employer insights

Employer Insight: Military Spouse Employment

Employer Insight: Military Spouse Employment

My name is Kelly and I am a military spouse. When I married my husband, a United States Airman, I didn’t realize how much his status would affect my career and my ability to find meaningful employment. I have always put a high level of importance on my career. After our first move to Arizona, I struggled to find a job and ended up taking a position doing something I didn’t enjoy – payroll. It was a struggle for me to sit at my desk and stare at spreadsheets or input data all day. When it was time to move again, this time to North Carolina, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t accept a job I didn’t love. However, the only jobs I would get callbacks for were in payroll. I remained unemployed for more than six months, which was the hardest time of my life. During this period, I stumbled upon Hire Heroes USA and signed up for their services. I was assigned a Transition Specialist who helped me with my resume, interview skills, and branding myself on LinkedIn. I eventually networked myself into Hire Heroes USA and was offered a position as a Transition Specialist. I now serve as the Manager of the Serving Spouses Program, a program designed to help military spouses find employment and address their unique needs. 

Looking back on my journey, I wondered why military spouses tend to settle for less than they deserve regarding employment. Military spouses often find themselves unemployed, underemployed, or working in jobs that are unrelated to their career field. An annual survey conducted in 2018 by Blue Star Families, a partner of Hire Heroes USA, found that unemployment and underemployment are the top obstacles to military families finding financial security. The percentage of military spouse respondents who indicated they were unemployed (not employed but actively seeking work in the past four weeks) increased to 30% in 2018, and 56% of working spouse respondents reported they were underemployed. Frequent relocation was cited as the primary cause of underemployment. https://www.secome.org/MFLS-ComprehensiveReport17-FINAL.pdf

As a career counselor who works with hundreds of military spouses across the country, I have learned that military spouses face similar challenges when finding employment.

MILITARY SPOUSE EMPLOYMENT CHALLENGES 

  1. Interview Bias

Ageism and racism are problems in the hiring process, and so is “military spouse-ism.” It is illegal to ask a candidate if they are married but military spouses will still get asked in an interview about their marital status or if and when they will move. Military spouse job seekers don’t know if they should share that they are a military spouse or keep it to themselves due to the negative biases they face from employers.

  1. Excluded from Veteran Hiring Programs

Corporate America has done a great job of creating veteran hiring initiatives that have made a huge impact; veteran unemployment rates have dropped in recent years.  However, military spouses are often not included a company’s veteran hiring initiative. This decreases the opportunities available to military spouses even further. For veterans, flexible employment opportunities that work with the demands of the military lifestyle are important; they are also critical in solving military spouse unemployment and underemployment.

  1. Résumé Gaps + Short Term Jobs

Frequent moves due to changes in duty station, caring for children during deployments, and having to re-obtain certifications that don’t transfer from state-to-state are a few reasons why the military spouse unemployment rate is four times higher than the average civilian rate. These challenges require a unique approach. Military spouse résumés don’t always tell the full story of a person’s qualifications and because of that, they are rarely given a chance to show their skills.

EMPLOYER ADVICE

  1. Hidden Talent Pool

Military spouses are an untapped talent pool for employers. They are dedicated, dependable, educated, adaptable, resilient, and flexible. If you give a military spouse a problem, they will be able to come up with a solution. Military spouses tend to be more highly educated than their civilian counterparts; they also volunteer more and are proven to be more civically engaged than civilians.

  1. Look Past the Resume

If you are a recruiter or hiring manager, give a military spouse candidate a chance to explain their qualifications. Don’t disregard a candidate if they have lived in a number of locations or have gaps in employment. Military spouses are often able to stay in a location for more than three years, as changes in duty stations are not necessarily a given. If you are concerned about employee retention, keep in mind that many civilians are now voluntarily changing jobs every 3-4 years. This means that military spouse employees may actually stay longer than a civilian counterpart.

Additionally, military spouses may not include volunteer experience on their resumes. This can be a huge asset that sets them apart from other jobseekers.

Bottom line: speaking with a military spouse in an interview setting will provide a better picture of their skill sets and abilities. View the candidate’s unique situation as an opportunity, not a barrier. Give a military spouse a chance!   

  1. Include military spouses in your veteran hiring initiative or create a military spouse hiring initiative

Many companies are recognizing that military spouses make great employees and are coming up with unique ways to retain them. Organizations such as Hilton and Deloitte have created programs specifically designed to hire more spouses. For example, Deloitte connects new military spouse hires with a military spouse ambassador. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/careers/articles/military-spouse-initiative.html

Giving newly hired military spouses an organizational contact, who shares a similar background or who has a genuine interest in their professional development, will help them assimilate more easily into a company. Through a military spouse initiative, military spouses can lean on each other and utilize company resources to not just have a job but a rewarding career.

MILITARY SPOUSE JOB SEEKER ADVICE

There are a lot of resources available for military spouses looking for professional work – if you know where to look. Hire Heroes USA‘s Serving Spouses Program is dedicated to combating the specific employment challenges men and women face because of a partner’s service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Hire Heroes USA is committed to tackling military spouse unemployment and underemployment with robust, personalized resources like dedicated Transition Specialists who are often military spouses themselves, resume assistance, job sourcing, and employment workshops – all tailored to specifically to address the needs and concerns of military spouses. Over 1,800 military spouses have found new careers with assistance from Hire Heroes USA since we first began working with spouses. That number will only grow as the Serving Spouses Program continues to serve the silent ranks: military spouses.

 Sign up today at https://www.hireheroesusa.org/serving-spouses/

Written by Kelly Kelly and Camille Inman

Hire Heroes USA
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