When Melissa Judy’s husband was transferred to the Washington, D.C. area recently, she faced a familiar fear for military spouses— a resume that made her appear as job hopper as she moved from position to position as a result of military transfers.
Thankfully, through Hiring Our Heroes, a program aimed at connecting military veterans and spouses with job opportunities, she was able to find an employer who was supportive of her situation. But, she was one of the lucky ones.
Like Judy, many spouses and children of service members find themselves uprooted and relocating with only weeks of notice. For this reason and others, the current unemployment rate for military spouses is hovering near 25%.
Since 2011, Hiring Our Heroes has been combating this issue with more than 650 hiring fairs across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. The program offers those looking for a job a robust network of private sector partners who are eager to hire, professional guidance on the application process, and a community of 10,000 other spouses all looking to re-enter the civilian workforce.
But it hasn’t stopped there.
Hiring Our Heroes is launching Career Spark this month, during the career fair at Camp Pendleton. A new digital tool aimed at empowering military spouses, like Judy, Career Spark will provide networking opportunities with actively hiring employers and help its users learn to craft resumes that properly highlight their unique qualifications.
“Career Spark is designed for Military Spouses to help them better understand their unique experiences and how their unique experiences can translate into great civilian jobs,” said Eric Eversole, executive director of the Hiring Our Heroes program.
If not presented in the correct manner, the attractive attributes that military spouses offer may be inaccurately viewed as detractions.
Judy, who found work near her new home in the Washington area through one of the program’s career fairs, says she and her peers are often “leery” to reveal that they are part of a military family during the interview process.
Career Spark will make sure that no longer occurs.
The program helps spouses translate their experience into a resume that focuses on tangible and intangible skills that they’ve gained through education, volunteer experience, and work. A skills-based resume will eliminate the need to explain the employment history and continuing education gaps that are often caused by moves and deployments, instead highlighting the qualities and experiences the spouse will bring to that company.
“It’s not uncommon over the course of a 20-year military career for a spouse to move 10,12, 13 or 14 times,” said Eversole. “That constant movement can make it very difficult to have a typical job experience.”
Judy agrees, saying the constant relocation often hampers one’s ability to make the connections needed to build a career. Hiring Our Heroes connected her with the National Military Family Association — a private entity — where she is now employed as a communications professional.
Through Hiring Our Heroes, Judy said that she found “comfort and relief” in the fact that all employers involved with the program already know of and are impressed by a spouse’s military ties. She proudly served as director of communications for the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation in Monterey, CA before relocating with her husband to the Washington area.
But there’s more to a military spouse’s arsenal than a strong sense of duty and the ability to relocate.
“Military spouses continually take leadership positions in their communities, manage multiple moves and deployments with little advance notice, and persist in earning degrees and starting businesses in spite of their mobile lifestyles,” said Noreen O’Neil, director of the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program.
“Resilience, flexibility, dedication, and a desire to serve are just some of the qualities that spouses bring to any company,” said O’Neil, who has been an army spouse herself for nearly two decades.
“We also know that our military spouses have a volunteer rate that is 3 to 4 times the national average,” Eversole added. He stressed that dedication to charitable efforts demonstrates the type of qualities that private employers are eager to see.
Life in the military can be a great strength for these women and men, who exhibit higher than average self-motivation, flexibility, and commitment. Career Spark’s goal is to help them properly display those valuable qualities.
“Career Spark is going to change the way military spouses think about their future,” said O’Neil. “The fact is it is possible for spouses to find and keep a career they love, and this tool is going to open their eyes to paths they may never have considered.”