Military spouses from all branch affiliations and nearly every industry have relocated successfully time and again. We spoke with two women who say every PCS is an opportunity to grow and thrive.
Prepare for the inevitable
Ayren Pfeifer is enjoying the fruits of her labor. After 20 years of serving in the Marines, her husband retired at the end of 2021. As you’d guess, that means she’s survived several relocations.
“After 20 years, you become conditioned to wait for orders,” Pfeifer said. “Preparing yourself for the inevitable makes the transition easier.”
Pfeifer started her career as a realtor in Virginia Beach, Virginia, only to receive orders to Beaufort, South Carolina, a few years later. She knew she had to find a way to stand out if she wanted to be profitable, so she decided to learn everything she could about the VA home loan.
“One of the things that helped me find success was thinking of new and out-of-the-box ways to get clients,” Pfeifer said.
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To attract military families, she decided to give both buyers and sellers a bonus at closing. It was a strategic offer that changed everything.
“I closed 20 deals my second year in Beaufort, which is unheard of for an independent agent,” Pfeifer said. In fact, it landed her among the top 50 agents in the city.
But the orders eventually came, as they always do.
Pfeifer soon found herself in San Diego, California, juggling two kids and a career in transition. To make matters more difficult, her husband immediately deployed upon their arrival.
“That was probably the hardest time in my career because I was like, ‘What am I doing? Why am I trying to do so much at once?’”
Fortunately, it all paid off. Today, she leads the bicoastal Pfeifer Real Estate Team, serving clients in both California and South Carolina.
“It is so hard, but if you expect to find success in your professional life, friendships, or even in parenting, you’ve got to put the work in,” Pfeifer said. “You have to go through those tough moments to have the good ones.”
Hit the ground running
Kristin Bendigo is an Air Force spouse and photographer currently based in Tucson, Arizona.
“After I shot my first wedding, I think I sat in my car and cried,” Bendigo said. “I just thought, ‘I want to do this for the rest of my life.’”
With that in mind, she wasn’t going to let a PCS from Wichita Falls, Texas, to Arizona derail her dreams, even if it meant starting over.
“I was nervous, but I also knew that I could do it,” Bendigo said.
She says the best strategy when starting over is instantly plugging into your new community.
“Getting involved is the best way to start,” she said. “All it takes is that one person to hire you, and then it’s just word of mouth after that.”
From online groups to squadron mixers, nothing should be off limits when it comes to making connections.
“There’s much more to owning a photography business than pointing and clicking,” Bendigo added. “The biggest part is selling yourself. Market on Facebook, make friends with people in different groups wherever you’re stationed. You have to put yourself out there.”
Find a mentor
Above all, both women stressed the importance of leaning on other military spouses. If you can find someone in the same business, even better.
“Learning how to pick up your business and move it across the country is not common for most people,” Bendigo added. “It’s a good idea to get together with another military spouse who has done the exact same thing.”
For Bendigo, a friendship with a fellow military spouse photographer even blossomed into a mutual referral program. “If she was unavailable, she’d send people to me and vice versa.”
Pfeifer echoes the same advice, adding that there’s always enough business to go around.
“You don’t need to be competitive,” Pfeifer said. “Everybody can be successful. Surrounding yourself with people who understand what you’re dealing with when times are really tough is essential.”