Jobs list hits a nerve!

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Recently an article posted in the news, “12 great jobs for military spouses,” by Melba Newsome at JD News has made military spouses around the country hotter than the heat wave sweeping across the US. Ms. Newsome is a highly respected journalist and writer; however this list hit a nerve. As a writer, I love when someone produces an article evoking passion from the people reading it, however I don’t think this was the type of passion Ms. Newsome was hoping for. I realize she had good intentions; however many women feel like the list of “12 great jobs for military spouses” reads more like a traditional 1950’s handbook for military spouses. While #1 on the list, direct selling and #2 child care are admirable jobs, the list was in stark contradiction to Ms. Newsome citing, ”the military spouse population has more education and training than the general public. 84 percent have some college, 25 percent have a bachelor’s degree and 10 percent have advanced degrees.” With all the higher education stats that Ms. Newsome reports why would she put “#5 errand runner or go-fer for others” or “#7 dog walker” on the list? Like most military spouses who read this article, I was happy until I read the list. Monique Rizer, military spouse, makes an excellent point, “There are many and varied levels of skills and credentials in our community. Which is exactly what the writer ignored, the list lacked diversity- and completely ignored all the spouses who do have more diverse ambitions in business, law, science, healthcare etc. This is a reflection of the national conversation about women in the workforce. We earn 60 percent of college degrees but we don’t have near that parity in leadership in business, nonprofit OR government. Why??”

Before my inbox explodes, I think the jobs listed are very rewarding and can provide real opportunities for people, not just military spouses. However, after Ms. Newsome shined such a positive light on how hard military spouses are working on their education to fulfill a career, the list was disappointing. Carolyn Duft Levering, military spouse and owner of Patriotic AdVANtures commented, “This is just insulting. First of all, like we all haven’t “been there – done that” already. They really came up with NEW and CREATIVE IDEAS! NOT! And I just LOVE the line in #6 Catering and/or cake making… “Those hours spent watching the Food Network might be… the genesis of a money-making plan.” Hmmm…yeah, that’s what I did while my DH (Dear husband) was out at sea, watch the freaking FOOD network. In fact, since I didn’t have a decent paying job, I wasn’t paying for cable, so there ya’ go. Love the #13 “Consistent Temp Work” too. Yeah! That’s what I would want to do for 20 years.”

The sarcasm and frustration is all too common among military spouses when it comes to our careers. Having moved many times myself and trying to find jobs in each new state as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I must admit, dog walking sounds tempting. No resume, no paperwork and a client who doesn’t argue. However, while I am extremely proud of my husband and his career in the Navy, I am also proud of earning my Master’s degree and actually using it. Ironically, it is my background in communication and 13 years of being a Navy spouse that prompted me to start MilitaryOneClick. My goal is to connect the military community and the companies supporting the military on a global level with the incredible opportunities that are available. Since launching MilitaryOneClick just over a year ago, I have met some of the most amazing military spouses and their passion is unwavering. Together we are working hard to improve access to jobs that equal our education and experience level. Sarah Stockwell, a military spouse for over 7 years and stationed in Colorado Springs said, “I think they’re (referring to the list of jobs) an insult. I have an engineering doctorate. I have friends who are milspouses who have multiple degrees too and we’re all frustrated. Why doesn’t the DoD hire us for civilian jobs and save a fortune in health benefits while they’re at it?”

Over the past year the Military Spouse Employment Program has been working with military spouses and corporations to assist each other in finding the best fit for all military spouses. Furthermore, The First Lady and Dr. Biden have made it their top mission to work with military spouses on career issues through their Joining Forces program. They are connecting Fortune 500 companies with the military community to hire and also retain military spouses even after we PCS (civilian translation = move). The First Lady and Dr. Biden are also combating the licensure issues that many military spouses face when moving across state lines. Licensure concerns have an effect on the majority of careers military spouses have degrees in such as; teaching, nursing, dental care, attorney and physical therapists. We recently spoke with The White House Joining Forces program and they are thrilled to announce that 23 states have now passed pro-military spouse license portability measures. Cheri Kilmurray, a military spouse and college instructor comments, “They (“12 great jobs for military spouses”) clearly don’t get it. The idea is to encourage companies to recognize and capitalize on the skills of trained and educated individuals that have to endure the professional challenges of constant relocation. Any responsible teenager can provide pet sitting services.”

