More than 50 percent of veterans are married. With a majority of American households now requiring two incomes to support a stable standard of living, any solution to help veterans transition out of the military must take into account the talent inherent in their spouses.
Our returning veterans display tremendous levels of knowledge, skill and experience for their age, and they are more than eager to continue contributing to society. Throughout multiple deployments over the last 10 years, their spouses have been living with the same commitment to dedication and sacrifice.
Spouses have become some of the most active participants and generous contributors in both military and civilian society.
In spite of their transient existence moving with their veteran from duty station to duty station, spouses have become some of the most active participants and generous contributors in both military and civilian society. They too are eager to turn their wealth of experience into a stable and satisfying life for themselves and their families.
UNDERSTANDING MILITARY SPOUSES’ SKILLS
Military spouses present an attractive talent pool for employers, often displaying dedication, resilience and flexibility in and out of the workplace. More than 85 percent have attended college or completed college-level coursework, a higher percentage than the general population. Military spouses volunteer at more than three times the national average, and they have proved to be more civically engaged than their civilian counterparts.
In spite of these strong qualities, military spouse employment has stagnated. Much of this can be attributed to the potential gaps in a spouse's resume and the lack of a professional network resulting from frequent moves and separations from their service members.
Additionally, military spouses have many “hidden” skill sets, most of them developed while working without compensation. Through their volunteer work, spouses consistently take on leadership roles in their communities. Like several paid leadership positions, these spouses manage large staffs, organize complex events, raise substantial sums of money and complete certification classes in order to run their projects more efficiently, with some courses resulting in college credit. Understanding the challenges that military spouses face while recognizing their amazing assets is critical to hiring and retaining them in the workforce.
SOME HELPFUL IDEAS
View the military spouse’s unique situation as an opportunity, not a potential barrier to hiring. Mobility among military families is an increasingly minor disadvantage in the workforce, especially compared to civilian employees who are voluntarily changing positions and companies at a more frequent rate than in the past.
Ask questions about a military spouse’s volunteer experience. Ask questions that are similar to questions asked about a paid job. How many people did you supervise? What was your budget? How much money did you raise? Military spouses tend not to think of volunteer positions as legitimate work experience, but they have often completed large-scale projects that could make them invaluable team members.
Look past the resume. Most military spouses will focus on their duties and accomplishments if engaged in conversation. Most spouses diminish their volunteer skills and “unofficial” certifications on their resume. Speaking with a military spouse in an interview setting will provide a better picture of their skill sets and abilities.
Find mentors for military spouse employees. Giving newly hired military spouses an organizational contact who shares a similar background or who has a genuine interest in their professional development will help them better assimilate into the company.
Thank military spouses for their service. Military spouses often feel as invested in their connection to the military and service to their country as our veterans. They will always appreciate the acknowledgment.
RESOURCES FOR HIRING MILITARY SPOUSES
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes Hiring Fairs and Networking Receptions for Spouses. Each year, the Hiring Our Heroes program hosts 20 fairs exclusively for spouses on military installations. The fairs feature spouse-focused employers and workshops that are geared toward military spouses’ unique challenges. In addition, Hiring Our Heroes is hosting networking receptions in selected locations to connect military spouses with local business leaders, Chamber of Commerce representatives and military installation staff in a relaxed social setting. To find more information about Hiring Our Heroes, including spouse hiring fairs and networking receptions, visit Hiring Our Heroes.
The Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). This program, which partners with Hiring Our Heroes and is part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s broader Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) initiative, seeks to strengthen the educational and career opportunities of military spouses by providing: career exploration opportunities to help them understand their skills, interests and goals; education and training to help them identify academic, licensing or credentialing requirements that can help them reach their career goals; employment readiness assistance to optimize their self-marketing skills; and employment connections that help them find and maintain a rewarding career. MSEP, a targeted recruitment and employment solution, creates employment connections that provide companies with direct access to military spouses seeking career opportunities and spouses with direct access to employers who are actively recruiting. MSEP currently has more than 200 partners, who have hired over 50,000 military spouses.
This article was originally published in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Hiring Our Heroes 2014 Guide to Hiring Veterans.