We’re With Kim: A Military Spouse Who Has Turned to the USO in Every Move

By Kayla Clark

Military life is one of constant change, relocation, deployments and uncertainty. Military spouses must navigate these obstacles alongside their service members, and must also often tackle challenges that are unique to their role in the military community. In the heart of U.S. military bases and communities around the globe, many MilSpouses are likely juggling their own battles, including finding meaningful employment.

Meet Kim, a military spouse who originally grew up in Palmer, a small town in western Massachusetts. Kim met her now-husband Kevin, who is currently an aviation officer in the U.S. Army, in high school while working at the local dairy bar, and the two hit it off immediately. The two have been together for the last seven years and have a bouncing two-year-old goldendoodle named Daisy.

Kim with her husband, an aviation officer in the U.S. Army. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

After graduating high school, Kim earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She then worked as a center coordinator for a drop-in counseling space at a K-12 public charter school. Upon moving to Fort Novosel, Alabama, a couple of years later, she heard about the USO Transition Program for the first time.

The USO Transition Program is a program that provides professional and educational development services to military spouses and service members throughout all stages of military life. MilSpouses like Kim can take advantage of all the services the program provides including financial readiness, assisting with educational opportunities, networking, career advice and so much more.

“I heard about the USO Transition Program around the time of my first PCS,” Kim said, referring to the “Permanent Change of Station,” also known as a “PCS” that requires service members and military families to move every 18 months to three years.

“Being new to the military world and away from home for the first time, I was extremely overwhelmed at the prospect of both changing career trajectories and finding employment in a new region of the country. In doing some late-night research, I stumbled upon the USO Transition Program online and got to work with an amazing Transitions Specialist who helped me revamp my resume and [navigate the] job search. Through the USO Transition Program, I was ultimately able to land my role with the Girl Scouts of the USA.”

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.

With the help of the USO Transition Program, Kim successfully moved into data analysis as a research analyst, where she thrived and was fulfilled in a career path and organization that valued her and helped her grow professionally.

However, like many military spouses, a couple of years later, Kim had to prepare for another move across the world to their new duty station in Ansbach, Germany. Unfortunately, this meant giving up her career with the Girl Scouts, as she was not able to keep that job overseas.

So, Kim pivoted.

Because of her passion for program evaluation, research and analytics, she decided to invest in a master’s degree in data analytics and policy with Johns Hopkins University to continue furthering herself professionally and build her resume while she settled into a new life overseas and looked for employment in Germany.

Finding Employment Overseas as a MilSpouse

When Kim and her spouse arrived in Germany and began to settle in, she noticed the very challenging reality that there are not many employment opportunities available for spouses in her area, and hardly any in her field.

Employment overseas is often extremely limited and competitive for American military spouses. In most cases, spouses are only authorized to work on base, and roles in spouses’ desired fields are hard to come by. 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.

Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Because they move around so often, employment for military spouses has become a top issue for military families.

In addition, in its most recent estimate, the Department of Labor reported that 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.

This is why the USO Transition Program is available to military spouses throughout their entire journey as a spouse – through every military move and every step of their career.

Within a couple of months of arriving in Germany, Kim’s previous USO Transition Specialist reached out to her and encouraged her to reengage in the program and connect with the Transition Specialist in Europe.

Photo credit USO Photo

A USO Transition Specialist assists a military spouse at a USO Center.

On our first call, [my Transition Specialist] was incredibly empathetic and honest about the realities of military spouse employment overseas, and she did not leave any stone unturned,” Kim shared. “We discussed all my options from acquiring additional education/certifications to finding a job adjacent to my field of interest where I could develop some transferable skills.”

During that conversation, both Kim and her USO Transition Specialist went over career options and actually uncovered a local USO Center position that had just been posted. Upon discussing the organization, position and job responsibilities, Kim felt like this could be a great opportunity for her – allowing her to utilize her data analysis strengths, support a mission she believes in and secure employment there locally. She submitted her application, the two prepared for an upcoming possible interview and within a week, Kim had successfully completed two interviews and was offered the job.

Photo credit Courtesy Photo

After meeting with a USO Transition Specialist, Kim interviewed and received a job at her local USO Center.

“I am incredibly excited to join Team USO and continue learning from and supporting its mission as an employee,” she shared. “I hope to continue to grow within the USO and support the organization with my unique skillset in nonprofit program evaluation and analytics.”

“For military spouses approaching or actively in an overseas PCS, I would say – be open and honest with yourself and spouse about what you are struggling with. It is incredibly easy to get swept up in the excitement of moving overseas, and while it is an exciting time it can also be extremely emotionally taxing – especially when you are trying to find work, childcare, etc.,” Kim said.

My advice is to give yourself grace and time to settle in and acknowledge the things you cannot change but work toward the things you can. The key is to be open-minded, creative and ask for help when you need it.”

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