The reason I felt compelled to write this article is to share with the civilian world that while we are proud military spouses, we also have a passion for our own careers. I understand what Ms. Newsome was trying to accomplish, however we need successful women like her to help us reach higher and go bigger. Lori Clinton, military spouse and CEO of Your Yeoman is a perfect example of reaching higher and going bigger. She stated,”personally I do not find it insulting, and my business covers several of those items listed. The key to what the article says is “12 ways military spouses can turn their education and/or skills into a money-making venture regardless of location”. Then it goes to list several low cost ways that you can do this. I have over 20 years experience in management, accounting and HR with an education and have managed and supervised many people. However when we moved to Hampton Roads I was not able to find a job that could even come close to making the money I had made in other places. I did exactly what that quote says and have not looked back. Not to mention that I now have 6 employees (all military spouses) who are more then happy to be doing the work because it is flexible, pays well and you can take it where you move. Yes to some, these jobs may sound insulting, but to others who have worked hard and continue to work and enjoy those jobs know that they are just as good as any other job. Your education, skill level and job title do no matter, it is what you get out of the job, how it fits your life style and the feeling of enjoying what you do at the end of the day.”

Cristin Orr Shiffer, a military family policy researcher and project coordinator for the Blue Star Families resume tool kit cites another interesting point, “There is another problem besides the fact that most of the “great careers” identified by the article are really mediocre jobs. Every job featured, with the exception of the one in Information Technology, is historically performed by women. Military spouses wishing to pursue careers, and military spouse employment advocates, must also work to dispel the traditional and gendered lens through which most of American society still views individuals married to military members.” Ms. Newsome’s article did bring the conversation of military spouses and their careers alive and for that I am grateful.

I would like to take this opportunity to share my own “Top 12 Most Supportive Organizations for Military Spouses.” These organizations, companies and people have encouraged me both personally and professionally to “reach higher, go bigger”, while launching MilitaryOneClick.

MilitaryOneClick’s Top 12 Most Supportive Organizations for Military Spouses (these organizations are listed in random order because they are all #1 in my book!)

1. Inc. Magazine & the Military Entrepreneurial Program


3. iRelaunch:

4. MomCentral:

5. The Joining Forces Program:

6. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers/Congressional Military Family Caucus:

7. The Military Spouse Employment Program:

8. Military Traveler, LLC:

9. AnyBill:

10. Nelson Mullins:

11. Hugh Hewitt:

12. Dr. William Bennett and Team:

While our spouses proudly serve our nation, we need to continue to battle for our careers. We still have a long road in front of us dealing with licensure issues, portability and costs; however I am constantly in awe of the military spouses I meet in person and virtually through militaryoneclick. There is the perfect job out there for all military spouses regardless of education and experience, we just need to work together to make all of those opportunities available. Together, we are paving the way for future military spouses and we welcome all forward thinkers on board! Jennifer Griffin Pilcher, Proud Military Spouse and CEO MilitaryOneClick

7 Replies to “Jobs list hits a nerve!”

  1. I agree with Jen Pilcher. I really have to believe that Ms. Newsome wasn’t thinking properly when she hit “go to print” or whatever on her computer. This article ends up being more insulting than resourceful. I took my bachelor’s degree in communications and was able to find valuable work in public relations for more than a decade while my husband was just starting out his Naval career. When our family grew, I went back and got my masters in teaching but could have easily continued on with PR had I chosen that path (and I still plan to in the future). I don’t like how we tend to get stereotyped and pigeon-holed into certain job choices. I have numerous spouse friends who are practicing lawyers, nurses, consultants, etc. I also agree that the article sounds as if it is primarily directed at women and the military is different nowadays. There are male spouses and some choose to stay home and raise a family and others continue their careers just as we do. Those jobs are not any of the ones listed in the article. I would love to hear a reply from Ms. Newsome regarding the reactions to her article. I don’t want an apology perse, I would just like her to put an addendum of some kind to it…that you can persevere with your chosen career no matter what and if you hit a roadblock, there are resources to help you find a job. She should walk into a Fleet & Family Support Center and see the job openings posted on the walls.

  2. As a military spouse and a Certified Coach, it all comes down to what your individual definition of success and fulfillment is. Some military spouses are looking for a job to help with the bills, to have flexibility so that they can focus on their family as a priority, or various other reasons. Some military spouses want to do something to change the world, and some military spouses are very career-driven. No matter what, it’s all okay, because what works for one person may not work for another. That’s why I really don’t believe in “hard and fast” lists. Just picking a job from a list ignores passion, interests, skills, personality and cultural fits. Developing a career or finding a job is more than just sending out a resume blindly, it’s an art. I am passionate about career topics, and I realize it can be overwhelming–so there needs to be more discussion about how to find a job that speaks to your own, unique needs.

