By J.G. Noll
Yesterday, Hiring Our Heroes presented the Military Spouse Employment Summit in Washington, D.C. The star-studded event included national notables (including Dr. Jill Biden, Linda McMahon, and Kellyanne Conway), military spouse employment advocates, and leaders in the corporate and military worlds. For three jam-packed hours, speakers and panels discussed the multi-faceted issues surrounding meaningful military spouse employment.
If you missed the event in-person or online, we’ve got a quick recap for you in six quotes:
1. “If the spouse resists, we lose ‘re-enlist.'” -Dr. Adam Jones, Regional Economist at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington
An underlying theme of the day was the dire cost that spouse under- and unemployment has on the readiness of the military community. According to a Hiring Our Heroes statistic, 85 percent of military spouses need or want to work, yet their unemployment is at Great Recession levels. This disconnect creates both financial and relational instability for families as they try to decide how to make ends meet. Often, this means that families will decide to leave the military community in search of of a dual income lifestyle.
2. “Every military spouse should have the chance to find a job that fits their skills, passions, and needs.” -Dr. Jill Biden, Former Second Lady
Gone are the days of expecting military spouses to gratefully take any job, regardless of pay or experience. The employment discussion is now pivoting to include acknowledgement of the diversity of skills and knowledge that military spouses have–and the necessity of feeling fulfilled a job that is meaningful to the individual.
3.”We are looking for you, but we have to know that you’re looking for a career opportunity.” -Chris Phillips, Marine veteran and Assistant Vice President, Diversity Specialist at PNC Bank
Military spouses were encouraged throughout the event to seek out opportunity and channels as they look for gainful, meaningful employment. In addition, the impressive showing of various businesses and organizations that have military spouse hiring programs or that are military community-friendly should put to bed the fear most spouses have of divulging their affiliation.
4. “I’m much more likely to refer you if I’ve met you! Please come out to in-person events.” -Theresa Lepow, Sr. Program Manager of the Military Spouse Program at Amazon
While LinkedIn was feted as an excellent way to network and land potential jobs, face-time was also given its due. Many bases and organizations near military communities offer in-person networking events, hiring fairs, and get-togethers. Recruiters want to put a face to a resume and a name.
5. “Sell yourself and what you’ve done.” -Ellyn Dunford, Spouse of General Joseph Dunford, USMC, 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Throughout the day, real-world tips were offered for many different parts of the career journey. Perhaps the most salient were those that encouraged military spouses to value their worth and hard-won skills. Speakers from the military community and the business world encouraged spouses to list their successes–whether career-oriented or from their volunteer experience–as a way to document and prove their abilities.
6. “Kevin Bacon doesn’t have anything on a military spouse.” -Amanda Crowe, Program Manager at InGear Career
Who needs six degrees of separation? The military spouse world is a small one. Networking, volunteering, and being present were repeatedly mentioned as ways to find opportunities even in the bleakest of circumstances. In addition, a multitude of programs– both private, non-profit, and governmental–were offered as resources for military spouses looking to up their job-search game.