The Skill Set: 5 Ways to Stay in the Game When Your Spouse is Transferred
Take it from Leigh Searl, the lawyer and military spouse who’s made it her job to solve this problem for other people.
When your spouse is transferred, how do you keep your own career on track? We asked Leigh Searl, the founder of America’s Career Force and a military spouse, who’s no stranger to this question. She’s made it her business—literally—to help other military spouses find meaningful, career-building work. Get her tips for staying in the game—whatever your game may be—when your spouse is transferred.
The Skill Set: Stay in the Game When Your Spouse is Transferred
1. Find a network that’ll move with you
When you move a lot, it can be hard to build a strong network of professional contacts. In my business, I rely on LinkedIn to create a virtual network. I build those relationships online, and they can come with me wherever we have to go. I also suggest building a support system of other transplants. For example, military spouses are connected to one another. We support each other and lean on each other for resources and information. Other people who have dealt with the same difficulties will be more likely keep an ear out for job openings and put in a good word for you whenever possible. Look for people in a similar position to your own, whether that's through the company your spouse was transferred to or other newcomers in your adopted community.
2. Avoid applying to jobs through databases
When you move frequently, your resume looks spotty—you’ve got lots of jobs that you haven’t spent a lot of time in. Companies may see that as a lack of commitment or loyalty, especially if you’re simply sending your resume, without any context, to a web-based application system. As much as possible, reach out to hiring managers on the phone or via email, so that you don’t have to depend on your resume to speak for itself.
3. Volunteer your time and skills
If a military spouse is having trouble finding meaningful work near a certain base, he or she will often volunteer. It’s a great way to develop leadership skills and fill in gaps on your resume. Find projects that contribute to your business skills, like organizing an event or raising a certain amount of money. Those skills and experiences can transfer over to paid roles when the opportunity does arise.
4. Focus on industries where flexible work is common
Flex work is becoming more and more common. Web development, HR and recruiting, social media, PR, marketing and creative jobs are all conducive to remote or flexible work arrangements. If you’re based in the US, some accounting jobs can be done remotely (I'm working with a completely remote accounting firm that does all their bookkeeping for people remotely). Some legal jobs, like contract review, can be done from anywhere. There are also big companies out there that hire educators to do curriculum instruction, which is online, and tutoring is another option. Online nursing, where people can call to speak to an RN is even an option as long as you have access to a phone and the internet.
5. Pave your own way
Generally, if a company doesn’t have remote work for you right away, they’ll at least start thinking about it. When I work with companies to place military spouses in remote roles, I’ll look at the jobs they’re offering and say, “Do you think this job could be remote?" If they’re skeptical, I’ll suggest a 90-day trial period to see how it goes. Sometimes, if an employer has never had remote employees before, they worry that you won’t be held accountable to get your work done. A trial period allows you to put their fears to rest.