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Remote Work a Key Factor in Military Spouse Career Continuity

by Carol Fishman Cohen

Since we recently honored our military servicemen and women on Veteran's Day, I have been thinking a lot about those who support them: military spouses. I had the opportunity to meet with military spouses earlier this month when I spoke at the National Military Spouse Network Military Spouse Employment Summit. My focus was on maintaining career continuity as a military spouse. Frequent moves make career continuity a challenge for military spouses, but remote work, meaningful volunteer experiences, portable careers, and transferable skills keep resumes strong until spouses can settle in one area permanently and resume a more conventional career. 

Military spouses use remote work extensively as they move from base to base every two to three years. Military spouse Christina Crawford, a top sales representative and a Director for Stampin' Up, a home-based stamp and craft business, also spoke at the Summit. As she moved from base to base over a 15-year period, Christina continued to work remotely out of her home, picking up more customers and more military spouses who wanted to work as demonstrators on her team. Christina and her team have sold $45 million worth of Stampin' Up products since her start with the company, and she now has a team of 1000 demonstrators working for her. Christina told the military spouse audience she pulls in income "in the six figures" from her Stampin' Up business.  Christina is now settled in Fairfax, Virginia where she also runs Chic Envy, the "upscale" consignment store she founded with her daughter that is set to hit $2 million in revenues this year, half of which go back to the individuals who consign the items sold by the store.

At the Summit, I met military spouse Karen Francis, who combines work as a virtual assistant, paralegal, and freelance writer in her remote career.  Summit organizer and National Military Spouse Network Founder Sue Hoppin, "America's Military Spouse Connector," has been working remotely as a consultant on military spouse issues since leaving her position as Deputy Director for Spouse Outreach for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). Even while holding the MOAA job, Sue worked remotely to co-author A Family's Guide to the Military for the DUMMIES series.  Prior to the Summit, I connected with Monica Brady, a military spouse who worked remotely as a virtual assistant before establishing the Mommy Brain Reports product review and giveaway site when her husband got out of the Marines.

The Summit also included employers interested in hiring military spouses. Employers CSC, and American Support have the capability to hire military spouses and allow them to stay employed, often via remote work arrangements, as they move from base to base with their serviceman or woman. The profiles of these two companies could not be more different: CSC is a corporate IT services provider with a global workforce of 94,000, and American Support is a five-year-old, 500-employee company providing back office support to their customers throughout the U.S. Both companies offer a range of remote working opportunities, and they are especially interested in the military spouse population to fill these roles. CSC has a long record of hiring military spouses, while American Support is newly focused on the military spouse population. Representatives from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the U.S. Secret Service also spoke about their interest in hiring spouses, and their programs to help more spouses get hired, which included remote work opportunities.

I am inspired by the way in which military spouses are making remote work part of their career continuity strategy. I am also encouraged by the employers eager to engage with military spouses through remote work opportunities. We should play close attention to how military spouses and the employers who hire them use remote work arrangements, as we can all learn from their example.

More commentary on the career continuity challenges faced by military spouses can be found here and here, and more information on the National Military Spouse Network is here.

 

This commentary is part of Microsoft's Your Office, Your Terms Forum  – http://msft.it/YOYTC2 #Blog #YO

Photo Credit:  Sue Hoppin, National Military Spouse Network