The Must-Have Resource for the Career-Minded Military Spouse

With nearly 70% of open jobs filled by referral, having a professional network is essential to a successful career, no matter what stage we’re in: actively looking for a new job, considering a return to the workforce in the near future, or happily employed.

The frequent relocations associated with the military lifestyle make it particularly challenging for career-minded military spouses to build this essential network of professional contacts—contacts that can open the door to unadvertised job openings.

Each time we PCS to a new duty station, we often have to start from scratch to find employment commensurate with advanced education and experience. And even though we may be surrounded by the spouse community at large, being a military spouse with career ambitions can sometimes be frustrating and isolating.

That’s why we’re here to help.

In Gear Career is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life, morale, and stability of military families by enabling military spouses to seek and obtain professional employment alongside their service members.

Through our local chapters, website, and social media channels, we offer career-minded military spouses like you opportunities to:

  • build your professional network and advance your job search by connecting you with local business leaders
  • expand your knowledge though career resources and professional development opportunities
  • be a part of a supportive community of like-minded spouses to who understand the challenges of balancing a professional career with the demands of a military lifestyle.

You’ll find advice tailored to the needs of military spouse professionals, tips and tricks to help you get ahead in your career, and much more.

In Gear Career currently has more than 16 local chapters throughout the U.S. and Europe, with more planned for 2014.

Join Us – Find Your Local Chapter

Take charge of your career! Get started by creating your FREE account here.

Five Creative Job Search Strategies for Military Spouses

Creative job search strategies for career minded military spousesNot only is it mind-numbingly repetitive to spend 40 hours a week firing off cover letters and resumes with the precision of a Swiss assembly line, it’s not an effective strategy to land full-time employment. With a little creativity and initiative, career-minded military spouses can continue to advance their careers while looking for full time opportunities.

Here are five must-do strategies to help you stay marketable during a job search:

1. Volunteer

Volunteering is one of the best ways to stay marketable in during a job hunt. You will not only gain useful experience that, if positioned correctly, can be used to fill in gaps in your employment history, you will open up a wide range of networking opportunities that could lead to future full-time employment.

That said, it’s important to be strategic about your volunteer work. While spending your weekends swinging a hammer and building houses for the poor is certainly noble, focus your volunteer efforts on opportunities where you can build upon the skills you already use in your career. Alternatively, seek out opportunities to build your “soft skills,” such as leadership, that are in demand no matter what field you are in. Step up and chair that FRG committee that no one wants to lead or run for an executive position on the school PTA.

2. Network, Network, Network

If it feels like we’ve been beating this idea to death, well, we are—but with good reason! The majority of senior-level and professional positions are filled through referrals, so use your time to stay in contact with your professional network, and actively seek opportunities to expand it.

But what if you are new to an area and don’t know anyone? Most, if not all, military spouses have been in this position at least once during a service member’s career. First, check out In Gear Career to see if there is already an established local chapter in your new area. Also, look for networking events sponsored by the local chamber of commerce or college. Or better yet, try #3.

3. Join a Professional Organization

Professional organizations of all kinds exist in nearly every city and state, and being active in the right organization is smart way to build your professional network and stay up to date on industry trends.

Think about the industry-specific major organizations in your field. Sign up for the local chapter, and you’ll have access to networking opportunities and educational events that will help you in the know. If there isn’t a local chapter, sign up for the chapter nearest you and stay in close contact with those members online through the organization’s listserv or forums.

If there isn’t an industry-specific professional organization near you, consider joining an organization comprised of professionals from diverse industries, such as the National Association of Professional Women or Toastmasters International.

4. Keep Learning

While it may not be feasible to go back to school full time, you can still keep your skills current, often with very little added expense.

Coursera and EdX offer free online classes taught by leading university professors. You can also take advantage of the (often free) whitepapers, tutorials and webinars offered by companies and professional organizations (usually as a way to attract new customers/members). And don’t overlook that wonderful resource called YouTube. It’s not only a repository of funny cat videos and internet memes, it’s one of the best how-to tools ever invented. Need to learn how to use a specific software program? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of video tutorials available to choose from.

5. Freelance

Freelancing is an excellent way to keep your skills sharp, build your online brand and make connections that can greatly help your career trajectory. And let’s not forget the fact that you get paid and will likely have flexibility with your work schedule—something important to nearly every military spouse, especially during a service member’s deployment.

Check out this blog for a list of the best freelancing websites and suggestions on how to use each of them effectively.

Got any strategies to stay marketable while looking for a job? Share them here.

Will getting a PhD improve my job prospects?

This week’s advice from Lauren Weiner, Director of Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, LLC, a firm specializing in contracts with Government Agencies.

 

While I’m a huge believer in higher education, I don’t think a Ph.D. is a great way to increase your marketability or earning potential.  A Master’s degree, especially a marketable one like an MBA or MPP (or a targeted one that will move you forward in a chosen career field, like an MSW or a Masters in, say, speech pathology), is usually the right level to target for marketable job skills.  A Ph.D. is generally useful only if you want to go into very specific career fields—science, medical research—or if you want to go into academia.  According to this article in The Economist,  http://www.economist.com/node/17723223  overall a Ph.D. only adds about a 3% premium over a Masters.

The big elephant in the room, which few in the military-affiliated community seem to acknowledge openly, is where you get your degree.  I would absolutely much rather see a Masters degree from a solid school than a Ph.D. from a university that is known for being a diploma mill—regardless of if the course work at either type of university was on-line or on-ground.  (See this NY Times article about the problems at one for-profit university   http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/education/11phoenix.html).  As a small business owner,  I have a few major reasons that I hire people with advanced degrees :

  • They have shown the perseverance to start and finish a degree.
  • They have (hopefully) been taught critical thinking skills that are necessary for success in a knowledge-based employment culture.
  • They have learned to write and speak effectively.

