Getting Hired: Job Searching as a Stay at Home Parent

Getting Hired: Job Searching as a Stay at Home Parent

For six years, I advised countless men and women planning for life after the military: first as a Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Counselor at Fort Benning, then as a Higher Education Counselor at Fort Bragg, and now as a Transition Specialist with Hire Heroes USA. A majority of those that I work with are preparing to leave the military and enter the civilian workforce.

I wanted to highlight the word preparing for a critical reason. No one should just hop into job searching without a period of planning, networking, and preparation. Any veteran will likely tell you about the uncertainty of a transition period; it can range from a few months to as long as a year.

I learned the hard way why this period is crucial.

In April of 2018, I left my job as a Higher Education Counselor, despite enjoying my work. I made the difficult decision to leave my job when I gave birth to my daughter. At the time it seemed like the best decision for my family; it was a decision that many military spouses would understand. In addition to having a career, I am an Army wife and mom of two small children, ages five and one. I would estimate that my husband is gone at least 70% of the year.

I lasted two months at home.

By June I was already applying for positions. When I was working, I was constantly teaching, counseling, talking, and advising. Suddenly, I found myself going an entire day without adult interaction, particularly while my husband was elsewhere on training exercises.

I started job searching without much preparation and without realizing that being a stay at home parent and an active job seeker is difficult. Below, I have listed what I learned from my own mistakes and what you can do differently as a stay at home parent that is planning to find employment.

1. Phone Preparation

One of the most stressful aspects of being a stay at home parent with small, uncontrollable children? Answering the phone. Phone interviews were panic-inducing for me.

First, set up a professional voicemail. Don’t use ring-back tones and avoid silly or unprofessional greetings. Simply state first and last name and a quick “I cannot make it to the phone, but I will call you back” message. Personalize the voicemail, so the caller can confirm they have reached the correct person.

In the middle of a toddler meltdown? Don’t pick up the phone. Paw Patrol blaring? Turn it down. It is okay to let an unknown call go to voicemail and call back later. I would expect to spend 10-15 minutes on the phone, so plan for nap time or when your spouse is home. It is likely that this call is an impromptu phone screen and the caller is trying to determine if you should move on to a second interview.

Have a quiet spot that you can get to quickly if you get a phone call. I designated a spot in my garage for phone calls. My kids were within earshot, so I could hear them but the door muffled their voices enough that the caller could not hear them. I left a notepad and pen in the garage for quick escapes.

2. Childcare

When I decided to search for my next career, I knew that childcare would be an issue. Not having a viable option for childcare became a major obstacle in the job hunt. I even ended up having to cancel two job interviews because I did not anyone to care for my kids.

As military spouses/stay at home parents, we are in a unique position. Not only is it difficult to get back-up from our spouse, it is rare for us to live near people we would trust to watch our children, like family or friends. If you find yourself in a position like this, you do have a couple of options – but you’ll need to do your research.

First, investigate the daycare options on post. Fort Bragg, for example, has hourly daycare for children as young as 6 weeks; this is accessible to children not already enrolled in the full-time or part-time care programs. I was able to call a couple of days ahead to make reservations for my children. If you are near your assigned post, register your children in the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) program to access hourly childcare services. MWR requires that children are up to date on immunizations and that you have all medical records on file.

Another option: research daycare centers in your area. Typically, you can find centers dedicated to short term, drop-in, or hourly care. If you are like most parents, you really care about where you leave your children and with whom you leave them. Read reviews, investigate the center, go inside and meet the staff. When you get a job interview scheduled, you’ll feel reassured that you are leaving your kids in a safe place.

Keep in mind that if you do use “drop-in” care, the age of the child can be a factor. I could not find a center that would take children younger than six months old and there were a few centers that required children to be at least 12 months old.

3. Permanent Daycare

It is never too soon for you to research what daycares are in your area. Again – read reviews, ask around, and check out each facility in person.

Employers usually want you to start working within a couple of weeks of receiving an offer. I have had employers in the past that did not even want me to give a two-week notice to my current boss. Anything that you can take care of before you get a  job offer will help you in the long run.

When I interviewed for my position at Hire Heroes USA, I scouted out the surrounding area for daycares before accepting the offer. One of the most important factors for me is the logistics of daycare (I commute over an hour, so I need convenience). On the day of my interview, I left my house earlier than needed just so I could look at the overall area and proximity of daycare centers to work.

When you choose a daycare center, ask if they allow for a trial day. My daycare offered this option, and it was a lifesaver. It is a free day of care that allows your children to spend time meeting their potential teachers and getting to know classmates. I used this as a chance to turn in paperwork, hand over diapers, extra clothes, etc. This meant that my first morning at my new job went smoothly and I saved 10-15 minutes of time.

