Hurdling Job Barriers: The Power of Portable Careers for Military Spouses
While today’s job market is certainly more competitive for everyone, military spouses face their own special challenges when it comes to career advancement.
A 2014 study found that 90% of the military wives surveyed reported being underemployed or overqualified for the positions they held – even though census data shows that they have higher levels of education than their civilian counterparts. On top of that, military spouses overall not only earn 38% less, but are also 30% more likely to be unemployed than their civilian colleagues.
So what’s behind this staggering disparity?
Frequent Moves and Endless Responsibilities
For starters, frequent moves (every 2.9 years on average) and limited employment opportunities at most duty stations (especially those abroad) make it difficult to build a credible and consistent resume, or keep up with state-specific professional licensures and certifications. And employers are not always eager to hire someone they know won’t be around for long.
Add to that the many responsibilities these spouses must assume outside of the workplace. They are often left to run the household singlehandedly, given the military’s erratic schedules and extended deployments. Likewise, a fair number of them end up devoting long hours of volunteer time to on-base family readiness programs.
The Portable Career Solution
In overcoming these challenges, military spouses are increasingly harnessing the wonders of technology to create so-called “portable careers” that can be pursued entirely online.
If self-employment is a good fit, you might consider freelancing as a way to keep your career on track and moving around with you. In fact, with the right skills and training, there are any number of financially rewarding, freelance options – from market/Internet research, web design, writing, and fundraising; to accounting, medical billing and coding, technical support, and programming.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for more structure and steadier pay, there are plenty of companies and organizations that hire remote workers. For example, teaching online – at any level – is fast becoming a popular and portable career choice for military spouses with the right credentials. The same goes for talented sales experts, who are being recruited in growing numbers to work on virtual sales teams.
Taking the Leap
While having a portable career may be just the right ticket, you will need to do some advance preparation before you take the leap – beginning with a thorough assessment of your marketable skills and relevant training with respect to industry standards and demand. If you come up short, you may want to sharpen your competitive edge, by enrolling in a degree or certificate program that meets your needs – particularly if you can find a reputable online option.
As a military spouse, you will have access to a variety of educational benefits, including Post 9/11 GI Bill Transferability, which enables career service members to share remaining GI Bill benefits with their immediate family. There’s also the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program, which provides up to $4,000 of financial assistance for military spouses who are pursuing advanced training in portable career fields.
Find out how easy (or difficult) it will be to transfer licenses or certificates you must have to work in your field, as you move from one location to another. Some states grant temporary licenses, while others will expedite the process of issuing a new one. You will also need to research the rules around conducting business on-base or in military housing.