We’re With Mariana: A Military Spouse Who Leveraged the USO Transition Program to Find a New Career

By Kayla Clark

When we talk about the people who serve, military spouses are often the silent heroes whose sacrifice often takes place behind the scenes of their spouse’s service. From giving up their own careers and dreams to juggling constant relocations and turning every new place into a home, military spouses have come to be known as the “backbone of the military.” And as vital members of the military community, the USO remains steadfast in their support for them and their journey.

Mariana, like many military spouses, made many sacrifices to be alongside her service member husband when he was stationed overseas. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Meet Mariana, a military spouse currently stationed abroad alongside her husband in Germany. Mariana is originally from Mexico but grew up in the United States, living in both Texas and Colorado. She has a passion for baking and yoga, and absolutely loves spending time with the family dog. While working at her first job at a frozen yogurt shop in high school, Mariana met her soon-to-be husband. After seven years and one military commission later, she and her husband just recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary and took a big leap overseas for their first duty station abroad.

“[Being a military spouse living abroad is] both exciting but also very difficult,” shared Mariana. “The employment is a huge challenge for spouses. There is so much talent with very little employers willing to hire from an overseas location. However, the traveling is amazing and definitely makes the experience worth it.”

While experiencing this first military move, Mariana heard about the USO Transition Program from a friend who was also looking for employment at the time. After attending one of the career-oriented USO Military Virtual Programming (MVP) events, in which military community members can attend live discussions and classes online, she decided to sign up for the USO Transition Program.

The USO Transition Program extends the USO experience to active duty, Reserve, National Guard and military spouses by offering professional development services throughout the duration of military service as well as in preparation for life post-military. This can include everything from training on financial readiness, assisting with educational opportunities, networking, career advice and so much more.

Photo credit USO Photo

The USO Transition Program is for both service members and military spouses, offering all members of the military community the opportunity to further their education and careers.

As soon as Mariana signed up for the program, she was connected with a USO Transition Specialist, who was able to meet with Mariana one-on-one, listen to her goals and needs and build a customized Action Plan with resources and tasks for her to work through. In addition, both Mariana and the Transition Specialist scheduled monthly video check-ins to walk through progress, updates and additional needs.

“It had been a long time since I was on the job hunt, so practicing for interviews with my Transition Specialist gave me a lot of confidence,” shared Mariana.

Throughout the USO Transition Program, Mariana had a support system by her side as she traversed the local employment market, updated her resume and applications and prepared for interviews. After a couple of months of hard work, the perfect opportunity appeared and Mariana applied. Following the interview process, she was offered the position of the regional program specialist for the American Red Cross in her region. Thrilled, Mariana accepted the opportunity and recently began work.

With the help of the USO Transitions Program, Mariana was able to find a new job with the American Red Cross. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Mariana is not alone in facing challenges with military spouse employment. Many military spouses are required to move around the world every few years, creating a challenge for spouses to obtain a fulfilling career. Nearly half of military families claim that “military spouse employment” is a top-five issue for their family, which makes sense, given that 21% of military spouses are unemployed – more than three times the national rate of 6%, according to the Department of Defense.

In addition, in its most recent estimate, the Department of Labor quotes 31.6% of military spouses are underemployed – that is, working part-time, or in a role that does not meet their actual training or financial needs. Moving every two to three years on average – including overseas – means that military spouses often struggle to find employment opportunities that are portable or allow them to build sustainable and fulfilling long-term careers.

Imagine investing four years into a challenging undergraduate program, successfully navigating through multiple internships and a semester abroad and receiving an extraordinary offer with a well-known, competitive organization. You’ve landed your dream job! Only to have to suddenly pivot and adjust your entire career when your spouse receives military orders overseas and you quickly relocate to Germany. This is the journey that Mariana and so many military spouses out there must face.The spouses who do not wear a uniform but make sacrifices all the same when they have had to pivot, adapt and adjust their lives and careers to meet the needs of the military, their spouse and wherever their family is sent to next.

Beyond the challenge of exploring the employment front in that new location comes the added reality that job opportunities are hard to come by, are limited and can be extremely competitive. Because of this, many military spouses overseas choose not to work and opt to volunteer or pursue further education, while focusing on their new life and travel opportunities abroad.

But no matter what choice they make regarding their professional lives, our military spouses are not alone, as our USO Transition Program is here for them every step of the way. From a free in-house resume writer, to assistance with LinkedIn, networking, mentoring, and access to over 20 free certification opportunities, the USO Transition Program is an incredible resource to help spouses navigate every chapter of their lives.

Because as the backbone of our nation’s military, these MilSpouses deserve to pursue fulfilling lives and careers in any way they want – and the USO is there to support them, no matter where their military journey takes them.

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