(AFPS) — As service members start to receive their orders for summer moves, it’s time for working spouses to update resumes, start networking for job opportunities and contact career counselors at their new locations, a Pentagon official recommends.
In an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel, Meg O’Grady, program manager for the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program, said Defense Department officials are “absolutely dedicated” to helping military spouses overcome challenges they face in looking for education and career opportunities.
“We encourage all military spouses, throughout their service members’ careers, to continue gathering the tools and resources they need for their career path,” said O’Grady, a former military spouse. “At this time of year, we find spouses are thinking about packing their houses and moving their families, but this is the perfect time to start preparing to make that move in their career.”
The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program, which spouses can access through the Military OneSource website, can be a valuable resource, she said. Military OneSource also has information on federal employment for military spouses, who receive a hiring preference from the government, O’Grady noted.
She also recommended the Military Spouse E-mentor Program, in which military spouses can find others working at their next duty station and begin networking with them.
“Even if they’re in a career they love, it always helps to expand the network and share their experiences with other military spouses who might have the same needs,” she added.
O’Grady said the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program has four areas that are examined with each military spouse:
- Career exploration, to find a career spouses enjoy;
- Education, training and credentialing;
- Employment readiness tools such as resume writing, interview skills and “dress for success” skills to start a job search; and
- Career connection, through which spouses are connected to jobs through an employment partnership.
The Military Spouse Employment Partnership Program has 162 corporate, nonprofit and private organizations that are committed to hiring military spouses, O’Grady said.
“They recognize the challenges that military spouses face, and have committed to find them not just jobs, but career paths,” she added. “The partners will educate their organizations to hire military spouses, they’ll promote them, and they want to know when a military spouse is applying for a job.” Spouses can get more information about the partnership at Military OneSource’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership portal.
“We now have over 100,000 jobs available for military spouses, and since February 2011, we’ve actually posted over 800,000 jobs on the [portal,]” O’Grady said.
And because military spouses experience a 26 percent unemployment rate and military wives face a 25 percent wage gap compared to civilians, “our programs, resources and services are designed to help decrease that gap,” O’Grady said. Men, who make up about 5 percent of military spouses, don’t experience the gap, she said.
“Through the partnership, we’ve highlighted the wage gap for our [partners], and we asked them to commit to comparable wages for military spouses with their civilians throughout their organization,” she added.
The partnership keeps her program informed monthly on military spouse hirings and promotions, O’Grady said, and also provides the number of spouses who were relocated within their organization.
“Portable careers” has become a key phrase in today’s workforce, O’Grady said, and for military spouses, such careers often are popular.
“We emphasize that the skills and experience [military spouses] gain from just about any career can be applied to a portable career,” she said. “Military spouses tend to find education, allied health care, and business management careers to be the most popular, so we try to support the career by addressing the challenges they face, such as licensing across the states, flexibility in the workforce, and adaptability as they move.”
O’Grady said her program challenges its 162 partners to find careers within their organization that can be made portable for military spouses.
All active duty, National Guard and reserve spouses are eligible for the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program, O’Grady noted.
“We know that military spouses are incredibly resilient and very flexible,” she said. “They adapt well to changing situations, and bring incredible team-building skills that many employees don’t bring to the 21st-century workforce. If a military spouse is in a satisfying career, that can transfer into resilience for the entire family.”