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Career Advancement? Or Career Suicide?

May 25, 2010

**This originally appeared over at my other blog, but figured it was fitting here. Maybe I’m just crazy — maybe not. But this whole thing has me fired up. Enjoy! ~Brittany

It’s is no secret to anybody that reads my blog that I work full-time. I’m a career gal. I mention it pretty frequently, actually, which I’m sure gets annoying to people who read this. Sorry.

I always knew that I wanted to be a “career girl.” I enjoy working. True, there are days when I need a break, and there are periods, like right now, where I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed with all that I have going on and could REALLY just use some time to not do anything. To breath and relax. Point of my last post, remember? But when it comes down to it, I love my job. I LOVE my career field. I love being in Public Relations because it lets me do a little bit of everything. I am one of the few who is actually using the degree they went to college [and grad school] for.

I like working.

So it’s always been difficult for me to embrace the fact that as a Military Spouse, especially as one who is married to a guy who *might* make a career out of it [i.e. 20+ years in the Army], there will be a point in my life where I may not get to be a career girl. I may have to give up everything that I’ve worked for because we got lucky [insert sarcasm here] and the Army sent us to some podunk town in the middle of nowhere. Where I would be lucky to get a job in a coffee shop, let alone a real job doing what I LOVE to do. [And for the record, not that it matters, but I had my masters degree completed prior to meeting my now husband. Hey — you can’t help who you fall in love with.] I would probably enjoy it for a little while, but knowing me, I’d be itching to get back to work soon.

In all, I think its a huge reason why I’ve been fighting my husbands desire to leave Fayetteville for sometime. True, I want to get out of here because lets face it, Fayetteville sucks. But then it hits me that we may go somewhere even WORSE. Yes — possibly better. But possibly worse. I’m not a gambler. I don’t like to gamble. At all. I like security, and having a plan, and KNOWING what my future holds for me. And because of that, I’m holding on to the tiniest bit of control that I have.

This morning I got an email from Military.com, titled “Schools That Value Military Spouses.” In it, it said this:

Being a military spouse is not easy – many of us give up on a career to move from base to base and keep the family together. You don’t have to put your career off anymore. Online Degree programs are popular, flexible and allow you to study when and where you want – earning the same degree that you’d earn on a college campus.

And this brings me to the reason behind this post. This stuff? The stuff in the Military.com email? Its a load of crap. CRAP.

AND SO CONTRADICTORY.

Here lies my problem with statements like this. Military.com, the Army, things like MyCAA and whatever else is out there, they are all pushing military spouses to go back to school and get their degree. Which is great if you have nothing but a high school diploma. A college degree is a GOOD thing. But they are also pushing PORTABLE degrees. Nurses. Teachers. Things that according to them can easily be moved around. Because you’re a Military Spouse. And therefore, every two to three years, you are required to pack up your shit and head somewhere else. They are also saying that even if you already have a degree, you should change it. To one of the above. What if Military Spouse A doesn’t want to be a nurse? Or a teacher? Should she [or, you know … he] do it because the Military tells her [or him] to?

Thanks, but no thanks.

What about those of us who don’t want to change our degree or our career path? As I stated before, I actually enjoy the field that I’m in. It’s creative. It’s fun. I get to interact with people. Its everything that I want to do, and I got damn lucky to find such a fantastic job here in town. But it’s not portable. There aren’t always marketing firms, or public relations firms, or anything else of that sort in small towns. So because I don’t have what’s considered a portable career, I am, essentially, screwed. And those people who do want to earn their advanced education, but don’t want to fit into one of the categories that the Military sees fit, are also essentially screwed. The email quoted above proves this. “Many of us give up on a career to move from base to base and keep the family together.” So WORK for that college degree, get it, and then quit your job and start the career-finding process all over again in two to three years. This is not career advancement, as they so lovingly put it. It’s career suicide.

HOORAY!

How about this, Military? STOP MOVING YOUR FAMILIES AROUND SO MUCH! The fact that we have been here at Bragg for five years BLOWS PEOPLES MINDS. I know that we are lucky, and I hope to keep the luck going. Moving your service members every two to three years is not only hard on the families, but it’s destructive to the units. It takes time to get to know people. To trust people. To know how they operate and how they work. And with the rate that we are sending service members to war these days, who are you going to trust more in a tough situation? The guy you’ve been working with for the past three years? Or the guy who just showed up last week?

