Job-hopping has become a popular trend among Millennials in the workplace, with most workers age 18-28 holding an average of 7.2 jobs in that time frame. Military spouses, on the other hand, are facing similar job-hopping and resume gap backlash even though they may hold a similar number of jobs as the next applicant. According to the Bureau of Labor, of the 600,000 active-duty military spouses, of those seeking employment, 30% are unemployed and 56% are underemployed. But how do we break the stigma between military spouses and your average millennial vying for the same position?
Break Your Silence
By self-identifying as a military spouse, you’re opening up a can of worms to potential employers. However, by doing so, you’re backing the hard work that non-profits like Hire our Heroes, and companies like Instant Teams, VirtForce, and others, have been lobbying for. These organizations have been putting up a good fight to change the way companies view military spouses and are stockpiling military-friendly companies with the common goal of helping military spouses find work in environments that understand the military lifestyle. By staying silent, we’re perpetuating the idea that we are hiding something to our potential employer. Being honest about who you are not only makes you more appealing as a candidate, but also can give you military spouse preference at certain companies. This preference gives you a leg up in the process because companies are learning that being a military spouse means being a multitasking, resilient, dedicated worker.
Embrace Your Job History
If Millenials can do it, so can military spouses. Millennials have broken the code when it comes to getting ahead in their careers. They’ve done this by listing the skills they’ve learned at each place of employment and creating a resume of achievement in diverse areas that is appealing to hiring companies. This shows potential employers that they can tackle problems head-on, pull from previous experiences and don’t have to start at square one when they get hired. Because Millennials highlight their ability, hiring companies see them as assets. How does this translate to you? Military spouses are the epitome of pulling from experience, adapting to environments, and problem-solving. So, instead of focusing on employment gaps, your resume focus should shift towards a list of achievements and celebrate each and every one of those previous jobs because they surely taught you something that will make you an asset to a new team in an ideal career field.
Soft Skills vs. Experience
As a military spouse, you’ve been trained for so many different careers, thanks to the military lifestyle. Your attention to detail, your ability to network and find opportunities. Your ability to communicate, problem-solve, and work under pressure can all be explained through daily military life, even if you don’t have a place of employment to list. Yes, you should meet some of the criteria under the required skills section of the job you’re applying for. But if you don’t know a computer program, or don’t have the recommended 3 years of experience, don’t be afraid to apply for the job knowing that you’ve been training your whole life for the skills necessary to be successful at the career you’re applying for. List your skills and talents. Take pride in what you’ve done and walk into that interview with the confidence to explain why these skills make you a hard-working and trainable asset to the company.
Address The Elephant In the Room
If you’re a seasoned military spouse, or even if you’re just starting out, you have moved a few times, have had some short term assignments, and have probably applied for any and all jobs just to bring in a little income. There have probably even been assignments where you didn’t work at all. Whether you were having babies, surviving a deployment, or enjoying some family time after your service member returned home, you have gaps in your employment. If it’s a small gap, one that lasts under a year, leave it alone. But if you have years where you didn’t work, let’s talk about them in the cover letter. If you just submit a resume, and an employer sees a 10-year gap, they won’t know that you were busy raising your babies, or that you lived overseas. They won’t know that you took care of an injured service member, or see how you dedicated your time. You’ll only get to explain your story if you get the interview. If you put the explanation in the cover letter, however, you can explain upfront what you were doing, and why it was a valuable experience for you. Don’t be afraid to explain what you learned, how you grew as an individual, or how you can use those skills in the job you’re applying for. By bringing attention to our service, our dedication, and the expansive list of experiences we’ve been through, you’re only making yourself look better to your employer in an honest, safe, and open way.
5. Answer The Dreaded Questions
When you get the interview, and you’ve self-identified, your employer may ask where you’ve been, how often you move and how long you think you’ll be in this location. Be honest. The answer is we never know how long we will be in one duty station. Sure, the assignment was for 3 years, but we’re at the whim of the branch our spouses serve and we will go where they tell us. But that shouldn’t prevent you from getting the job. Let your potential employer know the minimums you’ll be in town for. Explain to them that when the time comes, that this career is so appealing to you that you’d love to take it with you remotely when your round of orders come through. Let your potential employer know that while you’re here, they are your priority and that this duty station actually lends itself better for this kind of position in the company, rather than a different assignment. Evading questions, not being honest in your answers, and hiding things from your employer not only hurts the impression all military spouses have on hiring companies but it hurts your success at the company too. Being clear with your employer that your spouse is coming home from a deployment and you’ll want to take a day off to meet them at the airport and spend a few days reintegrating gives you credibility. Explaining that your spouse works a swing shift and getting clarification on the hours you’ll be working because you have kids at home is important too. It shows that you are dedicated to your job, but family comes first. Not all employers are going to embrace these ideas, but you’ll find that more and more companies are putting mental health, family life, and general well being first. So being honest, and seeing their reaction, will indicate to you if this is a good culture fit for you.