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2024 Virtual Return to Work Conference, May 14-16

Tips for Career Relaunch: Insights from a Military Spouse

By Jen Pasquale

Jen is an active-duty Army spouse, mother of two, business consultant, and the founder of Pride & Grit, a transition support community for seasoned military spouses. As a career Training & Development professional and a Certified Strengths Coach, Jen specializes in identity coaching and team development using the CliftonStrengths assessment. Through her coaching and facilitation, Jen helps individuals and teams develop pride in their unique talents and cultivate the grit to use those talents to find fulfillment within and beyond their role(s).

If you're getting ready to relaunch your career after an absence or pivot into a new career field, your best source for tips might be a military spouse. As a community, military spouses often have resumes resembling Swiss cheese – big holes over here, small holes over there. Our work history can look inconsistent at best and disloyal at worst. In honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, May 12, I've collected some advice from military spouses who are "done and dusted" on career pivots.

While a relaunch might look slightly different for military spouses, this article provides tips that can be applied to any relaunch journey.

1. Make Time for Goal Setting

    Why do you want to go back to work? Working might be inextricably connected with self-worth, confidence, or fulfillment for some. For others, it may be tied to financial stability. Be sure you've taken the time to define your goals. There are no right answers, just right for you and your season of life.

    Goal setting can often extend beyond your personal goals to family goals. Take time to communicate and discuss your personal goals with your partner. Having early conversations about how your plans might impact the family will allow you to approach any changes to the household as a team.

    If you are a military spouse, consider how your goals may shift as you move through military life and beyond it. The jobs that fit well at today's duty station may not have a schedule that works well at the next one. Revisiting your goals with each location, job, and season can help ensure you and your partner are on the same page.

    2. Think About Your Skills Differently

      Sometimes we are too close to our skills, and we're often quick to discount our superpowers. Consider asking for feedback from others. If you've volunteered, ask someone in the organization or someone impacted by your work to share how they see your strengths, skills, and weaknesses.

      A professional skill may be used differently in different industries. Consider how you can leverage your skills in different industries or roles and highlight the nuances in your resume and job interviews.

      If you are a military spouse, consider what skills you are discounting because they are tied to unit or community volunteering or family operations. Define the outcomes of the unpaid work you've been doing and then work backward to uncover the associated skills.

      3. Define How You Want To Work

        It's a blessing and curse that remote work has become so accessible. The blessing is that finding and keeping a job no matter where you live is possible now more than ever. The curse is that instead of only focusing on the job, you'll want to find a job that fits your skills and an environment (hybrid, remote, in-person) that aligns with your goals.

        So, before you begin a relaunch, decide what you really want. If you've never worked remotely, talk to a few friends who do and learn more about what they love and what they don't about working from home. Be honest about what you want and don't want, and ensure your search reflects those outcomes.

        If you are a military spouse, don't assume an in-person or hybrid job can't become a remote job in the future - one you can keep during the next move. Many organizations continue adjusting their requirements to fit the market and the work.

        4. Prioritize Available Resources

          Every resource isn't right for every job seeker. Prioritize utilizing those that fit your season and your goals. These resources can include job fairs, career counseling services, resume workshops, interview preparation, fellowships, and networking opportunities. Don't forget to consider how LinkedIn can support your networking efforts.

          If you're a military spouse, knowing what resource is right for you can be challenging. While service members have access to an unending list of resources for transition and employment support, the list is shorter for spouses. Take the time to understand what resources you are eligible for while your service member is on active duty versus those you may lose as a veteran spouse. Seek out webinars on employment-related topics. Military OneSource provides free career coaching and mentorship.

          5. Consider Entrepreneurship

            Freelance, contract, and service-based businesses continue to gain a foothold in our economy. Starting a business or pursuing freelance work can be an excellent option for those who want more career flexibility.

            If you are interested in entrepreneurship, consider taking courses or attending local workshops to develop your skills and knowledge. A variety of Small Business Administration resources are also available specifically for entrepreneurs, including grants, mentorship, and funding opportunities.

            If you are a military spouse, remember that each state has unique rules for setting up or transferring a business. Also, remember to tap into the numerous military-focused entrepreneurship accelerators.

            6. Be Flexible and Adaptable

              Thinking creatively, adjusting your goals for a season, and even taking breaks if that's what you need to do, are all options. And options you need to be able to take unapologetically. This is your life, family, and dream; comparison serves no one, least of all, you and your path.

              For every story of a spouse that found the perfect relaunch position, there is a story of a spouse who took a chance on something unexpected and found new purpose and fulfillment in an unexpected role. Be clear on your goals and values and be open to the unexpected.

              If you are a military spouse, the winding road of career reinvention can be exhausting. Keep asking for help, building your network, and using your creative problem-solving skills; your moment will come.

              7. Lean On Your Community

                Lean on those who have been there. Ask them what resources they love, and which fell short of meeting their needs. Ask for introductions to those in their network that align with your goals. If they had a successful relaunch, ask what they'd do differently. No one has this figured out. You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed or even underqualified. The more you've been away from employment, the deeper these feelings may be. Raise your hand, ask for help, and believe you are worthy of support.

                If you are a military spouse, it's not an exaggeration to say that no one will understand your employment, relaunch, or career pivot challenges quite like another military spouse. And most in this community would welcome a chance to make things easier for the next spouse facing the uncertainty of carving their own path alongside their service member.

                If you aren't on LinkedIn, you need to be. The military spouse and veteran community on LinkedIn is nothing short of incredible. Ask your questions with #militaryspouse. I promise you'll have a flood of resources from other spouses who understand the challenges of relaunching a career after a PCS.

                Relaunching or pivoting your career can be challenging, but it is possible with careful planning and consideration. By identifying your goals and priorities, identifying your transferable skills, exploring remote work options, and leaning on those in your network, you can carve out something new and exciting for yourself.

                Don't relaunch alone!

                Join our growing relauncher communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. For more great guidance on your relaunch and updates on when return to work programs are accepting applications, events for relaunchers and more, be sure to sign up for our Return to Work Report and follow us on social media to stay informed!

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