Sunday, August 2, 2009

Advice for Military Spouses Returning to Work After a Career Break -- Part I

Here is a guest post that originally ran on the blog of the Sloan Work and Family Research Network. I asked the author of the guest post -- Carol Fishman Cohen from the site -- for permission to run her guest post here.

She kindly said yes, and I'm dividing it into two posts. Here's the first part:

Carol Fishman Cohen is the co-author of the acclaimed career reentry book Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms Who Want to Return to Work, and the co-founder of iRelaunch, a company providing career reentry programming, events, and information to employers, universities, organizations and to mid-career professionals in all stages of career break.

Carol recently spoke at the 2008 Joint Warfighting Convention Military Spouse Symposium on the topic of returning to work after a career break. Contact Carol at

Military spouses face specific challenges when attempting to resume careers after a career break.

Returning to work after years away is complicated enough, but the confluence of lengthy overseas postings, having to function as a single parent when a spouse is deployed, and moving every two to three years on top of the usual issues of lack of confidence, reviving old networks and creating new ones, and figuring out what you really want to do can make the process even more overwhelming.

It’s no wonder that military spouses question their ability to make a successful back to work transition even more than their civilian counterparts.

Military spouses have unique qualifications to offer employers that tend to go unrecognized by the military spouse herself and the prospective employer. These qualifications include:

* Emotional Resilience - Military spouses are emotionally resilient because they have had to deal with a spouse being away on lengthy military deployments, often with his/her life at stake.

* Experience in Dealing with Uncertainty - Dealing with uncertainty about a spouse’s whereabouts and safety, the timing and location of future postings, and maintaining the well being of children through these transitions is a way of life for the military spouse. Dealing with uncertainty is a qualification lacking in many job candidates at any life stage. Employers valuing this quality should seek out military spouses for recruitment.

* Comfortable with Constant Transition - The business world is in a constant state of flux. Transition is a way of life for military spouses and military spouses themselves take for granted their own expertise in dealing with it.

* No Benefits Required - Military spouses have insurance benefits already, so these benefits do not need to be part of their compensation package. Therefore, their overall cost as an employee is lower than that of civilian counterparts. Ideally, this gap would not be exploited by the employer, but instead used as a creative opportunity to offer other benefits as part of the employment package.

At the same time, hiring a military spouse can be problematic because of frequent moves.

* Moving Every 2 to 3 Years - The biggest issue in hiring military spouses is that their posting in a single location often lasts only two to three years, and sometimes they need to move on short notice. Some employers shy away from hiring military spouses for this reason.

However, with frequent job changes among non-military employees becoming the norm, the loyalty of the military spouse to stay with an employer for the entire length of the posting should be considered. Also, companies with a national presence or an option for remote work could benefit by hiring a military spouse if the person could transfer to another company office or work remotely with each new posting.

Determining readiness for career reentry may be trickier for military spouses than for their non-military counterparts. This means military spouses may need to wait longer than non-military spouses to relaunch their careers after a multi-year career break.

This also means military spouses need to be extra patient with themselves as they move forward in the process.

Issues delaying readiness include:

* Lack of a Support Network - Because of frequent moves, military spouses often do not have time to develop friends and family support networks to turn to when their spouse is away and they need coverage for going to work.

* At Home Responsibilities Can Be Overwhelming - Since military spouses bear the brunt of the childcare and eldercare responsibilities alone, they may feel these responsibilities too overwhelming to consider returning to work even if there is some sort of support community in place.

Read the second part now of this guest post in which Carol Fishman Cohen discusses what is the best strategy for military spouses wanting to relaunch a career.


Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. She also blogs as a National Internet Business Examiner and at Operation Support Jews in the Military and Fiction Marketing, and she is the co-host of the BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life. Her newest military-related project is the book/website project In Support of Our Troops.

Phyllis' company Miller Mosaic LLC provides internet marketing information to help people promote their brand, book or business. On July 1st the company launched the Miller Mosaic Internet Marketing Program.

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