Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Employment issues

LAW emailed me letting me know about a series of blog posts on milspouse employment over at Left Face. I started writing a long comment over there and decided to just post it here and maybe get some of you to go over there and comment.


Here's my situation (and please pardon the oversimplification of somethings and the length). My husband was in the Army Reserves and deployed to Iraq. We didn't know what he was going to do when he came home since he'd given up his law practice when he moved 1500 miles away to get the unit ready to mobilize. He had no job to come home to and he was not interested in setting up his own practice again. He applied for AGR (Active Guard & Reserve). He was asked to stay in Iraq for a second deployment. With nothing from AGR, we agreed that he would stay on in Iraq and move to a different location. A few days after he made that commitment, AGR called to let us know he'd been accepted into the program. He honored his commitment and remained in Iraq. This still left us wondering what he'd do when he came home. He applied for and was accepted into the Active Duty JAG program. We knew that would mean moving every couple of years and more deployments in our future. We knew that would mean I would be leaving my job and finding new work every couple of years. We've been here at our first duty station since October and I have yet to solidify a job. We are very fortunate to be able to live off of his paycheck.

My education and work experience is diverse. I have a BSN and worked as an ER RN for three years. I have a JD and worked as a trial attorney for three years. I left law for a less stressful life as a technical writer while my husband was deployed. My last job I had for three years.

I am looking for a good paying job. I have applied for jobs with defense contractors and on post. The biggest challenge for me has been getting my foot in the door. Most of the jobs on post are not open to the public; they are for "status candidates," which is essentially someone who has previous worked for the federal government. I am not one of those people. My husband and I have heard directly from the person in charge of the Dept of Army civilian hiring that they prefer to make jobs available to status candidates because, get this, otherwise they would have to give these jobs to veterans due to the veterans preference. (Uh, that sounds a lot like discrimination of veterans.) So I cannot apply for the vast majority of positions on post. The jobs that are left are either MWR jobs or jobs that I am not remotely qualified for (I am not an electrical engineer or a computer scientist).

The second challenge is knowing how to play the game so I could get a secretarial job. I would, incorrectly, have assumed that a JD means I have graduated from high school. Not so. Since my Resumix resume didn't include that I was a high school graduate, I was rejected. Or else "you were not among the best qualified candidates" means that I am overqualified. Either way, my online resume was inadequate. I spent a looooong time with the right woman who told me that your Resumix resume needs to be packed with information. Find the job descriptions and use that to help build your resume. It is all about key words. The people doing the screening aren't thinking outside the box; we need to figure how to get in the box. (Of course, it helps to know how the game is played!)

Even though it has been 9 years since I last practiced nursing, I did apply for a nursing job on post. That requires only a license in any state. If I wanted to practice in town I would need to be licensed in this state. It would cost me about $1000 to do that. The same thing holds true for an attorney position; my current law licenses are sufficient for federal jobs. I would have to sit for another bar exam if I wanted to work in town, assuming that there was a position available. Licensing is an issue for milspouses since it is done at the state level and not all states grant reciprocity.

Since I have been here, I started doing direct sales with Tastefully Simple. It is something to help keep me busy and certainly presents new challenges for me. And it will present the same challenge of growing my business every time we move. But it is MINE, I can take it with me and grow it as much or as little as I'd like.

Last September, President Bush signed an Executive Order in an attempt to make it easier for military spouses to get jobs, or basically, become "status candidates." I have been told that will not go into effect until regulations are written to make that happen. It is April and I still haven't heard anything about this being in effect. Somewhere deep down inside, I am hoping that Mrs. Obama will do more than listen to military families and portray us as people who need the public's sympathy.