Marrying someone in the military means moving – a lot –and putting off plans to “settle down.” Sound familiar? Many spouses find it difficult to keep long-term positions as a result. Fortunately, virtual roles have become commonplace and are a viable option for spouses looking for careers.
In celebration of Military Family Appreciation Month, we spoke with Krissy Shaffer, one of WilsonHCG’s executive search consultants, and discussed her experiences being a military spouse and how it’s shaped her everyday life to be able to work remotely.
Military spouse and executive search consultant: Krissy’s story
Dating from separate coasts – with an entire country separating them – was how Krissy’s relationship with her spouse began. This lasted for three years. With her previous job, she had to stay where she was in Boston or she would’ve lost it. She recalls that time being tricky, riddled with the decision of choosing family or career. Fortunately, working at WilsonHCG, she’s able to have both.
Currently living in Germany, Krissy had some fascinating insights about working while traveling with her husband: “Having a job is very rewarding and helps keep things in perspective to understand both our worlds. Since we both work in people-related fields that can be all-encompassing at times, we feel much more sympathetic to each other and share camaraderie around our experiences.”
As we’ve heard ad nauseum, living in a COVID-19 world has uprooted many of the traditions around recruiting and traditional office environments. Krissy is well-acquainted with this mindset, considering her last position didn’t afford her the ability to work while traveling. This foreboding question in the back of her mind echoed many military partners’ concerns, leading to many giving up their jobs to travel with their partners. Even pre-pandemic, military spouses faced an unemployment rate of 24%, according to the National Military Family Association (NMFA).
Her experience at WilsonHCG has helped her not have to choose between the two and instead live a more fulfilling life. And really, this ultimatum is no longer needed – as trends were shifting toward a remote workplace before COVID-19 struck. In fact, 62% of businesses worldwide currently have a flexible workspace policy according to the International Workplace Group (IWG) Global Workspace Survey.
Educating employers about military life
For Krissy, the biggest obstacle of finding remote work was taking time to understand what was needed to be able to work from different locations as her husband’s deployments shifted.
Krissy was tasked with doing thorough research to ensure her tax situation was maintained and the ways in which her status of forces agreements (SOFA) would allow her to keep working. Be sure to check out the Institute for Veterans & Military Families Military Spouse Employment Series, as it was a helpful resource for her. She hopes the burden of gathering this information will be helped by the federal government – especially since remote work is becoming the norm due to COVID-19.
Some other noteworthy pieces of advice Krissy had on educating employers (potential and otherwise) included:
- Being armed with information about the value you bring to the organization and the benefits of hiring a military spouse that can help your case
- Being upfront with potential employers around timelines, responsibilities and expectations from the first touchpoint
- Providing resources to share about ways employers can support and alter their policies to help military spouses succeed (resources below)
- Communicating deployment dates, including if a different W2 may be needed during a certain time period during your relocation
- Staying organized and diligent, with set times to discuss upcoming changes with your manager
Thinking more strategically about finding top talent in unlikely places
Although Krissy’s story is somewhat unique, the conversation remains the same: benefits around remote work are undeniable and can help military spouses and other unlikely recruits find work. A report by the International Workplace Group revealed that 85% of those surveyed said productivity has increased as a result of greater flexibility.
This includes military spouses, those caring for a sick loved one or a spouse working toward a green card. We all have different stories to tell, but as people, we should never have to choose between our own well-being and a career. We’re already seeing remote work help break down these barriers and create more opportunities for those who wouldn’t have been able to work otherwise.
Even more valuable is this widened pool of potential workers mean you have a greater chance to hire those with a different perspective. That diversity is so important to stand out and propel your organization’s strategy and development.
Read more: Read our diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging whitepaper and attract and retain top talent
Military Family Appreciation Month resources
There are many government resources (these vary depending on where you live) that can provide scholarships and assistance for military partners and their families. Thanks to Krissy, who was a huge help compiling these:
How will you celebrate?
A huge thank you goes to all the people who are in service to their country’s military – as it is a sacrifice felt by those in service and their families each and every day.
Military One Source has some great resources to support military family’s well-being; you can get a free family appreciation kit. We hope, like Krissy, you’re able to find the career path and life that suits you and your spouse – today and for the rest of your lives.
Here’s some additional reading material to help you make a smooth transition into virtual work:
Job ideas for military spouses (that move with you)
Modern design for the home office: 10 tips to get you started
A guide to balancing work and family for virtual employees