the underemployed military spouse

Yesterday, I went shopping at my favorite money pit, Marshalls.  No hard feelings, I have a love-hate relationship with this place. After several hours and a handful of great items, I walked up to the register to pay.

I was greeted by a friendly cashier, and like all conversations begin at store registers, we discussed the weather.  After one sun ray, it was pouring, yes, literally one ray.

 “Thank God for coffee”, I said.

‘Yes, I drink about 4 cups of coffee a day now, my husband and I just pcs’d here… I mean moved,” she said.

“My husband used to be in the Army.” I smiled, knowingly.

“Yeah, I’m on the 4 cups of coffee a day too”. “Washington does that to you.” I said.

Somehow we ended up discussing a business venture, a coffee shop chain that employed male baristas… think chippendales (her idea, not mine, i’m sure she will want credit). But to her point, I added that the majority of coffee shop frequenters seem to be women.  She added “I have my degree in business. We could do it.” At the perfect moment, she totaled up my items and asked if I’d like to open a credit card to save 10%.  As always, I said “no, thank you for asking though”.  “Are you sure? We could use the savings for that coffee shop.”  Cute, I thought.

After leaving Marshalls that day, I kept going back to our conversation.  This friendly, high-energy cashier with a Business Degree was working as a Cashier at Marshalls.  The crazy part, I wasn’t shocked. Time and time again, and as a previous military spouse myself, I have witnessed educated & experienced military spouses underemployed. Not because they can’t do more, but because they aren’t given the opportunity.

Military starts with the letter M.  You know what else starts with the letter M? MOVING. Mobile. Mayhem. Madness. Monday. Nobody likes moving. Moving within the same city is hard enough. It’s like dooms day. Things, flying everywhere.  Nothing good enough to keep, but still nothing better get broken. Especially, that piece that used to be your grandmothers. Lots of tears, lots of pizza and 5+ lbs later…  you end up in a new place, your now home, with no friends and no family.  Your to do list looks like: new house, new vehicle, wait for movers, unpack, registration & license, house insurance, car insurance, utilities, trash & electric, all new cleaning & food supplies,  dental and medical, child care and school, the list goes on…. and finally when all is said and done, the hardest part find a job within your area of expertise, with great people, a great boss, and the benefits, pay and hours you need. Uh, yeah right.

Do to the nature of all of this, military spouses often have gaps in employment. Gaps that employers look at as red flags or length of commitment issues. Which in turn results in spouses becoming underemployed, if at all.

How do we get passed this? Well, I could go on until I’m blue in the face about how hiring managers need to be open minded during the hiring process, and hire talent for fit instead of all the other crazy non-sense.  But people like facts, so lets educate employers and hiring managers. Data needs to be collected and shared with hiring managers within the organization on turnover data for military moves compared to other reasons.  My guess, the percentage isn’t as great as expected.  Another great benchmark, collecting data on performance. There is a great indication that military spouses are flexible, quick to learn, & adaptable in the workplace.

From a larger standpoint, a law protecting military spouses from employment discrimination would be another step forward for equal employment.

Leaving on a positive note, here are a few other words that start with the letter M, because the Military is so much more than moving.  Magnificent. Magical. Miracle. Motivate. Merit. Meaningful. Moments.


be ready for your next job, before you’re ready for your next job

the best way to determine what you should do today is consider where you want to be tomorrow…

I worked in retail all through high school. I loved the independence of making my own money.  I wanted more of course, not money, well, yes money, but I wanted more out of a career.  I loved psychology and trying to figure people out. I was always the girl that everyone would go to with their problems. I’d listen intently, putting myself in their shoes, before offering a suggestion and a little positive insight (I have been called Pollyanna, a few times in my life). I always felt I had a natural ability to read people and understand their perspectives and ideas. naturally, I took an interest in HR, where I felt I could put these qualities to good use.

After high school, I landed a financial rep job with a financial institution. While working, I attended community college (very) part-time, as I could afford it. One by one, I slowly completed courses; my HR career goals seemed like a distant destination.

then something happened…

at work one day, my coworker told me that our company just posted a new HR recruiting job on our website.

“isn’t that what you want to do?” she asked.

my heart skipped a beat. “yes.”

A part of me didn’t want to read the job posting, afraid that once I did, the possibility of what could be, would be gone.  Eventually, my reasoning kicked in, I needed to know what I had to accomplish to get to that level.  Moments later, I was reading through the job description like it was an indulgent chocolate cake.  It’s never as good as it’s anticipation.  I should have never touched the cake, I didn’t meet much of the job requirements at all, outside of abilities and skills. I closed it, and tried to pretend like it never happened. but it did.

the position was calling to me. I started crafting an email (that I may or may not send) to the hiring manager asking questions about the role, what they were looking for and if they were open to training. With my eyes half closed and before I lost my nerve, I hit send. I immediately went to my sent box to reread what just happened. It’s too late now, and again I was waiting to eat chocolate cake. the possibilities.

