There seems to be a lot of emphasis lately on the difficulties milspouses face in finding a good career path. It can be admittedly a rough path. A spouse may be talented in a certain career field, but constant moves and the overall unpredictability that comes with military life can keep a spouse from being able to find a stable, rewarding, well-paying career. However, there seems to be a trend emerging that gives the impression that milspouses are automatically entitled to a fabulous career, simply for being married into the military.
It started when Michelle Obama announced a partnership that would create 15,000 new jobs for milspouses, and most of them were call center jobs. This was deemed unacceptable, and we were told that the White House could provide better jobs for milspouses than working in a lowly call center. Obviously, no one would ever want to work at a call center. Oh sure, it might have flexible hours, pay well, and offer benefits, but it’s boring. And monotonous. So that’s not good enough.
Next, there was absolute outrage when a little column ran in my local paper suggesting good career options for spouses. Examples given when this article was panned on one of the largest milspouse websites, Spousebuzz, included running errands, making gift baskets, and babysitting. Fair enough: these were all on the list. And of course, we are to look down our noses at things like that. But also on the list (and not mentioned) was direct selling, substitute teaching, catering, tax preparing, IT work, temp jobs, etc. And while the original article never mentioned rank, Spousebuzz editor Jacey Eckhart managed to do some impressive mental gymnastics by turning this into an enlisted vs. officer issue. Huh?
Finally, Jacey followed up that article by outlining what kind of jobs milspouses want. Here’s her criteria:
Take a look at our criteria for a “great” job. We want a mix of jobs that require a degree and those that don’t. Also, we are thinking:
The work has to bring in thousands a month, not a hundreds. The field has to be experiencing notable growth or demand to overcome our lack of local connections. The job has to be available outside a major city (so working in IT or as a chemical engineer is probably out). Extra points would be awarded for jobs that related to military families because wherever we lived it was likely a bunch of other military folks would live there too.
Oh, Jacey. There are some major problems with that list. In this economy, everyone looking for a job wants those things. There are millions of people looking for work, and they all want jobs that pay well in fields experiencing growth. Like it or not, milspouses have to compete with those people. And it may or may not be “fair”, but the reality is the wife of a service member is going to look much less appealing to an employer than someone who has a much better chance of being a permanent employee.
The reality you have to face in this life is that yes, you will have to move a lot. You’ll have to change jobs. You’ll have to start your career over again. So it can understandably make work hard to come by, or building a lasting career in the same field seem impossible. The thing is this: it isn’t a problem that is anyone’s job to solve. The government doesn’t need to step in and create jobs just for us; employers don’t need to make sure they’re hiring milspouses just because we want great careers, too. It’s our responsibility to find work and build a career. No one forced us into this lifestyle. We made the decision to marry into the military, and so we don’t deserve an easier ride than any other unemployed American.
One thing that’s interesting to me is how there seems to be this attitude of turning up our noses at direct-selling jobs like Scentsy, Mary Kay, etc. It’s funny to me, because honestly, if you’re willing to work hard (and I mean hard, no sitting around on the couch, posting about your Scentsy party on Facebook, and then wondering why the money isn’t rolling in), then you can make a lot of money doing something like that. And it gives milspouses the flexibility that we require out of a career.
Not up for direct-selling? There are plenty of ways to work from home too, whether it’s an in-home daycare or something else. (I know of one spouse who started her own lawn care business!) There are even plenty of fields outside of the home spouses can work at where they can reasonably expect to be able to transfer if they move. Examples that come to mind are industries like banking (especially at Navy Federal), retail management, and even — gasp!! — a call center. You can make good money, and if you have to move, transfer to your new location. It’s all about what you’re willing to do. Working as a retail store manager probably isn’t glamorous, but hey, it’ll pay the bills. And isn’t that the entire point of a job?
The point is, when we live this crazy, unpredictable life, we really have to be willing to think outside the box. Yes, it would be nice if lucrative careers were dropped into our laps. But we have to earn it just like everyone else. I don’t see why I deserve a special break over someone else just because I married a Marine — and neither do I see why I need to turn my nose up at jobs that are apparently “beneath me” because I’m a milspouse.
We need to, as a whole, drop the entitlement mentality, fast. Yes, this is another part of the military lifestyle that is harder for us. But we’re supposed to be strong enough to handle it, right? We shouldn’t demean ourselves by asking for handouts and special favors on a silver platter because of who we happen to be married to.
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