And heaven forbid, a spouse get to be in one spot long enough to actually build on her career. Its also destructive to have a resume showing how much you bounce around. Sooner or later, that will catch up with you, and nobody will hire you. So much for that college degree then, huh?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2010 4:44 pm

    YES! I find this all to be so perplexingly fascinating. I mean, when did being a teacher become portable? Because there are schools everywhere? Not so! I know a ton of MilSpouse teachers who are struggling to find jobs after a PCS because THE MARKET IS FLOODED in Military circles. Yet, here they are pushing these degrees! And the last thing we need in schools are teachers who are only teachers because the DoD told them it was a portable career.

    But I digress. I too struggle with this, we are told that “if the spouse is happy and things are good at home, you have better & more focused soldiers”. Yet so many of us are jobless (or facing that reality with the next PCS) and directionless because we can’t use the degrees we already worked so hard for. Now they are creating a whole new class of MilSpouses who worked hard to get a degree while dealing with a deployment and kids and all this other stuff and she/he STILL can’t get a job.

    Honestly, sometimes I just wish the would quit blowing smoke up my you-know-what and be honest: Being a MilSpouse most likely means giving up your career and there isn’t a damned thing we can do to change it. Because what we at the DoD do is just plain more important that you or your career (begrudgingly, I’ll say rightfully so).

    I think the only programs that ACTUALLY help any of this is MilSpouse preference in government jobs and for jobs on post. You can’t make external employers care about the plight of MilSpouses and I agree with you that ineffective programs like these only serve to educate spouses, not employ them. And I’d be willing to bet that it is easier for a MilSpouse to get a job without a degree (Overqualified!) than with one. But that’s just my cynical 2 cents.

    Great post Lady!

  2. May 25, 2010 6:13 pm

    I whole heartedly agree with most of your post. I’m like you in the way that I don’t have any desire to be a teacher or nurse; no interest at all. I was literally one of the last people to be approved for MyCAA funds, so I am lucky to have that resource available to me. But, if I’m being honest I really don’t know what I want to be (when I grow up) or pursue as a career. So for now, as you said a Degree is a good thing so I’m pursuing a BS in Management. We’ll see where it takes me.
    But I have to disagree with the, “stop moving your families around so much!” part though. I happen to think that is one of the great draws of this life. You get to see different places and meet different people. Of course, I realize the effect that could have on ones long term goals (what are those, anyway, right?), friendships and career but I still see the opportunity to be able to see the country and/or the world as a huge plus.

    That’s just my lil’ ol’ opinion of course.

  3. Laya permalink
    May 25, 2010 6:34 pm

    I know I haven’t started life in “the real Army” yet, but I understand. I’m about to begin a dual Masters in Theological Studies/Law program, and it’s hard. I just came back from my fiance’s graduation, and I felt like an anomaly- not only was I not training to be a teacher (I have no problems with teachers: my mom’s an ESL professor), but I was also looking for a career that didn’t match up with the military lifestyle.

    I like working too. I like researching, I like debating, and I like arguing. I’m also a radical feminist actively pursuing a career in international human rights law (re: religious advocacy and minority groups) who happened to fall in love with someone in one of the most hetero-normative institutions in the world. Whoever God may be, they sure do work in weird ways. Weird and Ironic.

    I like career advancement; in fact, I’m a pretty ambitious person. And I don’t have a “portable career” nor am I interested in pursuing a “portable career.” Am I screwed? Yeah, definitely. I (like many military spouses) am over-qualified for any job near a military base. What do I do? Do I sit and twiddle my thumbs? Or do I alienate myself even more by choosing to live away from him because I want my own damn job? Does that count as keeping my soldier happy?

    It’d be easier to not move families so often, but it’d also be great if where we were moved wasn’t in the middle of nowhere. And it would be even better if when we “postponed” our careers for our spouses, we got more then a pat on the head, a hooah, and a bouquet of flowers.

