Have a plan!


Summit Wrap Up by MJ Boice

If you weren’t able to attend NMSN’s Annual Military Spouse Career Summit last month, then you may have missed out on THE professional development event of the YEAR! 

All professional development events should be sought out and soaked up every chance you get; but this wasn’t your average career summit.  It was specific to and centered around two VERY important angles that are notoriously at odds with one another:  Military Spouses and our Careers.

The topics that were presented and the information the participants received were applicable to the unique employment challenges that our demographic faces. Whether you are a brand new spouse trying to find your path, a mid-career spouse who’s been around for a while, or a seasoned spouse who sees transition on the horizon; below are just a few examples of how the summit would benefit you.  Keep these topics in mind when you’re thinking about joining in at next year’s Military Spouse Career Summit!

  1. Take advantage of employment resources that are available to you NOW.  Most installations have offices that are dedicated to helping military spouses find jobs on or off post, provide interview prep classes or even help in creating your resume.
  2. Speaking of resumes, keep yours UPDATED! Even if you have no plans to work at this time, you may want to have a career one day.  If you volunteer, put it on your resume.  If you finish your degree, put it on your resume.  If you’re involved in any organizations, put it on your RESUME.  It wouldn’t hurt to get a LINKEDIN account as well.  Opportunity is everywhere and we never know when the perfect one will present itself (if we don’t create them ourselves!)
  3. You MUST have a plan, but be prepared to take RISKS.  Katherine Berman and Sophie LaMontage are the founders of Georgetown Cupcakes.  You might recognize them from TLC’s hit show DC Cupcakes.  These sisters took a major risk to pursue their childhood dream of opening a bakery.  They left well-established careers in the fields of finance and fashion at the height of the recession in order to pursue that dream.  Through their first-hand account, we learned that sometimes you have to go “all in” on your dreams in order to live your passion.  Which reminds me:  what’s YOUR passion?
  4. Learn from other’s mistakes.  So many other military spouses have hit brick-walls in the past.  Network and actually LISTEN to those who have come before us. 
  5. Mother’s Guilt is a real thing, there is no debating that.  Being the spouse of a service member forces us to be the primary constant; but that doesn’t mean that it has to be the only facet of our lives that defines us.  At the summit, we learned that we are not the only ones to feel guilty for putting our goals at the forefront sometimes. We worry about whether or not the time we are investing in ourselves is time that we are taking away from our kids.  We typically ask ourselves, “How much time do I (will I) spend with my kids?”  Let’s reframe that question with “HOW am I (will I) spend time with my kids?”  Did you come up with a different answer?
  6. Being a military spouse will ONLY get your foot in the door.  THAT is our prize for the sacrifices we are making.  Many employers will indeed give military spouses and veterans a second glance when they wouldn’t have otherwise.  After that, it’s up to US to be good at what we do enough to impress them and keep that position in the long run.  This can be a hard lesson to learn.  While our skills in this lifestyle ARE valuable, it can’t be the only thing to carry us.
  7. “Transition”.  This is a word that our entire community has heard surface over and over again.  Many of us don’t give it a second thought because we have “3+, 5+, 10+ years” before we need to think about that, right? WRONG.  While listening to the Transition Panel at the summit, I learned that 2.5-3 years before you and your spouse transition out of the service, this topic should move from the back-burner to the front-burner with a quickness.  Whether you’re nearing retirement or the end of your first and (due to the current drawdown of troops) only tour of duty, being prepared for transition should become second nature to all of us.  USAA provides a great resource to determine the budget we would need to live on after leaving the military. 
  8. Think outside of the box.  Can’t find a job that’s flexible enough during a deployment? Have you ever found yourself wishing that you could just ‘take your job with you’ when you PCS?  Try crafting a portable career.  Have you thought about blogging?  Did you know you could earn money doing that? There are so many opportunities; but only if we choose to see them as such.  However, in order to do any of the above you must ask yourself this very important question: 
  9. “WHAT IS IT THAT I WANT?”  Everyone was asked this at the summit in a lot of different ways.  This may be the hardest question you ever ask yourself, but if you don’t ask it now, then you won’t be able to see yourself doing what you want to do and you really can’t “be what you can’t see”.  Give it a shot and let us know what you come up with.

Overall, the summit gave me the fuel I needed to power through many of my own military life employment worries.  I had never thought to sit down and ask myself the questions that the speakers at the summit had posed.  For example, during the Career Success Toolkit networking lunch, I realized that the question “What do you WANT”  was not a question I was used to being asked. To then be advised to ASK for what I wanted blew my skirt back even further.  I had never even considered asking for anything before.

I had also never considered going to networking and hiring events with my service member as a team; ESPECIALLY since he isn’t scheduled to retire any time soon.  During the Transition Panel, we learned that the team approach (paired with managing our own expectations) is the best approach for a smoother transition.  We go through their career as a team, we should approach transition as a team.  Going to hiring events before we even have to will help us stay prepared as a team. 

During the Business Boot Camp session, what ‘stuck’ with me the most was when we were told to “have a plan” and “pursue it RELENTLESSLY”.  For some reason, these two phrases have motivated me so much that everything I have done since the summit has been somehow geared towards my goals.  The advice we were given, the alternate paths we were introduced to; all led to an extreme amount of fuel to the fire.

I left the summit feeling like I had entered a new world where secrets were revealed to me that I had never thought existed.  We heard REAL stories about REAL people like us who were taking risks and becoming even MORE successful than ever because of their own experiences and (for some of them) because of THIS SUMMIT.  I personally feel as though I still have much to learn…which is EXACTLY why I will be attending NEXT year’s Military Spouse Career Summit.    

Who’s with me?

One Response to “Have a plan!”

  1. gravatar Loretta Sonsalla

    Great write up! Would love to attend next year, as well, so please let me know where to go to sign up!


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