Three Lists for Spouse Employment

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By: Jacey Eckhart

GUIDON

You don’t have a job today, military spouse. That must mean you are an idiot. That must mean you will never get a job. That must mean you are, well, doomed.

If you agreed with any of those patently untrue statements, you must be in the middle of the job hunt. You must be at that point when all of your natural optimism has been used up like a roll of cheap paper towels.

Instead of using up your last sheet of Up & Up to mop your tears, this time grab a Sharpie and make the three lists that will actually help you find work.

1. Make a list of your enemies

It is far too easy to blame yourself for your joblessness. It is even easier to blame your servicemember.

This is not good. According to our Military.com readers, this kind of blaming leads only to slammed doors and lots of peanut butter eaten angrily with a spoon.

So don’t do that. Instead, sit down with your servicemember and make a list of the real reasons military spouses struggle with employment.

Start with the economy — it’s hard for everyone to get a job right now, no matter where they live or who they marry.

Then list the very real structural problems that military sociologists link to spouse employment: Rural locations of military bases. Frequent moves. Lower wages for women in military areas. Lack of social network that leads to jobs. Employer bias.

None of those things is your fault or your servicemember’s fault. None of those things is insurmountable. Those things are simply your enemies. You and your servicemember will fight against those very things in the battle for employment.

2. Make a list of your weapons

Finding a job is a battle for anyone. The good thing about being a military spouse is that you know pretty much why the job hunt is so hard. That means that you can figure out what weapons you can use to fight that battle.

Our readers say that they fight the battle against employer bias by preparing an answer for the inevitable question, “What brings you to Fort Leonard Wood?”

They get over their lack of a social network in their particular area by working for a temp agency, by volunteering in the place they would like to get a job, by expanding their online network to people who actually have jobs.

They learn to make cold calls, write cold emails and even take a meeting.

Like any weapon, these job skills are a little scary. But there is no reason why you — like thousands and thousands of spouses before you — can’t learn to wield them, too.

3. Make a list of next actions

Organizational guru David Allen says that people can’t do projects like Get A Job. People can only do next actions. The smaller the action, the more likely it is to get done.

So sit down with your servicemember (who is probably the most concrete thinker you know) and come up with a list of next actions you can take tomorrow. Not this week. Not this month. Not the billion things you could do to get a job in this lifetime.

Instead, list the things you can do tomorrow. You can read one of the articles in our Spouse Employment series at http://m.military.com/ spouse/career-advancement.

You can complete your profile on an online networking site. You can write a cold email and ask for an informational interview.

Start thinking of your completed next actions as a collection of nice little things to have.

As always, when it comes to spouse employment, remember that this is strictly a case of survival of the busiest. The girl with the best GPA is not always the one hired.  The guy who went to the most expensive school is not necessarily the frontrunner.

Instead, jobs go to the most persistent person who keeps trying new things — and wipes up the competition.

Eckhart is a military life consultant in Washington, DC. You can reach Jacey’s blog at on www.SpouseBuzz .com.

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