    I suppose that’s my biggest problem: instead of actually taking note of our concerns, they seem to just cross their fingers and hope we’re placated because it’s for the good of the country. It’s condescending, patronizing, and yes….what happens to us is career suicide and that doesn’t make anyone happy.

  4. sreysaw permalink
    May 25, 2010 10:14 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, Brittany! Thanks so much for this post. This has been on my mind a lot lately, especially due to my husband & my impending PCS.

    I ditto Tucker’s “Yet so many of us are jobless (or facing that reality with the next PCS) and directionless because we can’t use the degrees we already worked so hard for.” and Laya’s “I like career advancement; in fact, I’m a pretty ambitious person. And I don’t have a “portable career” nor am I interested in pursuing a “portable career.” Am I screwed? Yeah, definitely.”

    I thought my career was going to be put on hold (and that I’d be facing umemployment, as we’re going to the lovely state of California). Thankfully, when I told my boss about my impending move, she offered to let me telework! It is an unexpected and amazing possibility for me. I think that teleworking is really the only hope that we MilSpouses have. Good luck to everyone!

  5. May 26, 2010 4:38 am

    portable careers… sounds like a PortaJohn! I thought I had one, maybe being a paralegal IS portable, but only when you hit my rung on the ladder, Senior Para (20 years seniority while Chief was in the Guard) I tend to agree with sreysaw – telework is a great option if you can get it.. Opening a virtual assistant business – it’s NOT easy, but it’s a choice too.

    The British model, where you are in a regiment with a “home base” and move AS a regiment, is one I wish we would adopt.

  6. May 26, 2010 3:37 pm

    THIS. I had about the same reaction when I opened the email from military.com; all I could think was, “what a joke.” For me, one of the scariest things about being a milspouse is the assumption (not from my husband, mind you) that my life revolves around my husband’s army career. Um, no. I’ve got my own career, thanks, and I’ll do just about whatever it takes to maintain the things that I’ve worked long and hard for, even if that means not moving with my husband to Fort Sill, OK, or staying here in Virginia when he goes to Korea for at least a year this July. Fortunately, my husband feels the same way and knows that while it would be nice for us to be together more often, it wouldn’t do either of us any good if I was miserable and resentful the entire time because I wasn’t working or I was working a stop-gap job that I hated.

  7. Crystle permalink
    June 9, 2010 9:25 pm

    I thought I was the only one! I too worked in a creative job field. I was a radio dj for three yeras while we were stationed in Jacksonville, NC. I have my degree in Communications and have loved the field since my first internship in little-town, Indiana. I loved it so much that I drove an hour to and from work (I had to be there at 6am. Add at least 20 minutes to brushing my teeth and getting dressed-you do the math;) Sadly, the stationed moved to Greenville which was another hour from home making the 2 hour commute impossible. As most of us in the media fields know- being in radio or any type of media- often requires a person to jump at any job opportunity, for maybe 20k a year, while moving half way across the country in mere days. (I used to think this was daunting before I married into the military-now I can do it with my eyes closed) So, unfortunatley, I’m stuck with not advancing in my media career and, reluctantly, looking into these so-called “portable” jobs. I told one of my old colleagues my plans to maybe be a nurse or teacher and her automatic laugh then cringe at me being in charge of someone’s health or or education said it all! Boo MYCAA(not to mention that if you don’t already have it-forget it.) I miss my fun creative job and will always try to keep it a part of my life, even as a part-time job.

  8. Tasha Hamilton permalink
    July 1, 2011 12:22 am

    I realize that this post was a year ago, but right now it is completely hitting the spot. It took me 10 years to complete a B.S. degree because of how often the Navy has moved us and I am not good at online programs and not all states provide in-state tuition for military spouses. I am currently in the latter part of my graduate degree and my husband couldn’t get orders here in the Norfolk, VA, the LARGEST Naval station in the world. So we are now moving to another country, which would be exciting….except my master’s degree is in counseling and the government wont hire me unless I am licensed, and I can’t get licensed without having site supervision, which they wont provide. It is the definition of a Catch 22. UGH. I am starting to think the military wants all military spouses to be traditional housewives…which definately does NOT work for me.

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