“Two great jobs….why did you leave before you had been there a year?”
“You just moved to the area and your husband is in the Marine Corps…so that means you’ll move again soon, right?”
“We once had a Marine spouse work for us – when her husband deployed, it became an issue.”
These are all real words that I have heard in a job interview. Despite the myriad of support in place, from programs endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama to unit Family Readiness Programs, employment is the one area where I have found people who refuse to look at the skills I have to offer, and instead only focus on the negative aspects of my resume that I can’t control.
It wasn’t always this way. As a new college graduate from the University of Virginia in 2007, I felt like my professional career was at my fingertips. I had scored a great job in the corporate office of Capital One, with wonderful colleagues and a terrific work environment. I learned so much every day, and felt that each week was a new opportunity for me to prove that I was capable of taking on responsibility. Then, in the blink of an eye, I was married to the love of my life – who just so happens to be in the Marine Corps. Ten months into my job, we were whisked away to California, forcing me to leave my comfortable cubicle for the desolate Mojave Desert, where the fanciest restaurant was Applebee’s and the nearest Target was an hour away.
For six months I struggled to find a job. First, I was looking for marketing positions at exciting companies. Upon realizing such companies didn’t exist within a 100-mile radius, I started simply looking for marketing jobs at any company. Then, just a job. Finally, I landed an interview for a hybrid marketing/administrative position at a local tourism bureau.
I remember telling my prospective employers in my interview that I would be there for three years at least. Of course, I hoped it would be true. But in my head, the unknown – deployments, trips to see my family (all on the East Coast), and starting a family– sowed doubt my mind. Nonetheless, I got the job. Although it wasn’t a perfect fit for me, I stuck with it for nine more months, until the “unknown” became a reality, and my husband deployed just weeks before I was due with our first child.
Thankfully, my boss understood my situation, and I left on good terms before my baby was born. I was ready to join the workforce the next year, after my husband returned to meet our seven-month-old daughter; however, by then we had months before we moved – hardly enough time to find another job and “stick with it” for a reasonable length. So, I stayed at home, prepared to move across country again, and looked forward to what opportunities awaited me in our new home in North Carolina.
This July, I had another interview in our new town for what sounded like a great position. I would be an Account Executive in a small marketing firm, and while it didn’t pay much, it would look great on my resume. After walking in, proud of the work I had done and my portfolio of experience, I heard the three statements above.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself and my lot in life as a military spouse, I left the interview with my head held high. I didn’t need to work for someone who didn’t understand my way of life, let alone try to put themselves in my shoes for one second. I realized that I was happiest at home, where I had started my own business, and enjoyed each day with my daughter. No, I didn’t have a steady income that I would get with a 40-hour-workweek. But I had confidence, joy, and didn’t have to feel as though I was making excuses for my way of life. And with these thoughts, I wrote the employer a note, telling them that the job was not for me.
I know I’m not alone in my struggle to continue my professional life while dealing with the ever-changing military lifestyle. Sometimes it seems like all military spouses are stay and home moms. Many are, but some aren’t. And if you ask the ones that are, many times they have amazing training in a great field, but just haven’t been given the opportunities to showcase that talent. Despite the businesses that claim they are “military friendly,” the reality is there just aren’t enough jobs near military bases that fit this description. Until that happens, take comfort in knowing that there are others out there who can share in your frustrations and provide support.