My Military Marriage Was the Best Thing for My Career


This morning I read an article that has been making the rounds with military spouses recently. “Why I Quit My Job and Followed my Fiance”took me down memory lane since I was in the same spot as the author six years ago.

My husband and I were high school sweethearts and got married in our early twenties, two months after I graduated from college.

I vividly remember thinking my career was over after a major company I interned with and loved called me to offer me a position in Kentucky that I had to turn down. I was stuck in Texas, where the husband was stationed, without a job because I was a military wife.

To add insult to injury when I finally landed a job in Texas, it was as an accountant. They gave the other position (my dream position at the time) to a lesser-qualified civilian. Their justification? I was a military wife and would eventually leave them. The consensus was I should be grateful that I had a job because it was in my field…even if it was $20K less than the other position with over an hour-and-fifteen minute commute.

The biggest complaint you hear from military wives that the military ruins her ability to work. I remember colorfully telling people that my husband “trashed my career” every time we PCSed. In the years since, I’ve found out that I was wrong.

As a military wife at our 5th duty station in 6 years, I’ve finally discovered the thing people don’t tell you:

The military doesn’t ruin or trash your career.  The trials and roadblocks create an environment that causes you to develop, focus, and pursue your dreams!

Let me explain.

I have always loved real estate. My mother fondly tells the story of my college search: I was more interested in financially evaluating the potential of buying a house to rent to fellow students than the academics strength of the college.

I didn’t pursue this passion; instead, I went into business manufacturing. It was safe, it had career potential, and it was a known commodity.

It wasn’t until we were on our 3rd  move in 18 months that I took a job as a project analyst for a real estate company. I chose it, not because it was a career position, but because it seemed fun and half the commute distance of the manufacturing job. At this point, the husband and I had decided family life was more important than chasing career dreams. We were able to make this decision because from Day One we budgeted on one income and that has never changed. 18 months into our marriage, we bought our first house and I was given permission to “play”.

Thanks to the military and our personal decisions, I have had the following awesome opportunities:

Working the Real Estate Field From the Ground, Up

My first job at a company that ran commercial/luxury apartment complexes let me learn the entire job from the ground, up. I learned about showing a unit and reading contracts. I was the fill-in leasing consultant, assistant manager, etc. I wrote a $5-million contract and then got to know the maintenance crew as I helped set up the corporate units for this contract.

Medical conditions in military families can change PCS plans.

Becoming a Property Manager for a Hospital with a 4,500-Square-Mile Territory

I got an amazing job opportunity because I had a master’s degree and was in the right place at the right time when another wife recommend me for this position.

The Opportunity to Buy 8 Houses

Due to moving around and budgeting on one income we were able to have the funds to buy multiple houses.

Having a Portable Career

The opportunity to work for myself while having a truly portable career lets me work flexible hours. I’m also building a real estate empire and establishing myself as a leading specialist in the self-management world.

Once we decided that the military wasn’t going to allow me to have the career I originally anticipated, I gave myself permission to play. This “playing” is what gave me the freedom to live my dream. My income was no longer part of the family budget, which gave me breathing room to see where I could take my real estate dreams.

Once I wasn’t worried about putting food on the table, paying the mortgage, or worried that failure would impact our family’s financial situation, opportunities broke open and became abundant. I started a blog and I am speaking at real estate conferences. I now make more than my previous corporate salary.

I am living the dream I wanted to pursue when I was evaluating those houses in the college towns.

Without my husband and his military job, I would never have given myself permission to take these chances.

Here’s what I learned the hard way when trying to make this transition:

Pursue the Job in the Field of Your Dreams 

The best thing I ever did was take the job as project manager in the real estate field. It was a dead-ender in a small business, but the skills I learned in my field were invaluable.

Tell Everyone What You Do

I found my job after months of applying online and interviewing in California through networking. I was ultimately hired because a friend of a friend was looking for someone with my qualifications. While I wasn’t able to make it through the online screening, once he recommended me, doors opened easily.

Turn What’s Holding You Back into Your Biggest Asset

Every time we move, we buy a house or more every where we go. For most investors, being local is key. For us, being transient became key to our success.

Turn Your Strengths Into a Business Plan

My strengths of self-managing became eight houses located in three states. I was able to further diversify into teaching through reluctantlandlord.net and at conferences.

Capitalize on Military Moves To Try Something New

I have always wanted to try  my hand at vacation/corporate rentals. Many of my investors friends have made a lot of money in this field, but it’s a lot more work. As much as I wanted to try it, I couldn’t do it with a full-time job, and I didn’t want to leave my job for a maybe. Well, guess what!? My husband got orders and off to a new duty station we went. So, what did I do? I tried it and made up my corporate salary in six weeks. I discovered that using the time I was unemployed could help me pursue my dreams.

Keep Trying and Don’t Give Up

It took me three moves and five years to turn my real estate a dream a realty. Until I was able to work on it full-time, it was my side hustle funded by my corporate job.

Do What You Love

Everyone has always told me that as long as you are doing what you love, you will never work a day in your life. I never believed it until now. I put hours upon hours into my business and I loved almost every minute. Find something you love, figure out how it can be a business, and then run. Don’t give up. It took me a long time to figure out how to turn my love of real estate into something that would work with this lifestyle.

Everyone talks about the negatives of being military and wanting to work! For me, being a military wife has been one of the biggest reasons I am living my dream. If it weren’t for this diverse, rugged, and often times difficult environment, I wouldn’t be living this dream. While it is not the career I imagined out of college, it is my dream.

Here’s is what I hope you keep in mind:

If you want a career, you will have one.

It will be something you love. It just won’t be anything that you ever imagined you will be doing in the beginning.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid of failure.

Because the one amazing thing about being a spouse is your spouses has a steady job with health care benefits that allows you to fail while you are finding you sea legs. Once you find those sea legs, you will be unstoppable.

Elizabeth is a lover of buying houses, teaching people about landlording, living frugally, becoming a sailor, and blogging atreluctantlandlord.net. She would love to connect with you on her blog, Facebook, or Twitter!