For many years, I have worked closely with military veterans transitioning to a civilian career and the companies looking to hire them. I advocate for veterans’ skills, talents and loyalty and help corporations and entrepreneurs create robust hiring programs for this unique workforce. From this experience, I can solidly argue that there is a real and measurable business case for hiring veterans who have been tested on the battlefield and now see a meaningful career in the civilian sector.
But what about those who serve outside of the uniform? Military spouses are an often-overlooked workforce who offer skills, talents, value and insights that companies and hiring manager should take note of. These are the men and women who remained home, kept the family together and learned to manage finances and hold a job, while dealing with the uncertainty of their military partner's fate or when or where they might be asked to relocate.
One thing I've come to understand is that military spouses feel a loss of self-identity because so much focus in society centers on the military member's career. I’ve spoken to many who feel lost and invisible in the military conversation because the veteran is the one highlighted as the hero.
As companies look to talent acquisition, here are my top five reasons military spouses should also be highly considered:
1. Military spouses are highly adaptable and flexible.
When his or her partner receives PCS (permanent change of station) orders, the spouse is the one who has to pack up the household, move the children’s medical and school records and leave an existing support network behind. This makes spouses adaptable to new environments, cultures (especially when the PCS is overseas) and employment options.
While many civilian employees strive to be flexible, patient and resilient on the job, military spouses have learned to be that way out of necessity. This benefits employers who operate in fluctuating or growing industries and seek employees who can navigate change, instead of become paralyzed by it.
2. Serving out of uniform teaches spouses to give of themselves to a higher purpose, without credit or accolades.
One military spouse told me, “The media focuses on the veterans coming home, into the arms of their families. They don’t focus on those of us who make sure they had a family to come home to.”
The military promotes a culture of “Service Before Self.” Military spouses, alongside active duty personnel, share this value. This means that employers hiring spouses have an employee who isn’t craving attention and credit, doesn’t drive a personal agenda (at all costs) and champions the values and mission of the company and task at hand.
3. Have a high stress or pressure-filled job? Hire a military spouse!
Their world has been filled with transition, discretion and pressure. Each time they relocate, they must navigate the family stress of making new friends, finding new networks and adjusting to new geography. The stress of having to learn new skills in real time and do so with grace are characteristics of the military spouse.
Companies that seek employees who keep their cool under pressure, can maintain confidential information and will successfully manage new or changing professional relationships are wise to hire military spouses.
4. The military spouse understands how to align with a vision.
The spouse has served alongside his or her military partner throughout the years of active duty, believing in the values and mission of that partner’s commitment to the nation. The spouse has invested and sacrificed career, education and often relationships to support that commitment and vision.
Since a company’s brand is a promise of a future experience and value, and businesses promote their brand to target audiences, who better to align and help promote a company’s value than a military spouse? Spouses are typically patient and loyal and articulate in how they champion for their causes -- from love of country, to family to career.
5. Spouses have diverse skills and talents that are often left off resumes.
A dilemma with the resumes of military-spouse resume is that they either list all the short-term jobs and educational stints these individuals have had (and had to leave because of a military reassignment) or leave them off entirely, giving the impression of no experience or work history. Worse yet, if the spouse does not identify as a "military spouse," this lack of job and educational consistency can appear flaky and unstable.
Hiring managers and recruiters must recognize that a military spouse has picked up where he/she left off in each job, learned to re-network into new communities and therefore tends to have broad and diverse skills. So, whether you're hiring for a full-time CTO position or a part-time sales job, when you evaluate resumes and see a military relationship, consider the reasoning behind the sporadic job history. The benefits far outweigh the risks.
Companies looking to take advantage of a highly committed, passionate and resilient workforce are advised to consider and make an effort to attract military spouses. There are large and small companies across the United States that have successfully implemented robust military-spouse hiring programs and are seeing the benefits -- in employee morale and the financial bottom line.