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.

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