3 Tips for Military Spouses Struggling to Find Work

Man in fatigues holding hands with woman wearing wedding rings.

It’s Veterans Day. While we honor those who choose to protect and serve, let’s not forget the ones who are by their side throughout deployments, activations, and numerous moves both in-country and out. According to a  survey by FlexJobs and Blue Star Families, 91% of military spouses say being a military spouse has had a negative impact on their job seach. And it causes them to struggle to find work.

That doesn’t mean you can’t find career success even if your spouse is currently active duty. Your lifestyle can actually be a benefit in the job market if you know how to use it to your advantage. Think about all the opportunities you have to meet new people and how skilled you are at adapting to change. These soft skills – problem solving, perseverance, adaptability, and communications – are things hiring managers look for, and they aren’t taught in school. Another current benefit (thank you Corona Virus) is the increased acceptance of remote work. What used to be a limitation to you seeking positions at certain organizations have eased. So don’t automatically cross those off your list.

Here’s 3 ways a military spouse can make the job search and interview process less stressful and more successful.

1. Make Your Resume Functional

Since you’ve moved around and probably have gaps in your employment history, you may want to consider using a skills-based formatted resume – known as a FUNCTIONAL RESUME – rather than the traditional chronological format. This allows you to place less emphasis on the length of time you work any one place and play up the skills you’ve acquired.

Don’t forget to include any continuing education you’ve pursued, whether with a traditional college or not. Many online certifications can really beef up your resume. That’s because they are directly tied into the skills you need for the job you are applying. If you attended an online coding course, social media marketing course, or project management intensive – include it in your education section

Another way military spouses can counter resume gaps is in creating a stand out cover letter. You can allow your personality to come through. You can show how these gaps have prepared you to be the perfect person for the job you are applying. And don’t forget, some large companies have recruiters who are dedicated to not only hiring veterans, but also military spouses.

One final note on functional resumes. They are useful in relating a variety of work experiences. They give you the flexibility to highlight what experiences are most applicable to the job you’re seeking. But many people aren’t comfortable straying from the traditional format. If you’re worried it might stand out as a red flag with recruiters and hiring manager try a COMBINATION RESUME. This format gives equal weight to your relevant skills and your work history.

2. Identify or not?

There’s a huge debate over whether a military spouse should volunteer during a job interview that he or she is, in fact, a military spouse. If you are applying for a job at a company with a stated military spouse hiring goal, self identifying is vital. If you don’t check the box, they won’t know you’re in the mix. And if you are both a veteran and a military spouse, make sure you always pick veteran first. A lot of companies receive tax credits for hiring veterans which means those applications will receive first calls over spouses.

While some companies are actively recruiting you, many military spouses still experience discrimination in the job market. Remember, there’s no reason to mention your military affiliation in your cover letter, resume, or even interview. Trust your gut. If you feel like it would hinder you from receiving an interview, leave it off.

Another bonus, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, relatively short job stints on your resume aren’t automatic red flags now. Shorter tenures are increasingly the norm. According to a 2018 survey by the Bureau, the median amount of time 25 to 34-year-olds had been at their current job was 2.8 years—which is about how often military families relocate.

Never lie if you are asked about the length of times you’ve held previous jobs. However, you don’t have to say your spouse is military either. You can simply say your family relocated due to new opportunities.

3. Network Smart

Using your network effectively will always be one of the best tools you have in your job search arsenal. It’s important to make and grow both your personal and digital connections. Experts say between 70-80% of jobs come through your network. It’s important you get out into the community and get to know others. Don’t forget about connecting online with those who are in your career field of choice. No matter how you grow your network, do it.

Don’t think your networking is done when you send in a resume. Now’s the time to really go to work. Once you’ve sent in your application, or submitted your resume online, it’s important you connect with the company hiring manager or recruiter online. This is easy with LinkedIn. You can drop them a note telling them you’ve applied and give them a short recap of why you’re qualified. In fact, if you can highlight a reason you’re qualified that’s not on your resume, even better. Keep it short. Use it as a way to say you just wanted to make sure your application was seen and not lost in cyberspace.

You can also use LinkedIn to set up informational interviews or participate in virtual networking events. Both increase your visibility and grow your list of connections. Remember, networking is a two-way street. Once you make a connection you must continue growing the relationship. Even if they can’t help you at this time, they might turn into a great resource on your next move.

Next Step

I’d love to see you land a career you enjoyed and added to your families financial stability. I’m adding resources and tactics all the time, making sure my Get Noticed, Get Hired Membership program has the most up-to-date information and is filled with value. It’s designed to take the struggle out of job searching and land you in the interview seat faster. Check it out today and take your job search to the next level.



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