By Kristina Mullis
One difficult part of being a military spouse is maintaining your career while traveling between duty stations. On March 14, spouses on board Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka met to help ease this burden.
About 75 FLEACT Yokosuka spouses attended the Carrying Your Career OCONUS event – Yokosuka’s first local networking and professional development event for career-minded military spouses on Tuesday at Yokosuka’s Community Readiness Center.
Event Co-Founder and Organizer Lindsey Savage, a lawyer by training, said she has a passion for helping communities, and employment has always been an important topic to her.
“If you’ve talked to me, you’ve probably heard me talk about military spouse employment,” Savage said during the introduction of the event. “I’ve talked about it at bus stops, command events – pretty much everywhere.”
Savage and nine other steering committee members created the Carrying Your Career OCONUS event as a way to bring together the community of career-minded military spouses. The event included a panel session, elevator pitch exercise and breakout sessions, addressing a number of issues related to the difficulties of military spouse employment – particularly overseas.
Career panelists represented a variety of employment sectors including remote consulting, government work, businesses, nonprofits and health care. Each panelist gave a short description of their current careers, discussing topics and opportunities such as teleworking, consulting, the federal government hiring environment, leveraging your volunteer service and more.
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Yokosuka’s Director Jill Warning explained that, for her, service to others was a common thread in her life. She said the accumulation of all of her service activities and volunteering ultimately led her to her current position. She suggested spouses keep a marathon mentality, know themselves and document as they go.
“You have to trust the process,” Warning said. “Know what you want to get out of volunteer opportunities, let your strengths shine through and document what you do to be able to communicate that to employers down the road.”
All panelists discussed the importance of knowing yourself, as well as that of networking and leveraging passions to create employment opportunities.
Donna Stachowicz, a registered nurse currently pursuing a nursing doctorate in public health through an internship with the Red Cross, outlined multiple ways health care workers can think about employment outside of just working within a hospital – working in schools, public health, and even fitness and personal training.
“There are many opportunities available, even if you might have to reinvent yourself,” Stachowicz said. “I am so excited that I opened my mind to new and different opportunities.”
Audience members then participated in a question-and-answer session, citing concerns such as how to fill employment gaps in resumes, how to apply volunteer experience to positions, the military spouse preference for federal government positions and timeframes of finding employment.
Following the panel question-and-answer session, Dr. Lynn Waidelich, co-founder of the nonprofit organization The Other Side of Service, led an exercise in creating “elevator speeches,” a brief 20- to 30-second message that answers who one is, what one is looking for and how one can benefit an organization.
Waidelich discussed tips on creating an elevator speech, including framing it by theme, such as teaching, or by skill. She said that it is also important to think of being a military spouse as an asset instead of something that hinders one’s career.
She stressed the importance of military spouses telling their stories, as they are dedicated beyond measure and have typically overcome a number of obstacles. However, she said it is equally important to be a good listener of other spouses’ stories.
“Maybe, instead of asking what our spouses do or what command they’re with, we can ask who we are as spouses,” Waidelich said.
Participants then had an opportunity to discuss employment in a small group session, focusing on everything from health care workers to arts and home businesses. These groups allowed for more discussion and collaboration in particular areas of interest.
The event concluded with keynote speaker Cassandra Aucoin, spouse of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, sharing her personal story and explaining career development resources available to attendees. She discussed the strength of spouses and volunteers to create communities overseas, allowing spouses to find opportunities, network, find mentors and stay prepared.
“I like to remain flexible, adaptable and resilient – with a little bit of humor,” Aucoin said. “Start now and keep moving forward.”