A military spouse can face a litany of challenges that comes with being part of one of the most transient population groups in the United States.
One of the challenges is whether or not to tell a potential employer about the eventual move to another installation. Because of this, military spouses routinely face employment discrimination that often goes unreported and unchallenged.
The soft skills spouses possess — being able to deal with on-the-fly schedule changes, having a keen attention to detail and maintaining clear visions of the future — coupled with their own employment histories and professional experiences, should make military spouses ideal job applicants in any industry.
In fact, Hiring Our Heroes’ survey “Military Spouses in the Workforce” reports that on average, 50% of all military spouses have some college education, many of whom have post-graduate degrees.
Yet sharing the active duty status of a spouse with a potential employer often has negative ramifications. When employers use this potential move as a reason not to hire a military spouse, they exhibit a pattern of routine discrimination.
Tori Tweed has been with her Navy petty officer first class husband for 10 years. During that time, Tweed has sought employment on base at two different installations but has had difficulty getting an interview.
For Tweed, the stigma feels very real. She’s learned to refrain from mentioning that her husband is military, especially when she’s interviewing with a civilian company.
“I have been passed over for a handful of serious jobs in upper management at large companies because I will eventually be moving and they are looking for someone for the long term,” she said. “It has come to a point where I try to not mention my husband is military and that is why I am here until I can get a read or feeling for the company as to what their thoughts on military spouses are.”
Most recently, Tweed interviewed for a position at a local casino near the naval base where she lives. The interview went well but she wasn’t offered the position.
“They said it came down to the fact that I could not say how long we would be at this port and they did not want to waste their time training someone who was going to leave,” she said.
Training someone who might leave is the nature of business. In fact, it’s common for a person to job-hop every two or three years in the name of career advancement. If it’s permissible for civilian workers to spend five years or less in any given position, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in January 2018, military spouses shouldn’t be passed over under the guise of their eventual move.
Yet, the 2017 Blue Star Families “Military Families Lifestyle Survey” reports that military spouse unemployment is four times higher than the rest of the civilian workforce. Many spouses feel that the most demoralizing idea is that a service member’s career is somehow tied to the spouse who is seeking work.
As the daughter of a retired military policeman and now wife to an active duty soldier, Amely Castillo is no stranger to the military. After settling with her family in Fort Sill, Okla., Castillo earned an undergraduate degree and began pursuing a career in the education sector. Then she met her to-be husband and became married, all the while applying to positions which were relevant to her experience and education.
However, in an area flush with plenty of potential workers, Castillo never got a call back for an interview.
She’s certain that this is because she’s an Army wife, and thinks that the civilians who applied for the teaching positions were given preference because they were “permanent” residents of Fort Sill.
She thinks the employment sector needs to view military spouses as independent workers who shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their spouse’s career.
“Give us work, and give it to us without so many limitations,” Castillo said. “I want an employer to look at me as a human, not just the spouse of an active duty soldier. The discrimination we experience is so real, and it’s unfortunate because all we want is to find a job.”
While there are companies which laud themselves as being “military-friendly,” this effort is less than a fraction of what’s needed to eradicate the stigma associated with being a military spouse seeking employment. Some large name businesses do recruit military spouses, but because the number of companies seeking employees versus the number of people seeking jobs is so different, the competition to obtain employment is steep.
This means that even a basic secretarial or data entry job, for which many military spouses are overqualified, is going to be more difficult to get and will require multiple interviews. Just getting a callback for a job can be a huge boon, but then comes the inevitable drop.
This seems at odds with all civilian employment trends which indicate that most don’t stick around for the “long term.” In the ever changing face of business, and in one that is more mobile and more fluid, it seems remiss that so many civilian employers are missing out on the dynamic and versatile force that are military spouses.Read comments