By Ms. Susanne Kappler (Jackson)May 22, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (May 22, 2014) -- Balancing career and family can prove challenging for many people, but especially for military spouses. According to www.ourmilitary.mil, military spouses move 14 percent more often than spouses of civilians and have an unemployment rate of 26 percent.
Some Fort Jackson spouses have been able to successfully navigate the career field, though, by employing strategies tailored to their situations and enlisting the help of the Employment Readiness Program.
"My advice to anyone looking for a long term career is to find something that you really enjoy doing, and then figure out how what is needed for that specific career," said Barbara Martin, manager of the Employment Readiness Program. "Some individuals may need to further their education or gain some additional hands-on experience such as volunteering or college internship. Individuals need to set up short- and long-range goals to get there and remember to be patient during the process. You may have to accept any type of job initially while you are working toward your ultimate career goal."
That advice worked well for Tamara Boles, who has been a military spouse for 27 years and currently works as social services assistant for Army Community Services.
"I believe I got where I am in my career by learning different jobs and putting my heart and soul into my work," Boles said. "I'm not where I want to be in my career, but I believe once we settle for good, I can pull out all the experience and knowledge I've learned and rappel to where I want to be in my career."
For some spouses, the path to finding a paid job may include volunteering in a field they enjoy, said Maryanne Wey, who has established her own photography business. Wey has lived in three different places during her four years as an Army spouse.
"Each duty station has provided incredible opportunities to meet new people and engage in different communities. I believe the best way to connect in a new place is to use your passion and skills to help others," Wey said.
She said she started out by using her photography skills to capture unit and community events, which ultimately led to pursuing her passion professionally.
For Demetria Caston, the skills she learned in her various jobs have also paid dividends as an Army spouse.
"As a career fundraiser, I've worked in various nonprofit institutions working with volunteers, committees and boards," Caston said. "As a military spouse, many of my career skills have easily transferred to help me to become a more supportive Army wife, leader, mentor and friend to our military families."
Caston said that being flexible and communicating with her employers has made the process easier. She currently works for an employer who allows her to telecommute, which permits her to find a suitable balance for career, family and military life, she said.
For some people, being exposed to the challenges of Army life may translate into skills that increase their employability.
"The transition from being surrounded by ... civilians to almost only military was extremely difficult for me in the beginning," said Meghna Cheeks, an Army wife of more than five years. "But when we moved to my husband's second duty station, I realized how much the Army life has taught me. It has taught me to adapt to new surroundings and that I need to make the most of everywhere we live. I have to be open to new ideas and adapt to changes in order to be happy."
Cheeks currently works as an administrative assistant for a large construction company - a job that gives her the flexibility to work from home if needed.
According to www.ourmilitary.mil, although roughly 95 percent of military spouses are women, male spouses of service members face some of the same challenges in the job market. Tassy Gallahar has found work in the information technology sector after attending workshops with the ERP program and obtaining IT certification.
"The best advice I have for a military spouse is to remain flexible and work on what you can in the meantime," Gallahar said. "Also, if (you) have not done so, go to your local ACS office and find out about various programs out there to help you as a military spouse in your career goals."
Martin said the Employment Readiness Program can help in various ways.
"ERP staff can help you assess your current skills and education, then help develop a career action plan to help you reach your goals. The Military Spouse Job Center, located in the Strom Thurmond Building, Room 223 has a wide range of employment and career resources that are available."
To schedule an appointment with the Employment Readiness Program, call 751-5256.