The reply back was as expected, they were looking for someone with  ______ experience and  _______ knowledge.

And like always Pollyanna showed up… at least I won’t wonder, I thought to myself. a week or so later an email popped up in my inbox from the hiring manager.  I quickly glanced at the preview message… “send us your resume.”  wait, what? I was so ecstatic and shocked. this was it.  here was my opportunity. I went home that night determined to write the best resume I could.

The next morning, I emailed it to her. here goes…

It wasn’t long before I was contacted to meet with the HR Director and the EVP for an interview.  seriously, was this my life? with a mix of panic and excitement, I prepared for an interview, with two very pivotal people within the organization, for a position that was outside of my experience level. during the interview, I think i may have actually stopped breathing, but somehow I made it through. A few days later, I was told that I got the job.

the rest is history.

Here’s what I have found to be true.  Nothing is ever black and white.  Rules bend. Our greatest obstacle in life is ourselves. Always go after what you want. Even if you’re not sure that you’re 100% ready. don’t live in fear of failure or rejection. Try something new, get uncomfortable. What’s the worst that could happen?  you fail miserably, but not without a learning experience and a great story to tell.

LinkedIn Influencer BestMistake: How a pink thong taught me to be a better HR Professional.

wait, what? HR… professional… pink thong…

It was my first “real” job.  I landed a 9-6, Mon-Sat with benefits… I was stoked! The building I was going to work in housed all of our executives and back office support teams, who worked upstairs.  I was going to be meeting a lot of people, and I wanted to make a great impression. Of course this was the perfect reason for a shopping spree. Dress pants, heels, blazers, cardigans, blouses, and sweaters… by the end of it all, I was feeling pretty good.

During the first week of work, I was training/observing with a colleague. Not the most exciting.  The good news, there were stools to sit on when not helping customers. This was huge to me, since all of my previous jobs required standing all day.

A few hours into training, my feet began to hurt from standing in the new heels. Yay for stools, I took a seat.

It wasn’t long before the Manager came over and whispered in my ear,

(I remember what she said verbatim)

“I really hate to say this, but I got a phone call from someone upstairs and they can see your pink thong…”

“What, oh my goodness, really?” I asked astonished.

Panic, panic and more panic later… i apologized immensely and made my way to the restroom to get it together.

In the restroom, I immediately checked my undergarments…  as if the entire thing could be a lie or some terrible prank.  Ashton Kutcher?  Please, come out.  My eyes burned from pain at the bright pink color.  no.  It was true. no. why?

I looked at myself in the mirror, and did the only thing I could. I gave myself a little pep talk. Pulling it together, I walked back out there with my head held high.

At the time, a part of me was a bit frustrated that someone was looking down from a second level floor at my undergarments. Isn’t that kind of like sitting under a bleacher and seeing under someone’s dress and complaining about it? I was happy someone told me, but I wished “that person” would have came to me directly.

Now, I look back and laugh.

Thankfully, this didn’t hinder my job or my career.  I actually ended up getting promoted, and making my way into Human Resources.  I know right, who would have thought?  “The pink undergarment girl” working in Human Resources. Life is funny that way.  I never did figure out who the keen observer was.  During conversations with long-term coworkers, I’d think to myself “was it you?” “do you know my secret?”

I learned a big, not so obvious, lesson that day. People are humans, life happens, mistakes are made. It’s what we learn from those mistakes that makes us better. Everyone has their “pink undergarment” story.  Right? (Please, say you do.) I learned it’s important not to write someone off based on a first impression.  I try to keep an open mind, be empathetic and compassionate.  People may just surprise you, in a good way. Oh, and don’t sit on stools at work. Ever.


what is my purpose?

Steve Jobs said…

Almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Imagine a world soon to be void of your life. what does that look like or feel like? it’s hard to imagine, because the thing about death is… no one is alive to tell you about it.  we all have an expiration.  some sooner than others, but all of us will inevitably meet the same fate.

those that are forced to stare down the barrel of death, either of their own life or as a passenger to a close friend/family member, are often rocked by the most honest feelings of awakening.  in those hours, after the tears, there is something spiritual and light.. where the materialism and day to day grind of life falls away and what is left are the warm feelings of love, compassion and selflessness.

thoughts of did i give it my all, did i share as much as i could. did i love as hard as i could, do they know how much i care.

what you realize about life is… it was never about you.  it was always about them. and the best thing that you can do in life is to give.  Give, give and give some more. love and love harder. and when you’re no longer doing that in your life, then it’s time to make some changes.  we are at our best when we are helping others.