With any daycare facility you contact, be sure to ask whether there is a waiting list. When I tried to enroll my son in daycare, the waiting list was 8-9 months long. If you decide to look on base, I would suggest calling MWR directly to gauge the waiting list. Depending on when you are asked to start working, this may present an issue.

Hopefully, these tips will help you keep your children safe and cared for while you search for a new position. With careful planning, you can avoid some of the barriers that I ran into during my search. Job searching can be tough and having childcare in place will relieve a lot of the stress. 

Hire Heroes USA Industry Spotlight: Electrical Industry

Hire Heroes USA Spotlight: Electrical Industry

Give Skilled Labor a Chance

Servicemembers transitioning out of the military are often looking for jobs with comparable benefits, education, and a pension. Have you ever thought about popping the blue-collar? Today’s job market is primed for skilled labor and you might just be someone’s everyday hero.

The shortage of skilled labor is no joke. According to a study from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, “the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028…. Persistent skills shortage(s) could risk US $2.5 trillion economic output over the next decade” (3-5). That is a lot of vacant jobs out there – with a hefty price on the US if don’t we turn things around.  Don’t get me wrong, skilled labor is not an easy path. It still requires advanced training and education, and you may even need an Associate Degree from a community or junior college. 

I recently discussed opportunities for veterans in the skilled trades with Mike Kufchak, a retired Marine Corps Sergeant Major. He is now the Director of Veteran Affairs for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11.  He is a champion of the skilled labor movement and represents electricians in the Los Angeles area. Electrical skilled trades are needed now more than ever and provide amazing opportunities, pay and benefits.  

During our discussion, Mike emphasized that “[People] are only limited by themselves! Opportunity, pay, and benefits within the union are equal for men and women. Women are just as capable to perform the work at all levels of the building trades. Working in the skilled trades can be a source of empowerment, independence and advancement.”

What is the level and type of education required?

An Inside Wireman, for example, completes a 5-year apprenticeship, comprised of ten semesters of formal education and 8,000 hours of “on the job” training. Mike emphasized that an apprentice is paid for all on the job training.  The cost of apprenticeship training and classes is approximately $35,000 and is fully paid for by the Union.

What is the pay?

Mike shared that an average Journeyman in the Los Angeles Area earns $46/hour before benefits and is fully compensated at $78/hour. Pay varies, depending on your location due to the cost of living; larger metropolitan areas tend to pay more.

According to O*Net, the national average wage for an electrician is $26.01/hour, which is about $54,100 annually. Comparatively, Jane Burnett reported in her article for The Ladders that the “average person with a 4-year degree will earn approximately $50,398.40 within their first year [of work]. “A new electrician with a paid 5-year apprenticeship can potentially make more than a new graduate with a 4-year degree. This is something to seriously consider. 

Why Veterans?

Mike mentioned that a transitioning veteran is highly desirable “because of reliability, dependability, accountability, leadership, and they are drug-free. With the changing laws and the advancement of hair follicle testing capabilities, we can know the drug history of applicants. It is a safety issue. Veterans are immersed in a heavy safety environment, resulting in responsible behavior and a drug-free mentality.” As you can imagine, safety compliance is essential with electrical work, giving veterans an edge in the vetting process.

How do you get into the Union and what is the process for veterans?

Mike referenced the “Helmets to Hardhats” program which sends him potential veteran candidates in the Los Angeles area. He also hosts booths at job fairs and community events.  Additionally, he gives presentations and is a speaker at many local events which drive his recruiting pool. You can also get connected via the internet and the local union network. 

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11 actively reaches out to veterans and provides a “fast track” into the union. If a veteran has an honorable discharge and good re-enlistment status, the union waives certain requirements to enter the union’s boot camp program. The fast track pushes veterans through in 6 to 9 months from application to boot camp, as opposed to the normal 2-year wait. If you are thinking about applying, be sure to connect with the union and let them know that you are a veteran.  Other local unions may have a similar program.

If you are looking for a career as an electrical journeyman, the future is bright. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry is expected to grow 9% from 2016 to 2026.  To get more information, check out your local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union. For veterans in the Los Angeles area, connect with Mike Kufchack to learn more.


“2018 Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute skills Gap and future of work study.” Deloitte Insights.

Burnnett, Jane. “2018 College Graduates will earn an average salary of $50K.” Ladders. May 2018.

“Electricians-Job Outlook” Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Bureau of Labor Statistics. March 18, 2019

“Electricians” Summary Report, March 18, 2019.

