In Gear Career (IGC) was founded to provide career-focused military spouses with the tools necessary to drive professional career progression, despite the challenges inherent in the military lifestyle. Military spouses around the country and overseas have shared with us the issues they consistently face in maintaining a professional career: licensure, incorrect stereotypes about military spouses or military life, and lack of certainty in obtaining orders.
But one recurrent theme we’ve heard is that the lack of a professional network due to frequent PCS moves makes it nearly impossible to maintain a career trajectory (or even obtain professional-level employment, in some cases). The ability to “plug in” to an already existing professional network would significantly level the playing field for spouses when PCSing to a new duty station.
IGC is addressing this issue with the launch of our Community Professional Networks (CPN). Our Local Chapters—already robust in a number of military-heavy communities around the world, and launching in a number of others—will form the core of these Community Professional Networks. IGC Local Chapters will continue to provide direct support and community building for career-minded military spouses through spouse-specific programming and casual meet-ups and ongoing peer support.
Our CPNs will build upon the Local Chapters’ efforts by connecting members to community-based professional networks through alliances with local Chambers of Commerce, trade groups, business partnerships, and other non-profit groups. In the long run, as these CPNs grow, spouses will continue to make contacts throughout the community, and feed those connections back into the Network so that the reach grows even more effectively.
The vision for these Community Professional Networks is that IGC will develop a database of industry-specific contacts through our own on-ground networking efforts. These contacts will be open to initial conversations (i.e. “informational interviews”) with military spouses about the industry in the local community, and will help the military spouses with additional networking contacts within the local community.
These aren’t job leads, although we certainly hope they’ll eventually lead to job opportunities. These are entry points into the local network of professionals that military spouses would otherwise not have access to without significant up-front work (and time on-ground). As the IGC Community Professional Networks become robust and distributed worldwide, spouses will be able to contact the local IGC chapter lead upon receiving orders, find out who the contacts are in their professional field, and start networking even before they’ve left their previous duty station.
During the next year, we will be launching the Community Professional Networks across the country. in conjunction with the US Chamber of Commerce’s “Hiring Our Heroes” program. We are excited to build upon their successful series of spouse-specific hiring fairs to most effectively meet the needs of career-focused military spouses. Since the vast majority of professional-level jobs are in the “hidden” job market, where positions are filled through word-of-mouth instead of job postings, we believe this additional resource will significantly impact military spouses’ abilities to obtain, maintain, and progress in a professional career.