I’ve been immersed in the military community for over 14 years now. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly, the amazing, the heartbreaking, and the heroic. One thing I know – the military is a community in every technical detail of the word.

About 5 years ago, I took a hard turn from my educated career path and launched out into the entrepreneurial scene. Like many spouses who experience employment challenges moving nine times in 14 years (or more), there comes a point when you just take matters into your own hands. I contribute most every community building skill, motivational spirit, and “get it done” mentality to my experience as a military spouse.

Whether you are working in a traditional 8-5, staying at home raising babies, or working from home in a remote job, most spouses at some point along the way, balance personal and work life with a responsibility and commitment to the military community as well. And that balance eventually fuses together to create amazingly capable, strong, and adaptable spouses. And that’s where this tale begins…

I launched an interactive platform for military spouses to find remote work over this past summer and have had many conversations with spouses about skill sets. A friend posted on Facebook her disgust at the reply she received about including FRG experience on a resume. The reply she got: “That’s not social community or support. That’s a bunch of spouses sitting together gossiping and eating cookies.”

Oh, I was HOT. HOT when I read this. Like blood pressure through the roof and I can even feel myself starting to type at a speed that Mavis Beacon would be impressed with now.
I feel an open letter is the best way to reply.

It’ll be the shortest open letter ever addressed to an anonymously naive person:

Dear Anonymously Naive Person,
If you’ve never had a family or spouse left behind in a deployment or have never even been deployed yourself, you can shut it. If you decide to remain naive as to the fact that these support communities are run ENTIRELY on volunteer support of already overtaxed and over stressed spouses and you decide to continue to let that fall out of your mouth, you may find a Oriental trading company foam board craft shoved down your throat.

Too much? Not enough?

Storytelling and explaining military life in ways the outside world can understand is forefront in my brain about 3-4 hours a day. This person’s comment hit me hard. If there are still people WITHIN our community who don’t get or respect what’s going on in FRG communities and those type of stereotypes are being fed out into the civilian world. All may be lost. So let’s get real. Let’s talk about the Top 4FRG Skills that directly relate to your MadSkills as a candidate for employment and career pursuit.

1. Fundraising

Slopping 72 gallons of chili you made for 3 days into bowls like a soup line boss (I am gonna hashtag that: #souplineboss) for rear deployment so you can fundraise $20 and inch towards something of a legit homecoming party for 300 in 6 weeks may not sound impressive but it is. It shows that you used the resources given to you in a timeline you were placed it and you delivered. That’s what an employer cares about.

Can you work within the parameters set forth and make business happen. What I do now as a community manager for start ups and even as owner of my company really all started in my very first spouse club board position. I was placed as fundraising vice president and told our goal was $15,000 for the year. I learned how to walk into buildings, cold call community leaders, and visit company owners to articulate the importance of our club mission.

That’s marketing, my friends! That’s pitching and closing a sale. Yes, you!!! You’ve done that and didn’t even realize it. Remember that now. Use it.

2. Social Responsibility

Most corporations and companies these days have an acute awareness of social responsibility. Sadly, the reason behind this is usually only because their customers care. But you? You could give a workshop on social responsibility to the corporate leadership of any company. FRG groups ARE social impact. They are the hands on demonstration of social support. It’s not for a badge or pat on the back or to look good in a commercial – it’s because lives depended on it. You sit on social support committees. You lead teams of social and community responders. You organize, staff, and manage social events. Use that experience to your benefit.

3. Emergency Situations

Crisis Management Server crashed? Client dropped a deadline bomb? 30% of the staff is out with the flu and someone has to cover down on the sales accounts? Got it. Not a problem! After skimming through the call roster at 0600 one morning to see who could help out with an emergency family situation in a company not even my own, I realized we were not only a family support system, we were also a quick response team.

Children literally abandoned the day before their dad was coming home from a 15 month deployment. A lost and distraught grandmother left with 6 kids, a house that should have been condemned, and heartache for what she would be welcoming home her son to the next day. We scrubbed. And cried. And worked for HOURS to make that home SOMETHING reminiscent of what a soldier should come home to.

No one told us we had to do this. No one paid us to do this. We were all actually paying for childcare for our children and our own cleaning supplies to do this. So, why would a company care? It’s not about the details to them, it’s about the skills you use in these types of situations. It shows level headed response to crisis. It validates your ability to draw a team together, strategize a solution, and act on it.

4. Leadership

Are all FRGs great? No. Are all FRG leaders stellar at what’s been most usually been dropped into their laps? No. But you know what is great? There is always SOMEONE who steps up to the need from within the community. You may never know them. Never see them. Never watch them accept award for service. But someone in that community, in the FRG, rises to the occasion every time. That person is a leader! If that person is you – you bring value wherever you go.

These experiences and skills to manage a community, financially support a cause, respond to crisis with a level head, they all constitute social work. Social support. Community building. Community Management. We have to arm ourselves and our fellow spouses with the confidence and resources to turn these experiences in businesses, jobs, income streams for our transient families.

I’ve learned over the years, that whether writing, speaking, or posting on social media, people engage most with a call to action.

Tell people your stories. FRG is not just a dud of an acronym. It’s a living entity. It breathes. It moves. It inspires. It, itself, is a call to action.

Lastly, if you’ve ever had a volunteer role as a military spouse, put that on your resume. Go update your LinkedIn profile. Your About.me. If we expect the world to know, respect, and acknowledge the work and experiences from within the military community and to see the communities we’ve built and supported without pay or reward – it’s up to us to put it out there.

Erica McMannes is an Army Spouse, mom to two boys, CEO and co-founder of MadSkills, Inc and Silicon Valley start up consultant. You can find her professional spouse profile and resume and connect with her at www.hiremadskills.com – an interactive platform created by military spouses offering the connection for professional military spouses to find remote jobs.

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