Kufchak, Michael. Personal Interview. March, 18, 2019

Hire Heroes USA Featured Employer: Siemens Mobility

Hire Heroes USA Featured Employer: Siemens Mobility

At Siemens Mobility, we value veterans not just for the service they have provided to our country, but for the simple fact that they happen to make great employees. 

For those who don’t know us, Siemens Mobility is a leader in transportation solutions, doing everything from manufacturing rail vehicles, to electrifying and automating solutions for both rail and roads.  Our focus is to help mobility operators around the world make infrastructure more intelligent, increase value over the entire lifecycle of our solutions, enhance passenger experience and ensure ready availability for their customers.

We have benefitted greatly from Siemens’ overall veterans outreach efforts in the U.S.  Siemens in the U.S. had been an original participant in the 2011 White House Joining Forces initiative, at that time committing to hiring 300 veterans. 

But what Siemens didn’t realize at that time was how great a fit veterans were for Siemens’ various businesses across the U.S.   Siemens announced its 2000th veteran hiring in 2016, a mark that represented a 6-fold increase from the company’s original commitment. 

Many of those veterans have come to work for Siemens Mobility, and our hiring of veterans continues to this day; today, more than 10% of Siemens Mobility’s new hires are veterans. 

We are very proud to be part of Siemens’ overall efforts, recognized by various publications for overall commitment to recruit, hire and retain qualified veterans.  Military Times named Siemens a “Best for Vets” employer in 2015 and 2018, and U.S. Veterans Magazine has named Siemens to its “Best of the Best Top Veteran-Friendly Companies” list every year since 2015.

However, winning these accolades is not the driver for our efforts – it’s the skills and attitudes that veterans bring to our organization.

“The Marine Corps taught me skills and philosophies that enable me to help guide Siemens operations support to the next level.” – Bryan Tannehill, Manager of Operation Services at Siemens Mobility Rolling Stock

We’ve heard already about many of the benefits of working with veterans. They know how to work in an organization and with others.  They have a proven ability to learn new skills and concepts.  They usually come with a highly-transferable set of skills, supported by the military’s advanced use of technology.  And they are trained to keep safety and health standards top of mind.

But there are a lot of intangibles:  the ability to work with all different kinds of people – regardless of race, gender, geographic origin, ethnic background or economic status.  Their ability to work lean and under pressure; to accomplish tight deadlines under high stress. And they have an understanding and respect for procedures – something that safety-minded companies like Siemens value highly. 

Importantly, there is a level of integrity and accountability that is only attainable through real experience with adversity, something not readily accessible by all of us who have been fortunate enough to benefit from the freedoms and comforts that those in the military have fought so hard for us to have.

An organization can’t benefit enough from this type of contribution, and that is why we continue – and will continue — to welcome veterans into our organization.

Read more about “Life at Siemens” from the point of view of one of our veterans – and how you can find out more about working at Siemens:    

National Volunteer Week Spotlight: Kirk

Kirk-Danley PhotoThis week is National Volunteer Week – a time to celebrate the contributions and achievements of Hire Heroes USA’s diverse team of volunteers. Our volunteers are vital to the success of our clients, providing mock interviews, mentoring, and guidance on the civilian job search process.

Kirk has volunteered with Hire Heroes USA for just a few months but has always looked for ways to help military members. When he learned of Hire Heroes USA, he says it was a no-brainer for him to volunteer his time.

So far, Kirk has assisted a wide variety of veterans looking to transition into civilian work and has found a great deal of personal satisfaction when he hears from a client that they aced an interview, got a job offer, or are negotiating multiple offers. He’s grateful for the veterans who served and those still serving our country and believes that they will be a great asset to any employer. “They are… self-starters, showing great respect, and following through,” he says. “I know they will produce for their next employers at a superior level.”

Kirk sees networking as a major benefit to his volunteer work: “We all know someone that knows someone that can provide these men and women with what they need, to conduct effective mock interviews, and to provide leads and advice within [a] specific industry.”

Q: What would you tell others about volunteering with Hire Heroes USA?

“Hire Heroes USA makes volunteering very easy: you simply let them know how many hours per week or month you have available for phone calls and what times are convenient and Hire Heroes USA does the rest. After a quick review of the service member’s resume (prepared by Hire Heroes USA) and career interests, a phone call provides a dialogue that ranges from mock interviews to advice on salary negotiations, to known opportunities and potential leads. I hope that the number of volunteers continues to rise to help show our support for today’s heroes.”

Join us in celebrating National Volunteer Week by becoming a volunteer today!