By Danielle DeSimone
Imagine you’re 22 years-old. You just graduated from college and landed your first job in an industry you love. You work hard for the next year and slowly but surely gain the respect of your colleges and superiors. When a new junior manager position pops up on the internal job board, your supervisor encourages you to apply and guess what? You’re offered the job!
But then, when you head home to tell your new husband (who’s in the Navy) the good news, he greets you with some news of his own: he just got a new assignment from his commanding officer. And it’s on the other side of the country.
So, you reluctantly decline the new job offer, put in your two weeks-notice and move to the opposite coast. When you arrive in your new home and start looking for a new job, you have a hard time building your professional network from scratch. Recruiters say you don’t have enough job experience and ask why you didn’t stay at your last position for very long. They raise their eyebrows when you mention you are a military spouse.
After six months of almost full-time job hunting, you finally receive a reasonable job offer and start a new position. Then, about eighteen months later, your husband tells you it’s time to pack up and move— again.
Over the next twelve years, this happens four more times. At each new duty station, finding a job feels more and more impossible. No one seems to return your emails or phone calls. By the time you and your husband reach your last location, you don’t even bother to look.
Now, at 34 years-old, you have a resume filled with odd jobs, volunteer work and unexplained periods of unemployment. Even though now your husband is out of the military and you’ve stopped moving every few years, you struggle with explaining your professional history to civilian recruiters. Rebuilding your career now seems futile.
Unfortunately, this story is more common than you’d think.
According to research, military spouse unemployment rates are at least four times the national average and 56% of spouses consider themselves to be underemployed. It’s an issue that spans across all ages, genders, backgrounds and branches of military service, and it can have a severe impact on the happiness, health and general life satisfaction of military spouses and our troops.
Think about it. If service members are concerned about their spouse’s quality of life back home, it then affects their ability to do their job of protecting our freedom. The challenges facing military spouses in their job search can negatively impact overall military readiness, and, by extension our nation’s defense. So, what can be done to fix this issue?
How can you help with military spouse employment?
Luckily, there are several resources designed to help military spouses find meaningful work, including the USO’s free military spouse programs, which are only possible thanks to donations supporters like you.
Recognizing that military spouse unemployment is a serious challenge in the military community, and with the help of generous donations – big and small – the USO has been able to create and fund programs that are dedicated solely to supporting military spouses and military spouse employment.
Programs such as USO Military Spouse Networking Events bring military spouses, local employers, community and military leaders and other organizations together to create opportunities for networking and conversation. Spouses leave the networking event with customized business cards, a professional elevator pitch and plenty of contacts for potential employment.
“It’s much more comfortable being able to come to a safe place like the USO and being able to meet people here and just start to build those relationships and make some connections,” said one military spouse 2018.
Military spouses can also utilize the USO Pathfinder® program, which offers one-on-one training and a personalized job search plan from a USO Pathfinder Scout. USO staff can even help spouses find education opportunities and resources for financial coaching and more.
For spouses who are constantly on the move, the USO Pathfinder’s partnership with Google offers another option through the Grow with Google initiative. Through this program, military spouses (and recently-transitioned veterans) can earn the Google IT Support Professional Certificate online, arming them with the skills, experience and professional training they need to work in IT support.
Because many IT support jobs are remote, military spouses can work from any location and be employed wherever their next duty station takes them. This program is especially helpful for National Guard and Reserve spouses, as they are usually spread out across the country on smaller installations with fewer resources.
Every day, military spouses make unseen sacrifices on behalf of our nation in order to support our service members. As a result, it affects our service members and the entire military community. But through USO programs, which are fueled by your support, military spouses have a greater chance at overcoming these challenges, joining the workforce and building a fulfilling career.
The USO is a not-for-profit organization and not part of the Department of Defense. The appearance of DoD visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.
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