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Milspouse Employment: Career Growth (pt3)

April 8, 2009

So now that we’ve talked about discrimination, opportunities, pay, portability, and sacrifice, let’s talk career growth and job satisfaction.

I’ve seen some comments already that touch on the point I want to make today, so let’s check them out.

Bette said:

I am very lucky to have an employer who was willing to try a telecommuting arrangement. It’s worked out well for both parties for three-plus years.

However, it’s pretty much put me at a dead end as far as advancement.

Army Wife said:

With Marketing/PR it’s all about building that relationship with clients. I can’t do that when I’m moving around, or in small town that have NO clients. It doesn’t pay what I’m worth (I could be making double or tripple in a larger city), it uses about half of my best traits and used to satisfy me but not in the same way anymore.

Tucker said:

And lets not even get into the fact that we will only be there for 8-10 months before another move… who the heck is going to hire me to do ANYTHING? So then I have the glaring year of unemployment…

Do you see a trend here? Beyond the issue of employability and pay, what do frequent PCSes do to our career advancement? If we have two years in one position, six months as a temp, one and a half years in another position in another city…it adds up. Once upon a time, during the tech boom, it was common in the software engineering industry to see resumes with multiple employers in short amounts of time, and some saw it as a boon – look at all this experience! But these days, in every field I’ve investigated, employers want stability, and they want a return on their investment. They don’t want to train an employee and lose her to another company just as she gets in the groove.

LAW said:

I’m in a different boat, we were National Guard for so long that I got to be a paralegal for long enough that I’m now “Senior” paralegal…

If we’re not at one duty station long enough to promote to higher positions, and if employers are reticent to hire us at new duty stations, how do we advance in our careers?

I dug around the web a bit, trying to piece together a good definition of job satisfaction, but it looks like that’s impossible. There are actually theories and scholarly papers out there about what constitutes job satisfaction and how to measure it.

However, I did run across a Wikipedia article (I know, but it looks well-documented and brainy, so I’m using it) that points to five measurable characteristics of job satisfaction according to the Job Descriptive Index. They are “pay, promotions and promotion opportunities, coworkers, supervision, and the work itself” (scroll down to “Measuring Job Satisfaction” FMI). And there it is – part of job satisfaction revolves around promotion, advancement, future opportunity. How does the military affect a spouse’s job satisfaction?

Looking at the comments from the last two posts, it’s clear that job satisfaction has become a major issue. The only thing worse, it seems, than having a job you hate is having no job at all and needing one. Both of these issues apply to the milspouse more frequently than the typical civilian. Some of us need a job and can’t land one. Others manage to find a job and are either dissatisfied with the work (outside of our fields, we’re overqualified for the work, the pay is low because of undesirable location,etc. ) or concerned about the ability to maintain the current career trajectory. A lucky few have found jobs they like in the fields they’ve specialized, trained, or studied in.

Without job satisfaction for the milspouse, what happens to family morale? If family morale is low, how does that affect the greater military community? In recent years, I’ve seen a huge push with each command to ensure that morale remains a focus. They know they can get more work out of the troops if the troops are content in their personal lives.

The military is also aware of the need for job satisfaction. How else can they explain the opportunity for advancement?Awards, ribbons, and medals? Increasing pay for time served, in addition to rank and cost of living increases? Leave? Morale, Welfare, and Recreation opportunities pimped right in the workplace?

This is clearly an issue that needs the attention of the military, beyond the admirable but sometimes ineffective programs like the CAA, and tomorrow, that’s what I want to talk about: what are our options, and what can we do to better elucidate this issue for the Powers That Be?

Today, let’s chat about job satisfaction, career advancement, and how the military has affected our ability to find and hold down a job that contents us, as well as our ability to grow within our field and move forward.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

16 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2009 12:59 pm

    This is such an interesting discussion thread and I am so glad we are having it.

    My issues with advancement and job satisfaction are this: I work someplace unique and I have been very fortunate to be moving up on the job ladder relatively quickly. However, most hospitals are not set up like the one I am at, we do research in our clinical lab, we have multiple levels of management, we work with governing bodies and set standards of practice, we create new tests that are used around the world. There are probably only 5 or so other hospitals like the one I work at. And NONE of them are near Swiss’s assigned post. Worse yet, even though my job satisfaction is good now, I would be forced to be away from my husband in order to keep said job, and that will surely make that satisfaction level plumet.

    So even if there is a job opening somewhere near his duty station, there is no way it will be a comparable job. It will be like going from the majors down to a farm team. And there isn’t a single thing I can do about it.

    My job is great, and I have resigned myself to the fact that unless we somehow move to the East coast after he retires, I will never find another job like the one I have. And if I want to keep it, it means choosing to be apart from my husband. It should be no surprise that I’m choosing Swiss, but what about all the work I’ve done to get the position I have?

