Michelle Aikman focuses on improving communication, strengthening the first impression employers get of spouses.
FAIRCHILD AFB, WASHINGTON – Air Force wife Michelle Aikman says that while she knew the military would dictate many aspects of her life, spouses have an opportunity to make those components work to their advantage. In fact, she sees marrying the civilian and military communities through improved information flow as the key. The 2016 Armed Forces Insurance Air Force Spouse of the Year ® is using her vision to educate employers on the asset of hiring spouses while strengthening the first impression spouses give through resume review.
“Before I got into this (military) world, I knew nothing about it except I would have no control over my life,” Michelle said. “I completely relate to an outsider’s opinion of having respect for but no relationship to the military.”
Since she’s been involved in the community, she’s taken advantage of the opportunity to help those outside the gates understand it. “Families, neighbors, and employers all want to know how to understand and help our military, this is where I’ve been focusing,” she said.
Information Flow Needs to Improve
Just as much as Michelle wants to be an external mouthpiece, she thinks communication internally can use some tweaking. “Military spouses want and need information. With so many outlets available, it is difficult to figure out where to go,” Michelle said.
With the increased use of social media, many spouses end up looking to online social groups for support, connectivity, and information. Although helpful at times, the groups are usually not moderated and are not connected to any formal information outlet or support services so there is ample opportunity for misinformation and individuals to feel unnoticed and forgotten.
The official side of the military has vital information, but the trickle-down effect is where things go off track. “The Air Force has relied on the Key Spouse Program for the dissemination of information, but is that the right approach? Do we need to adapt?”
Service members receive regular communications but the families are not tied into a similar process. “The few times I found out that I could attend a Town Hall, I showed up and got a wealth of information. There were only two or three other spouses in the auditorium,” Michelle shared, “I don’t think spouses know when or if they can attend.”
Michelle admits she doesn’t have all the answers, but wants to see the conversation happen at every level.
Air Force Wife Sets Her Sights on Getting Spouses Hired
Writing the Illusive Resume
I was immediately set at ease the first time I spoke to Michelle, about 18 months ago, when I reached out to her via LinkedIn to discuss a resume certification. She immediately calmed my nerves with patience, understanding, and honesty. She is a leader in every sense of the word.
During this interview, we touched on resumes and military spouse careers, and she shared the progress spouses have made while working with her. Michelle has some fantastic advice for those who are writing that illusive resume, whether for the first time, or just the first time in a decade. “Just start with a blank document and write things down,” she said, “Write down what you did, why it was important, how you can communicate it, write the back story.” There is plenty of time for formatting later, she added.
Tip: Volunteer experience is valuable – put it on your resume!
We’ve recently seen negative reactions to volunteer work in the military spouse community, suggestions that it really isn’t enough to help you get a job later on. Michelle encourages spouses to put forth unpaid work in a confident manner, one that leaves no doubt in a potential employer’s mind that this experience is valid and important. “Unpaid work has enhanced the competitiveness significantly for the clients that chose to recognize and embrace the value and relevancy to what they wanted to do next,” she said.
Michelle’s own resume include a career as an engineer, a profession she valued. Her love for Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) has partnered with her love for military spouses and helping them find fulfilling careers. She wants to see a difference for military spouses in the uncommon professions. She’s currently working with another military spouse on a group called the Society of Military Spouses in STEM (SMSS). “Our hope is that SMSS can do for STEM military spouses what the JD Network has done for military spouse lawyers,” Michelle said. “The world needs more military spouses in these great career fields.”
“I feel as though I’m doing my part by choosing to invest externally, by taking our community and injecting it out into the world. Being vocal outwards and educating outwards,” the Air Force wife of 13 years concluded.
The Military Spouse of the Year program offers the branch winners an opportunity to take their focus to a national level. Voting for the overall representative of the spouse community will take place on just one day – March 3rd. To vote for Michelle, click on this link: VOTE FOR MICHELLE AIKMAN
The 2016 Armed Force Insurance Military Spouse of the Year ® winner will be announced on May 5th at the award ceremony in Washington, D.C.