By: Craig Gilman, Faculty Member at American Military University
Joining the military means a life of training exercises and deployments away from home, not to mention periodic transfers with little choice of duty stations that can be found in countries half a world away. What comes with all that is a career–even if only for a few years–that provides opportunities for personal growth and satisfaction, professional challenge and reward, career development, and leadership opportunities that build a stronger resume.
Becoming a military spouse is a different story. In addition to the unpredictability of the military lifestyle and, often, the additional responsibility of being the de facto head-of-household and primary parental role model during deployments, there is no guarantee of a meaningful career or even temporary job to help pay the bills. Military spouses who want a professional career face high hurdles.
What is one to do?
First, when assessing potential long-term career options, it is essential to identify careers in which you will satisfy your personal sense of purpose, passion, and values. Once you identify possible career interests, consider the concept of portability.
Portable careers are those careers that require skills and knowledge that are transferrable and useful in a wide variety of local, national, or global industries and markets and are not limited to a geographic location. If you discover that you are equally interested in accounting and teaching scuba diving, which do you think would be more portable for your life that will most certainly involve relocation to landlocked locations?
There are more considerations to weigh. Avoid jobs that require specific credentials that are jurisdiction or state specific or require in-depth knowledge of a local region. An example is real estate agent. When considering careers that require specific state certification, be sure that they are in high growth industries that might be more willing to accept out of jurisdiction certification based on need.
Another consideration is the growing selection of careers that can be accomplished virtually from a home office. Typically, these careers require strong technology, online business, and communication skills. Often they are service or sales related, including online training, human resources management, book-keeping, language interpretation, writing and editing, web-design, and many others. Another option is starting your own business; a home office has the added bonus of avoiding the implications and costs of maintaining a lease or owning a brick and mortar facility.
Maintaining a home office enables a parent to be there to welcome kids home from school. Another benefit is the ability to keep a U.S. based job even when living abroad, where on-base jobs are often not career-enhancing and hard to get and off-base positions require language or residency requirements that can prevent employment.
While originally intended for the family members of the U.S. Department of State, the guide Employment Options for Foreign Service Family Members contains useful career-seeking guidance tailored specifically toward the types of portable careers that would also benefit military spouses.
Once you set your sights on the right career, consider online learning to get the education to support your goals. If you have to move halfway through a post-secondary certificate or degree program, an online program can travel with you without interruption or risk of losing credit for completed courses.
Whether you are a new or veteran military spouse or one who is now contemplating your next career decision, considering the concept of portability will significantly strengthen your odds of entering or advancing in a career that will fit nicely with your military lifestyle.
About the Author
Craig Gilman is an education coordinator and online adjunct faculty member with American Military University. He is a veteran who served in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. Prior to joining APUS Craig taught secondary social studies as a public school teacher in Virginia, international school in Seoul, Korea, and public middle school in Tokyo, Japan.