    • April 9, 2009 3:48 am

      This is a really big worry/concern for me. I know what I want to do and when I get there, I’m sure I’ll have to give it up to move. I have a few years (I’m sure) before I’ll be able to do it but until then I’m working toward it. I really don’t want to have that career messed with – but then how do I get to have it all?

      I have a friend who said being in the military was really hard for her because it was like she was waiting for her real life to start, since it all revolved around him.

      I don’t know the solution, but wish one would happen sooner then later!

  2. April 8, 2009 3:45 pm

    I wish I had something good to say. I have been personally struggling with the Army’s commitment to family. I have never felt like I mattered, to the Army.

    I’m assuming, this will never change.

    When my husband deployed at the end of last year, I went “home.” Bad idea. Anyway, I’m living in a back room at my mom’s house, with all my stuff literally jammed into one room. Most days, I can only afford to eat once a day.

    I have attempted to apply for jobs at as many of the military friendly businesses, but with the failing economy, it has made the search that more difficult.

    Why is the Army/military not hearing this? Are they listening?

  3. snarkynavywife permalink*
    April 8, 2009 3:57 pm

    Welcome, Allie. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having issues. I popped over to your site really quick and saw that you’re experiencing a serious disconnect with the FRG. That’s a bummer but not uncommon when you dare to move away. Also, you’re right. Child-free couples get snubbed a lot in the military. I have an awesome story from when I was child-free and got the cut direct from another spouse. Nice!

    As for the greater issue that encompasses all of these topics, whether the military pays attention, I think they try. Unfortunately, we’re peripheral to the mission and don’t matter, especially not in wartime. At least, that’s the mindset that seems to permeate the upper ranks. We get a lot of lip service for having “the hardest job in the [insert service]” but they don’t tend to pony up. There *are* services out there for us, but it’s mostly on us to find them and apply for them, and often times, they’re flawed or not that helpful after all. I’ve got two more posts in the pipeline in this conversation, so stick with us for the last, when we’ll pony up with our favorite services in the hunt for employment.

  4. April 8, 2009 8:18 pm

    Thank you, LAW, for letting me know about this series. I’ve read through the posts and all the comments. There is a lot in there.

    After writing a loooooong comment, it didn’t seem to right to post all of my thoughts here. I posted them over at my blog; here’s the link to my post. I hope some more people will come and read this series.

    The two biggest challenges I’ve faced in getting a federal job are getting my foot in the door and knowing the right way to apply. If you are completely new to this life and have worked many other places, how the process works is not necessarily intuitive.

    Tucker asked about having it all. After having been fed that line by society and believing it, I nearly went mad out of my mind. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a big lie we were sold as children. And of course, it depends on how you define “all.” You can have whatever you want. It all comes with a price. We need to prioritize things in our lives. Something has to give to something else.

    • April 8, 2009 10:19 pm

      I like to tell myself that I can have it all, just not all at once.

      • April 8, 2009 11:23 pm

        Lopsided Mom – Such a more elegant way of saying it! It would have been nice to have learned it the way you phrased it.

  5. April 8, 2009 10:23 pm

    Lopsidedmom: Very positive, glass half-full. : )

    • April 8, 2009 10:29 pm

      LOL Allie C – that little nugget particularly came in handy the day I discovered my daughter had drawn all over my framed grad school diploma. Nothing a little vinegar solution couldn’t handle, but eek, the metaphor.

  6. Ava permalink
    April 10, 2009 8:24 am

    We have four more years left in Hawaii. My husband is not sure if he wants to reenlist or not. I am dead set on moving back home, not because it’s an exciting place At All, but because I feel like I need my resources(family & friends), and I need a place to plant my roots for my career! I haven’t even started looking for a job yet, but I’m already thinking about not being able advance in my career because of not being anywhere for more than a few years. I am willing to live seperate if need be, but he doesn’t want to live seperate, may not want to get out, etc. and I’m not sure what may eventually come of it. But, after we are done here, I will have moved around with him for nearly 10 years and my thought is that I have followed enough and he can either follow me or not, but I have done my time. (?????)
    It’s very tough-the situation with us, the economy, etc. All options seem to have negative consequences for one of us and I don’t intend on always being the one without a stable advancing career! I am working way too hard in college to not use it productively and in a way that is satisfying.

    • snarkynavywife permalink*
      April 10, 2009 2:07 pm

      Ava – welcome! I hear you loud and clear. My husband and I had an agreement – I’d follow him with the Navy for five years, and then he’d follow me for five years. It never happened. He was trying to get out when 9/11 happened, and at that point, he opted to stay in. I had already moved, set up shop elsewhere with a good job, but all that work is gone now.

      It’s a hard pill to swallow, that we work so hard for our degrees and at our jobs, paving the start of our own career paths only to run out of pavement before we’ve really had a chance to get moving.


  1. Alternative Army Wife’s Blog
  2. Milspouse Employment: Making a Living Wage «
  3. Milspouse Employment: Portable Jobs (pt2) «
  4. Milspouse Employment: Having it All (pt 4) «
  5. Milspouse Employment: What to Do (pt 5) «

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