When we moved to Northern Virginia in the summer of 2012, I thought it would be easy to find a job. I had spent the past five years as a stay-home mom and was ready to get back into the workforce. My daughter was about to start full-day kindergarten and I figured I could work around my son’s preschool schedule. I was optimistic that I would find something in the health promotion field fairly quickly.
By April 2014, I still didn’t have a job. I had spent hours searching on job sites, updating my resume, creating company-specific cover letters, and even interviewing a few times, but there had been no offers. I often would become discouraged and wonder if I would ever be able to land a job I wanted after taking so many years off to be home with my kids. I would wallow in self-pity when I thought about how I had spent so many years in college and graduate school with nothing to show for it. And what made it worse was knowing that I am a smart person with a strong work ethic, yet no one was giving me the opportunity to prove it. I even contemplated not working at all.
Because of my misery, I didn’t realize I was doing everything right. I was putting myself out there. I was writing for the Homefront United Network and for an on-base health promotion newsletter. I was submitting resumes. I was meeting with potential employers to discuss options. I was attending job fairs and getting connected on LinkedIn. Any time I would get discouraged, I would eventually have to remind myself that the right job will come at the right time. This faith is what kept me going, along with all those Pinterest pins about not letting fear get in the way of your goals.
In early May, I received an e-mail from one of my contacts for the on-base newsletter with a job opportunity she was recommending for me. I read the description and thought it was a perfect fit. Three weeks later, I received the offer for the job. I was thrilled that all my hard work had finally paid off.
It is easy to fear something when we can’t see how it will work out. Military spouses in particular are faced with the burden of finding a new job all too often. We must put ourselves out there when we know we’ll be moving again in a year or two, or when we haven’t worked in many years. But if fear takes over, we risk holding back all that we have to offer.
Here are some effective ways to get yourself out there and find confidence in your job search:
1. Streamline and tailor your resume. Most bases have career services which can help you update your resume, especially if you haven’t worked in a while. There are also many resources for perfecting resumes online. When applying for a specific job, check out the company or department’s website to get specific information on what they do. Use keywords in your resume that highlight the company’s goals.
2. Utilize military-spouse resources. There are several websites that serve to help military spouses find jobs. Some of them even offer personal assistance with resumes or finding jobs in difficult fields. Check out Military OneSource, Military Spouse Employment Partnership, Military Spouse Career Center, and Military Spouse Corporate Career Network to get started.
3. Go to the fair. Whether virtual or in-person, attending job fairs will help you get your name out there and allow you to ask potential employers questions about a job you are looking for. Many times the people at the booths are job recruiters, so they can keep your information on file if a specific job opens up at their company.
4. Volunteer. Figure out exactly what work you want to do, and then find a volunteer position which relates to that work. This will allow you to hone your skills and gain valuable experience. And sometimes volunteering allows you to discover you don’t want to do that type of work after all.
5. Believe in yourself. We all get discouraged at times, but it is important not to stay there too long. Instead, act like searching for a job is your job. Put as much energy and dedication into the hunt as you would the actual job. This will help you feel more professional which will reflect on your resume, when e-mailing companies, or when talking to potential employers. If you are confident in yourself, they will sense it!
These practices, along with some patience and perseverance will help you achieve greater results in your job search. Good luck!