Lessons Learned as a Military Spouse Jobseeker

Kelly Grivner-Kelly

Challenges are nothing new to military families, nor are the struggles military spouses encounter when seeking fulfilling work, career growth and economic stability.  Between frequent relocations and unpredictable schedules, military life can create significant career obstacles for spouses. This can include noticeable gaps in their work history, frequent job and employer changes, lower wages than their civilian counterparts and substantial underemployment. 

Six years ago, after a PCS move landed my family in North Carolina, I found myself struggling with these exact challenges. With several years of HR experience and a Master’s degree, I didn’t think I would have a hard time finding a job in my new city…  Boy, was I wrong!

One month of searching quickly turned into six months of unemployment. As a career-focused individual, those six months were some of the worst of my life. I felt drained and discouraged after applying to multiple jobs each day with few responses and going on interviews that ended in rejection. Like most military spouses, I didn’t want to work solely for the financial benefits. I also to grow as a professional, gain new skills and build community with co-workers.

Around the fifth month of unemployment, I dragged myself to a job fair where I first interacted with a Hire Heroes USA representative. She encouraged me to register for the free career services they offered, and I went home and signed up the same day.

I was contacted by my Transition Specialist, Marshall, who dove right in to help revise my resume and teach me how to effectively search for a job. Turns out, I was doing it all wrong. When I implemented his suggestions, the job leads started coming in. In fact, thanks to these new resources, I networked my way into a role at the Hire Heroes USA North Carolina office as a full-time employee later that year. 

In 2018, I established the Hire Heroes USA’s Serving Spouses Program and have personally helped more than 1,000 military spouses and veterans find meaningful employment. Every day, I get to teach my clients job-seeking tips, those very tips I learned while I was unemployed:

1) If you aren’t sure what you want to do, you need to narrow that down before you start job seeking.

2) Job seeking is all about who you know – NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK and ask for informational interviews.

3) LinkedIn profiles give you access to almost every recruiter and hiring manager; make sure you complete your profile and engage regularly. 

4) If you aren’t tailoring your resume, you are wasting your time!

5) Do your research before you interview with an organization. Come prepared for interviews and ask questions.

6) Stay organized and take time for yourself to avoid job-seeking burnout.

7) If your voicemail isn’t set up or full – how can hiring managers leave you a message?

8) Always be professional and kind; don’t burn any bridges.

9) Google yourself – clean up your social presence and develop your professional brand.

10) Don’t ever become stagnant in your job search. If you take gaps in employment – always keep learning and growing.

11) Volunteer experience is valuable and can be highlighted on your resume.

12) Look into remote work opportunities and companies with military spouse hiring initiatives.

13) Do some self-reflection – YOU could be your own worst enemy and the reason why you aren’t getting hired. 

Military Spouses can sign up for free services at  www.hireheroesusa.org and can build their network through our Serving Spouses Program LinkedIn group and our Serving Spouses Facebook Group – Military Spouse Support Forum

Kelly Grivner-Kelly is the Program Manager for the Hire Heroes USA Serving Spouses Program. If you are interested in receiving free career support with Hire Heroes USA, click here to learn more.