During the opening session of AMPLIFY, Hiring Our Heroes staff member Adrene Wike welcomed a group of military spouses and shared what to expect.
“This will be two full days of a firehose of information,” she said.
And she was right.
In the two days that followed, Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, ran a jam-packed career development workshop on Zoom for nearly 70 military spouses, its largest cohort yet. Typically offered once a month, either virtually or in person at locations throughout the U.S., AMPLIFY is available at no cost to the military spouses.
The workshop’s informational sessions include professional speaking, networking on LinkedIn, strategic job searches, interview preparation and salary negotiation. Sessions were led by Hiring Our Heroes staff or recruiters from partnering companies.
A resource for all spouses
Wike, deputy director of military spouse programs for Hiring Our Heroes, said she understands the unique struggles of finding and keeping a job as both an Air Force veteran and spouse. She specifically remembers the moment she received a text from her husband about orders to PCS at the same time she was offered a professional position.
“It was so defeating. It was very difficult to find a job at that point as a transitioning service member and military spouse,” she said, recalling the tough job market after the 2008 recession. “My husband was like, ‘We’re going to Texas!’ And I was like, OK, now I’m going to start all over.’”
Wike says AMPLIFY helps military spouses during any stage of their career, whether just starting out, returning to the workforce, pivoting industries or navigating a spouse’s transition away from active-duty service.
“This is a space for you to talk about your career journey no matter where you’re at,” Wike said.
She said that sharing common struggles with other military spouses is an important part of AMPLIFY. Breakout sessions throughout the workshop offer participants opportunities to share their professional journeys and practice their newly crafted elevator pitches.
Every AMPLIFY participant is matched with a mentor, who works one-on-one with the job seeker to brainstorm job search strategies and review resumes. Wike encourages every military spouse to seek out a mentor.
“It’s so important having someone hear you and help you figure out what that next career step might look like,” she said.
During the workshop, military spouses are introduced to additional opportunities run by Hiring Our Heroes. Two programs, the Salesforce Fellowship and Military Spouse Fellowship Program, pair candidates directly with partner companies in a paid intent-to-hire position.
In-person or virtual?
For attendees trying to decide between the virtual or in-person AMPLIFY formats, Wike said there are advantages to both.
In-person attendees walk away with headshots and are more likely to connect with local spouses and local employers. The virtual session is popular for its flexibility and connects participants with job seekers and employers from across the country.
“The majority of the information shared is the same,” Wike said. “It’s really a matter of, ‘What are you comfortable with?’”
As either a veteran or military family member, everyone on the AMPLIFY team understands the challenges of finding and keeping a job while tied to a service member.
“We pick up and drop our lives into a new community every two to three years,” said Jakob Coombes, manager of events and engagement, who grew up as an Army brat.
Brian Alvarado, Hiring Our Heroes’ director of Military Spouse Programs, is also familiar with career challenges as a veteran Navy spouse. Leading the session on professional speaking, Alvarado cited a 24% to 30% unemployment rate throughout the military spouse community.
“Military spouses are always underselling themselves,” he said. “We have to stop doing that. If you have a skillset, bring it to the table.”