My husband and I have been married for almost six years, but as a military wife it has felt like an eternity.
Leading up to our marriage, we'd established what some might call "ground rules" as it pertained to our careers. We were both in our mid-twenties, and at the start of our individual, budding careers. His as an Air Traffic Controller in the United States Navy, and mine as an accountant-turned-internal auditor in Corporate America. We both understood the importance of our unique career paths, but how they would converge with changes due to our military lifestyle was yet to be determined.
We dated exclusively (long distance) for exactly three years before I made the move from Michigan to Virginia after our engagement. I'd had the unique opportunity to work remote for my company in Michigan, with the expectation that I would return to Michigan once he was deployed. After uprooting myself and working remotely for a month, I quickly realized that was not what I wanted to do in the long run. So, I set out to find a new employer in Virginia, which came with its fair share of hiccups.
Within a month of my move, I walked proudly into a new company... met with new faces and new opportunities. A little over a year later, I was making yet another move to continue on the path of internal auditing. Somewhere between my first Corporate job and my move to Virginia, internal audit won over my heart (and mind), and I left the month-end close accounting mill for good.
My new gig afforded me the opportunity to help grow a team, develop new processes, and travel across the country - all of which were things I aspired to do with my career. Before long, we were married and well on our way to starting our little family. And that was the moment I realized that being a military spouse and a working spouse were not necessarily the easiest roles to comingle. After becoming a mom, my priorities shifted drastically and I knew that I had to make another career move to continue progressing my career and support of our growing family.
While it has been a wild rollercoaster of moves and emotions, I have managed to find a system that I hope is useful to you in your pursuit of a balanced life as a military spouse and/or working mom.
- Never stop investing in yourself and your career. I see it time and time again. Women become the primary caregiver and homemaker of the family, allowing their servicemember the opportunity to serve our country and provide a steady income. Before you know it, years have gone by... the kids are off to school, and you are left wondering what to do with all of this time you have. You may even wonder how to assimilate back into your field after being away as a stay-at-home-fill-in-the-blank. The key is to stay up-to-date on what's happening in your profession, even when you aren't working full-time. Read blogs, magazines, and attend professional trainings/workshops. Follow companies on LinkedIn and make it a priority to continue connecting with people while you're away from the workforce.
- Overcommunicate your needs with your current and/or new employer. If you are fortunate enough to maintain employment, kudos to you! Be sure to master the art of communicating with your employer, as you are your greatest advocate. Articulate your situation well, as well as your needs (current and future). Your situation as a military spouse may be unique to your employer, so it is important to approach the situation with grace. The same applies when you are job-seeking. Do not waste your (or a prospective employers) time if your lifestyle as a military spouse is not understood.
- Stay ready so you don't have to get ready. Keep your resume up-to-date, your LinkedIn account active and invest in a few timeless headshots. You never know when you'll be back in the market for a new role, or who is watching.
- Always leave on a good note. Let's face it... this lifestyle is not as luxurious as some may believe. While your employer may have had good intentions when they hired you, they have to run a business. And sometimes that means letting you go, as your needs may not align with their needs. This is ok. What's not ok is burning that bridge. Leave gracefully, and always with a smile. I have had more than one previous manager offer me a job opportunity after leaving the company, which equates to job security. In the words of Bruno Mars, "imma leave the door opennnnnnnnn..."
- This one goes without explanation - pursue companies that publicly support and recruit military spouses! I am so glad that I did. MySECO offers a plethora of information and opportunities to support you and your career.
What is something you've done for yourself lately to stay relevant in the pursuit of your career or education?