    1. Stacy – thank you for commenting and you sum it all up beautifully! Small world – Stacy and I have not met in person, but her business was listed on the Inc. Magazine Top 7 military start-ups for 2011. She is a great example of what military spouses can do! I also added your website.
      Thanks ~ Jen

  3. Jen, As usual – you write an insightful and thought-provoking article. Many good points raised. I especially like the point about how the original article focused on jobs versus careers. While I love the points you make using Lori Clinton and Cristin Orr Shiffer as superb examples of mil-spouses who have “cracked the code” on career success despite the challenges they face, I would like to make a couple of additional points regarding some of the reaction to the initial article. Some of it felt biased and slightly superior to me. Firstly, many military couples choose to have one spouse (male or female) be the stay-at-home care provider for children, household management, etc. My wife and I chose this and we both feel we lived a better lifestyle for it – she loved what she did and often felt slighted by the “holier-than-thou” comments from some of the “career spouses” we encountered (BTW – as the kids got older, she launched a very successful home massage therapy business and is now my business partner and co-founder of our on-line coffee retail business). My point being, don’t judge – let people decide what works best for them at that point in their lives. Secondly, I felt many of the listed jobs were great – maybe not careers, but jobs that offered flexibility and small business ownership (rather than being a wage slave to someone else). I believe a large part of why so many mil-spouses are entrepreneurs is because they are overwhelmingly amazing people on the whole, but part of it is also by necessity. Personally I define success not by the name of the corporation I work at or the title I have in a traditional career, but instead by the passion and challenge I experience every day. I agree with many of those who felt that this list was skewed away from degreed professionals, but… beware your own biases because they can limit you. I personally am a big promoter of entrepreneurialism so I like that it included a number of self owned businesses, but (like so many readers) I was struck by the lack of creative thought about finding a way to bridge the gap between traditional degreed professional careers and the mil-spouse lifestyle of constantly moving, regular deployments by your spouse, and all the other challenges mil-spouses encounter. If I were writing it, I would have included a large number of consulting positions (many of these are not geographically based), on-line expert advice column/blog (use your education and experiences is a non-traditional way), in demand professional positions (adjunct professor, teachers, medical positions of many types, etc), scientific/legal/academic research positions, free lance marketing/web page design/social media management, etc. I have met so many inspiring mil-spouses who have created careers out of their own hard work and determination and their education and experience, that I believe this article completely missed an opportunity to highlight the successes created by these entrepreneurial and amazing people. I suggest she do a follow up article highlighting some of these incredible mil-spouses to act as inspiration and motivation for others to find their own passions and turn them into successful careers.

    1. Hi Carl – thank you for the compliment and I appreciate your response. You make important points and I think the fact that we all met through Inc. and knowing they “get it” is so important. Milspouses – men or women are incredible entrepreneurs! I also need to list your site with your AMAZING coffee –
      Cheers – Jen

  4. Lisa Adams says:

    I read the original article with the “list” just before a long
    run with Dan, so he got to hear how disappointed I was for 2 hours! I was telling him a lot of the same things you
    expressed in your article, I was very disappointed by the lack
    of creativity and encouragement for spouses to use their
    ambition and education. Military spouses are the most independent
    self motivated and optimistic group of people I know. although, I
    personally know women that have performed almost all the jobs on the list,
    I agree it read like a 1950’s manual, and at first I thought the
    whole article might have been a joke! I wonder home a recruitment
    office would feel about that list up on the wall, Come have your spouse join the military, and don’t worry about all the moving around, we have great opportunities for you as well, you can bake cakes!

  5. Rick Schumacher says:

    Your article is very thought-provoking. Thanks. I would ask the author of the list to look at the list from the perspecitive of a male military spouse and see if it is not in the least bit sexest. What she has suggested is what women used to be relegated to do. Don’t get me wrong, I can bake a mean cake, and my wife can’t grease a pan. It makes me upset that this author can rehash a 1950’s cosmo article and call it journalism.
    Portable jobs are not simply found in the service sector. There are many examples of MilSpouses (both male and female) succeeding in a large range of business and career goals. The key element, of course, is entreprenuerism.

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