As a military spouse, I have learned to deftly navigate our family through constant relocations and spouse deployments. Military spouses are the masters of flexibility. We are masters of adaptation when told deployments, moving dates and locations are happening one way, when in reality they’re often happening another. Sometimes the ‘chips fall in our favor’ and often times they don’t. Nearly 2 million families make these arduous transitions, but at what cost?

Frequent geographic relocations often interrupt the career development of military spouses. Even though the spouse community at large may surround us, being a military spouse with career and educational ambitions can be frustrating and isolating.

Additionally, knowing that military spouses are more likely to move, employers may choose not to hire them, offer them lower salaries, or not invest in their training. In many duty stations, spouses are left with the option to volunteer or face having large employment gaps on their resumes. So what can you do to transfer your volunteer experience into quantifiable skills and experience for your resume?

1. Take the opportunities that come across you.

This is the initial first step; they can open up doors you never even realized were there and introduce you to people who are connected to other volunteer opportunities and even job postings.

2. Think about your potential.

Who you are personally? What do you bring to the table? (Not just what you do; think of skills, talent, experience.)

3. Strategically volunteer.

Once you’ve determined the field you want to get into, strategically volunteer in a capacity that will give you transferable skills. When you look at volunteer roles, they should include a defined position description and training opportunities provided to support what you are doing as a volunteer (Note: also, keep in mind that skills are in two different realms – intangible skills gained through practice and time called “soft skills” and tangible skills are skills learned through education, certification or by taking a class.)

4. Include volunteer positions on your resume.

Reformat your resume (if necessary) to reflect an experience section in which you chronologically include both volunteer and paid work experience.

5. Be honest with potential employers.

Honesty is always the best policy; if you were OCONUS or had a child, tell your employer about your circumstances and what volunteer organizations you contributed to during that time period.

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