military family events. She continues to work with non-profit organizations developing and managing programs for military members and their families, including veterans. Sheila is very passionate about military family readiness, especially during a time of war, constant deployments and defense budget cuts. Sheila and her husband, Captatin Mark Stevens, USN, are stationed in Washington DC area, with their son Zach a senior in high school. Their daughter, Maddie is a Midshipman at the US Naval Academy.