By Kelly Wilmeth, vice president of UMGC's Stateside Military Operations.
Military spouses may be faced with limited employment opportunities depending on where they are stationed and how long they will be there.
Despite reassignments and deployments, many seek out employment and build long careers. While you have been or will be an invaluable support to your active-duty or veteran spouse, what if you want your own career?
At University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), we’ve seen military spouses pursue their dreams and take control of their careers and continue to support their partner’s service. Here are some tips to help you navigate your career path.
Showcase Your Skills
If you’ve ever looked for a job, you probably have a résumé listing your education, prior employment, and specific job skills. But, as a military spouse, that’s not all you bring to the table. In fact, some of your most marketable skills are the ones you’ve picked up in the role of military spouse. According to the Forbes Human Resources Council, the top skills employers want today are “soft skills” such as:
Adaptability/Flexibility: As a military spouse, you have plenty of experience with changing situations, and you’ve developed the ability to adapt in any situation. In our fast-changing world, this flexibility is in high demand.
Grit/Resiliency: When the going gets tough, military spouses get tougher. Organizations appreciate employees who know how to keep going—and succeed—in the face of major obstacles.
Dedication: Working hard and staying committed are often the difference between employees who add value and those who don’t. If there’s one thing military spouses have, it’s dedication.
Include these hard-earned soft skills in your résumé and highlight them during your interviews to use your experiences to your advantage.
Make Connections Wherever You Go
Military couples and families move more often than typical civilian couples and families. Moving often can make it challenging for military spouses to build their careers, but it also creates opportunities for professional connections. At UMGC, we encourage military spouses to always be open to network; you never know what connection will lead to a job offer down the line. To make the most out of your connections, be prepared to jump on opportunities whenever they come up. The best ways to network include
Duty station job opportunities: When your spouse changes duty stations, check what military spouse jobs are available. Even if one doesn’t fit your goals, you’ll make connections. Take advantage of the specific Military Base Installation Guide to see which organizations, companies, schools, and services operate on your particular military installation and proactively reach out to listed points of contact.
Volunteering: As a military spouse, you’ve likely volunteered or know others who’ve helped organizations like the Family Readiness Group. These volunteer opportunities are a fantastic way to meet people and grow your network.
Job fairs: Job fairs are a great place to introduce yourself to professionals in multiple fields and make the kinds of connections that can pay off down the line.
Education fairs: Many colleges and universities who send staff to education fairs aren’t attending just to provide information to prospective students; they’re also looking for staff and faculty to provide education services. Working for an on-base school is an excellent way to network with dozens of education providers who offer employment opportunities around the world.
Earn a Degree and/or Certificate
One of the best ways to start or advance a career is to further your education. Many employers require some form of education credentials for employment or advancement, and most pay more to those who have completed education beyond high school. If you know which career you want to pursue, the next step is often finding a degree or certificate to help you get there. Military spouses often earn degrees that lead to careers in fields such as business, management, education, cybersecurity, nursing, accounting, or marketing.
Use Your Military Spouse Benefits for Education
Like servicemembers, you have access to education benefits that can make a certificate or degree more affordable. One popular military spouse education benefit is MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Account). This benefit was created specifically for military spouses and provides up to $4,000 toward the completion of a certificate, professional license, or associate degree at any school that is part of the MyCAA program. Even if you’re looking for education beyond what MyCAA covers, you can likely take advantage of MyCAA funds. For instance, you could earn an associate degree and apply those credits toward a bachelor’s degree.
Another benefit you may qualify for is Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits. If your spouse chooses not to use those benefits, they may be able to transfer them to you. You can also look for schools that offer a reduced tuition rate for servicemembers and their spouses, as well as military-spouse-specific scholarships. Depending on the school and the education you want to earn, a reduced rate and scholarship can save you thousands.
UMGC Understands Military Culture
At UMGC, many of our staff and those in leadership positions have served in the military, and others are military spouses themselves. We know that the expertise we bring to the table helps military spouses get the degrees and certificates they need for the careers they want. UMGC offers an extensive choice of online classes and programs, so you can continue your program no matter where military life takes you. For military spouses, that’s a huge advantage. In addition, UMGC has advisors specifically there for you to answer any questions you may have about tuition benefits, financial assistance, or courses. We’re here to help you realize that the career you want is attainable and that you can start toward your goals today.
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