Published: September 24, 2021
Blue Star Welcome Week Creates Connections to Help #MilSpouses Find Careers that Work
Did you know that, according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, nearly half (42%) of all active-duty service members report that spouse career opportunities are a factor in their preference for choosing a new duty station? Why would that be a concern? Because with 20% of military spouses currently unemployed according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, and the mental and emotional implications associated with unemployment, service members are desperate to find an environment that allows their spouse to thrive while they focus on their own career and the mission at hand.
After more than a decade as a Navy spouse, Iris, a mom of four, has felt the pains of adjusting to military life and navigating the negative effects on her career. “When we first married, I started my own business, teaching English from our home in Japan after the birth of our first child,” Iris shared. “That came to an end after our tour in Yokosuka came to an end. I had little idea at the time that I would either not be able to work or not find any work over the next decade. I looked for work at new duty stations, but [I] either could not find anything that would allow me to remain the primary caregiver for our children, or when opportunities did arise, it was time to relocate, and that opportunity would disappear.”
Why should all of this matter to you? Because we know that finding and maintaining meaningful work directly impacts financial and emotional well-being. Without employment, many military families experience increased stress at home. And when there’s stress at home, mission readiness suffers. In fact, one in five active-duty service member respondents report “concerns about spouse employment” as a reason they would leave military service. If ambitious service members leave military service due to a lack of opportunities for spouse employment, our ability to remain mission ready will be severely compromised.
Iris understood what her husband’s career meant to him, and she did her best to adjust. “As a spouse, you become used to putting yourself second because your service member’s career is of such great importance,” Iris explained. “I put aside my ambition and focused on our family and adapting myself to whatever the children and move needed.” Eventually, Iris found a teaching role at a private school. However, she still felt like something was missing from her career; like she had become stagnant in her progress. At that time, she connected with Blue Star Families.
“After applying to many job posts, I soon realized that I needed to upskill if I wanted to change my career direction,” Iris said. “I came across Blue Star Families on a military spouse Facebook page. Blue Star Families was advertising a Cybersecurity course on a free platform. I was intrigued, but I doubted I would ever be able to take such a technology-heavy course. I enrolled anyway, hoping to connect with other courses. The platform they connected me to was WithYouWithMe, and they helped me realize I was capable of more than I thought. My first course was not easy, but the sense of accomplishment I felt after that one spurred me to achieve more certifications in the technology field.”
After completing several certifications, Iris felt confident she had the tools and connections that would allow her to explore new and exciting career opportunities. With this newfound confidence and her training in technology, Iris secured her current position. She now focuses on helping other military spouses like herself find careers in technology, often providing remote opportunities that fit with the military spouse lifestyle. She’s working with Hiring Our Heroes as the Talent Pipeline Outreach Coordinator in Technology. “Meaningful employment is not just good for my own mental health,” Iris said. “I believe it has helped the whole family. I am happier, and a happier wife and mom is most definitely better for the entire family’s mental health. It has allowed me not to panic as the children approach college age. Knowing I can contribute to our family’s finances has eased some stress. We can plan for the future with greater confidence. I have been through the lows of career searching, and I have been lucky enough to find some incredible resources and the most amazing people to support and motivate me. I want to pay that forward. Don’t give up; help is at hand.”
We want all military and Veteran family members to feel connected and empowered to find successful careers that work for their lifestyle — just like Iris has. We know a lot of that depends on creating meaningful connections. Blue Star Welcome Week will serve as a starting point to forge those relationships within the community. “Blue Star Welcome Week is an annual event, designed to welcome our military- and Veteran-connected families to their new communities,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, Founder and CEO of Blue Star Families. “It’s an opportunity for communities across the country to open their arms to military families by inviting military, Veteran, and civilian members alike to participate in events, provide messages of support and appreciation, and simply engage with those who serve. Our goal is to ease the transition and create a great sense of belonging for military and Veteran families in a big, meaningful way.”
Blue Star Welcome Week 2021 kicks off today! From September 25th – October 3rd, we invite you to participate in a local event, introduce yourself to your new neighbor, and connect with us. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference for those who sacrifice in service to our country. Learn more about ways you can get involved at www.bluestarwelcomeweek.org.