That sentence comes with so many emotions. Where to begin, what needs to be done, and maybe where can I hide to have a moment to cry?
I always felt this sense of overwhelming stress and excitement all at the same time. Moving to new places becomes such a part of the military spouse life that I sometimes found myself craving the change. Seems a tad masochistic to look forward to the chaos it brings. Then again why not embrace the unknown that comes with being a military spouse. It also helps to feel like I own the journey if I look forward to it.
Even if I loved the idea of moving it doesn’t ease all the obligations that went along with it. There always seemed to be groups to reach out to that helped me plan where to live, which schools were best, the best place to get a haircut, and everything in-between.
Where did this all leave me when it came to my career? I learned after much trial and error that networking would become the most important resource. Just as I sought advice on all I mentioned above I needed to find a community of like-minded military spouses that could help. Luckily there have been resources popping up as more military spouses have become career-minded and have helped to be a sounding voice for the rest of us.
I have been so thankful for Hiring Our Heroes for creating the Military Spouse Professional Networks (MSPNs). “HOH’s Military Spouse Professional Network provides military spouses with career development and networking opportunities in military communities around the world.” There are many of these networks that have been established by amazing volunteers and plans for so many more.
Facebook has become the place to find groups focused on meeting particular needs. Some are military-specific others are not.
VEO- Virtual Employment Opportunities
Sometimes the resources can seem overwhelming, and it takes some work to vet out the ones that will prove to be useful. I would urge any military spouse to consider networking both inside and outside the military community. As a military spouse, I know that it becomes easy to seek out other military spouses to network and engage with. It helps to feel heard and understood while connecting with others that have had similar struggles. Other mil spouses may also be able to provide what steps they took to endure all the moves, the unknowns, and how they adapted.
What are the benefits of establishing civilian relationships?
Once I learned where I was going and gathered some good resources, I started to figure out what my outreach was going to look like. In-person networking is intimidating but many, including myself, find virtual networking to be just as intimidating. I always remind myself that I am reaching out to other people that had their own career journey that may have included asking for help along the way as well.
Be strategic in your outreach: I have seen a lot of posts on social media that state, I need a job, I want remote work, I am moving to this area, and I am in HR, etc. These posts make it difficult for others to help and they are often followed by more questions than answers. Be more specific in your ask and where you are asking. This will save a lot of time.
Example social media generic post: I am moving to the JBLM area at the end of October and I hoping to continue my current career path. I have worked in marketing, with a focus on community development. I am hoping to make connections with the local Chamber of Commerce, EDC, and city planners. Please connect with me if you can help.
Next, I would take my search to LinkedIn and find the companies/organizations that I think would be a good fit. This is where LinkedIn Premium comes in handy because you can view the individuals that work there and connect/message them.
Example informational direct message via LinkedIn: John at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, in charge of HR. “Good afternoon, John. I am reaching out in hopes that we may connect. I am a military spouse, and I will be relocating to your area at the end of October. I would love the opportunity to learn about more resources that I may have missed in my general search.” This helps to establish a relationship and opens the door to a more in-depth conversation.
Make the ask right away: I gave an example of a good ask and although I will say don’t overthink the outreach, it does help to have a plan.
Example of a not as favorable ask: “Hi John! I am moving to the Seattle area and looking for a job. Would you be able to connect to help me?” This example may get you a response, but I don’t think John would view it as professional and it doesn’t help to establish a relationship.
Be held back: I give you permission to be nervous, but not to hold back. Put thought into your outreach, talk to your friends/family, and do whatever it takes to help build your confidence. In the end, make sure you still put yourself out there.
I learn and adapt my networking all the time. I often find bumps in the road and dead ends. I find myself fearing the unknown as I press enter and send a recently written note to its intended receiver with no way to turn back. When all is said and done, I know that I have reaped many more rewards that have made all the nervousness worth it in the end. My hope is that if you are reading this you feel empowered to do what it takes to make the connections that will change your story for the better.
This article was shared with us by: Adrene N. Wike is the Senior Manager for the Workforce Development Military Spouse Program at Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
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