The world of employment can be very competitive, especially for certain military spouses who have the educational background but no work experience. We prepare ourselves in the best way we know how, education. But what happens when we have those degrees in hand but can’t find the job we studied so hard for? How are military spouses supposed to obtain the normal 5-10 years working experience? Three things I have seen happen; you either pray for someone to give you an opportunity, you get discouraged and stop the job search or you settle for an entry level position that may not even be in your field. It’s a snow ball effect and you need to prepare yourself on how not to let this happen.
- Volunteer Work
According to the 2016 Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey, military families volunteer at rates three times higher than the general US population. Why are military spouses not putting volunteer experience on their resumes? Volunteer work is just as valuable as working for an employer and a LinkedIn research study found that one in five hiring managers consider volunteer work experience a valuable asset when considering candidates. As a volunteer you are providing services to an individual or organization. If you haven’t volunteered yet, find an organization in your field of interest and find out if you can volunteer your time for work experience.
- Find an Internship, Paid or Unpaid
No, internships aren't just for young students. Most internships today are considered the new “entry level” jobs and are great for obtaining that work experience you will need one day. Find an internship that will let you develop the skills you need to obtain the job you want. Internships are also a great networking opportunity, it’s all about the people you meet and the connections you make. Use it to your advantage.
- Use Your College Experience
As a college student, you should never underestimate your accomplishments and experiences. Whether you are fundraising for a school group, writing for your school paper or even conducting research for a paper that had extensive information – this is all valuable work experience that should be shared on your resume. Make a list of your educational experiences and make a bullet point for each skill obtained on your resume. Employers can now see more of your experience and relate how it will apply it to the position you are seeking.
- Build Relationships
Sometimes we bury ourselves deep into finishing school that we forget to build relationships and network with those we can use as business contacts. Who you know in your field will be of value to you. If you don’t have the work experience, find people that do and connect. LinkedIn is a great tool to use and build relationships with business professionals. You never know when someone may have an opportunity for you.
- Ask Professors for Help
Professors know how hard it is out there to build experience. Ask them for help by asking them for a letter of recommendation or list them as a professional reference. Your professor will be the first person who could serve as a reference to an employer on how you conduct yourself within a professional environment. They can also list any skills you obtained in class that may assist you in your job search. Even if you are an online student, build a relationship with your professor and don’t hesitate to reach out.
- Use Your Entrepreneurial Skills
Do you have any side projects or perhaps activities that you do? Even if you run your own website or blog, this has the potential of being listed as an entrepreneurial operation. Many military spouses run their own business on the side and forget that this counts as business experience. You are serving as an organizational leader, so why not list your experiences in this role?
- Don’t Be Afraid to Lead
If you belong to any groups or organizations, don’t be afraid to offer yourself for a leadership role. You can use this as an opportunity to add event planning, project management and business leadership to your resume. Many military spouses belong to an organization where they are most likely looking for help. Any type of leadership activities are always viewed positively by employers. It never hurts to lead.
How have you leveraged your education to secure your first professional job?
About the blogger:
Angela Caban is an Army National Guard spouse, published author and branding expert. In 2010, she founded the Homefront United Network, a military spouse and family support blog created to assist spouses who do not live near an installation, but also focusing on bridging the gap between National Guard, Reserve and Active Duty spouses. She has an extensive background in Human Resources and Communications, with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Human Resources. Angela resides in the beautiful Garden State of New Jersey with her husband and two children.