While some students at these non-traditional universities may have the skills I’m looking for, their educational experience doesn’t signal that to me at all.   There really is a difference between the education you get from a more traditional university—even in an on-line program, many of which have stellar fundamentals, instructors, and curriculum—and a university focused on their quarterly earnings targets.  As a military spouse, I know it is difficult to get a degree from a more traditional university, and we’re going to be working in the coming months to identify quality programs that will allow military spouses to participate effectively.

Work Life Balance…What’s your reality?

Posted by Elizabeth Gorkowski

Are you a working military spouse just dreaming of work life balance?  For just $9.99 a month this dream can be yours!  Ahhh if only it was that easy. How is a working military spouse supposed to fit in all of the demands placed on them, work, eat, perhaps raise children, sleep and find precious minutes for themselves?

This morning my alarm went off at 5:30, I greeted the yet to be seen sun with a P90x workout,  jumped in the shower, made lunches for the kids, dressed all three of them (ages 5, 3.5 and 1.5) for picture day at school and somehow arrived at school by 8am.  I worked on rewriting necessary policies for M.O.M. FIT to continue its growth; attended a luncheon for Americans Working Around the Globe (I am almost positive I brushed my hair), sprinted to the park  to run a M.O.M. FIT class and at 2:15 picked the kids up.  We returned home for snacks and an awesome hour of tag, soccer, jump rope and sprints in the backyard.  (Oh yes I said sprints, that way I can get my “speed” workouts in).  We showered, ate dinner, dressed for bed and I high fived the babysitter on the way out to attend a coffee for RHHT.  It was of course everyone’s lucky night that it was karaoke coffee and I love Bon Jovi.  At 9:45 I hugged my friend Morgan and thanked her for watching the children, laid out their clothes for school, sat down to work on my white paper for MOM FIT and at midnight went to sleep.  Perhaps outsiders who don’t know me might think this was a day of pure insanity but for me it is a perfect example of work life balance.

My balance did not arrive without a lot of planning, effort and the shocking realization that I simply can’t do it all.  As a military spouse it becomes far too easy for our lives to be pushed to the back burner as we attempt to cram our own dreams and goals into a life that is already packed with moves, work, family obligations and no luxury of extended family support.  Sometime during the fall of 2010 I realized I had too many extraneous factors pulling me in a hundred different directions and that the one item I had always cherished, working out daily sometimes twice a day was no longer a part of my life and it was making me a miserable person.  Exercise is my drug of happiness, nothing makes me feel better then a workout and the benefits are numerous.   I decided at that point to make a list of my top priorities and that they would be non negotiable  1)MY FAMILY  2) Fitness  3) M.O.M. FIT  4)Learning to say “let me check my calendar” and then had to actually make it happen!

I have a wonderful family but three girls under the age of 5 can easily steamroll out of control and my husband and I decided upon arrival in Germany (which was the 5th move for my 4.5 year old daughter) school and daycare options would be the best solution to set me on a path to being a better mother, spouse and owner of M.O.M. FIT . Their attendance allows me to put quality hours in on the continuous development of M.O.M FIT  and more importantly provides them with quality mom/daughter time when they  aren’t in school. I quickly realized I had too many friends where I was the primary giver using up a lot of my time and energy.  I decided to cut ties with many so called friends and it was shockingly easy.  I started adding fitness hours to my daily calendar, worked hard to build workouts that didn’t require me to go to the gym and slowly regained myself one step at a time.  I also learned to add the magical phrase “let me check my calendar and get back to you” before saying yes to any requests.

Numerous volunteer requests always fall at the feet of military spouses with little acknowledgement of the outside job many spouses are already balancing as a military spouse and perhaps parent.  Spouses are part of a culture where expectations exceed the normal standard and if you don’t make your time a priority no one will do it for you.  I have now cut my volunteer time to only saying yes to INGEAR,  Americans Working Around the Globe and coaching high school basketball. Nothing else provides me with the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction like those organizations, which allows me to justify taking time and energy away from my family.

For years coaching basketball was my life and passion but 5 moves in 4.5 years quickly put a 12 year career to a screeching halt.  I was fortunate enough to take advantage of the MYCAA benefit offered to spouses and obtain my personal trainer certification and begin the development of M.O.M. FIT.  Our mission at M.O.M. FIT is to improve the wellness, overall health and fitness levels of military spouses through a supportive team environment.  Daily we make in home visits for individual workouts, meet at parks across Germany for boot camps and stroller fitness, teach families how to meal plan, educate them on nutrition, teach goal setting and most importantly build the TEAM concept so spouses always have a support system in their lives.

Today was a balanced work life day for me; there are days work garners more hours, the family receives less attention and vice versa.  Take a moment and share with us the way you find balance in your day, you just might help another spouse achieve their pursuit of balance. There is no perfect in the pursuit of work life balance and I have come to the realization that as long as the good days far outweigh the bad days then my balance is successful.

Liz Gorkowski , a military spouse with  15 years in the fitness industry has mentored Olympic, professional, collegiate, All Army Team and military spouse athletes.  Liz is an ACE certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor and former college basketball coach. She is the owner of the Fit Group which is home to M.O.M. FIT where WE ARE CHANGING LIVES ONE WORKOUT AT A TIME! Like the Fit Group today on Facebook at The FIT Group or visit our website at www.the-fit-group.com.  If you would like a M.O.M. FIT chapter on your post please send all requests to thefitgroup11@googlemail.com