Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on the Military Spouse Advocacy Network website.
Military spouses are intimately acquainted with unemployment. According to the White House, active duty spouses face a shocking unemployment rate of 24% while the U.S. faces only 4% unemployment within the entire population.
The military is an extremely small community, especially when dividing the numbers into each individual branch. There are only give or take 642,000 active duty military spouses, and a quarter of them are unemployed.
Many unemployed military spouses want to work and know that maintaining a job is a full-time job. So what can military spouses do to gain employment? One of the best ways is to build a powerful network that will help to create employment opportunities. Here are some tips to get started:
Beef up your network
The best way to get a job is the “good ole boy system.”
If you are a career-minded military spouse, the best career move you can make is to network vigilantly. Building a powerful network is not easy but with flourishing social media, networking is easier and faster now, more than any other time in history.
Do not fall for the trap of repeatedly applying online. Applying online seems like an easy solution, but online applications can result in as low as 4% success rates without a warm referral. Instead, slow down and develop a relationship with an employee of the company you want to work for—one application is all it takes.
People who find jobs easily, dedicate time to networking and nurturing their relationships with decision makers. Military installations are a great place to network. They offer a plethora of free resources, including local career fairs and hiring events, where military spouses and veterans can receive aid in everything from resume writing to career coaching—but there are zero places who will build your network for you…In the end, it is up to you to do the work!
Remember, if you are currently unemployed, the goal of networking is for people to think of you first when a career opportunity arises.
How to network
Networking is simply building relationships with people.
You’ve definitely heard of networking—but, odds are, you’ve never been taught how to do it. There is no “secret sauce” or 100% proven method for creating your network. The truth is, everyone is different and builds relationships in a different way.
Networking seems daunting, especially for introverted people. If you are introverted—start with LinkedIn. Networking online via LinkedIn is less overwhelming and can still be a fruitful way to build a relationship. Do not solely rely on your online connections to network. Start online then offer to meet your connections for coffee or lunch.
Extroverts can also use LinkedIn—but use your social prowess and love of people to your advantage. If it energizes you to be around large groups of people then attend local meetups, military and community events. Attend spouse coffees, hail and farewells, and any in-person event sponsored through your spouse’s unit.
Bottom Line: Get out there and make yourself known.
Whether you are introverted or extroverted, to effectively network you need to clearly and quickly communicate what you do. Create a 30-second “Elevator Pitch” explaining career highlights and a summary of your industry expertise. Also, create a “Punch Line,” which is one sentence explaining your career expertise.
Here are some examples:
Punch Line: “I’m a commercial real estate agent who specializes in manufacturing and multi-use facilities.”
Elevator Pitch: “I’m a commercial real estate agent who specializes in manufacturing and multi-use facilities. I’ve worked real estate for the past 15 years and was recently awarded “Real Estate Agent of the County” for 2018. I also teach online courses at XYZ University about real estate financing and investments. I’m currently working on a project to connect veterans/military spouses with veteran-friendly real estate financing opportunities. I’d love to talk with anyone you know who might be interested in learning more about real estate.”
The purpose of the “Elevator Pitch” and “Punch Line” is to sort through the “noise” at networking events. Inevitably you will be asked, “So…what do you do?”. Be equipped to answer effectively so you can make quality, relevant contacts at the events you attend.
Always follow up with a potential connection.
Meeting face to face is best when followed with a connection request that associates your face with an online profile, the picture and spelling of your name.
When meeting new people, always exchange phone numbers, connect on Facebook and/or LinkedIn and get a business card or email address on the spot. Do not rely on the other party to contact you first because it might not happen. Make the effort to reach out and send a quick note the day after the event.
An example note:
“Hey NAME, it was great meeting you yesterday for coffee. I enjoyed talking with you about work and our crazy dogs. I would love to meet for another coffee chat soon. Thanks, YOUR NAME.”
Networking does not have to be intimidating nor do you need to connect with 1,000 people per duty station. Networking is simply relationship building—so however you make friends, apply the same method with professional connections as well.
You never know when your connections will pay off, but realize that people are your number one asset. Your relationships are your “foot in the door” throughout your career.
It is crucial for military spouses to network.
Military spouses have an uphill career battle because they move a lot. Relocating usually equals job searching. A best practice is to seize networking opportunities when at all possible to help your search
People are where the magic happens.
The Military Spouse Advocacy Network’s (MSAN) mission is to create stronger military families through education, empowerment, and support. MilHousing Network is proud to work in partnership with MSAN to help military families PCS better. To learn how MSAN can support you visit https://www.militaryspouseadvocacynetwork.org/.