Since arriving in Germany two years ago, I’ve noticed one singular challenge and frustration felt by most USAG Schweinfurt spouses – lack of employment opportunities. Legitimately, finding and sustaining employment is a concern for career driven spouses affiliated with any branch of the US Armed Forces. Yet, I’ve noticed it is especially difficult for families stationed overseas. The particular challenges we face pertain to the rules and regulations we must adhere to while living on foreign soil. And our employment opportunities are restricted within the walls of the base we inhabit.
Needless to say, spouse employment is not a new issue to USAG Schweinfurt. But it is worth mentioning because now we have the added burden of a base closure. Employees are leaving and positions aren’t being refilled. By fall 2014, over 1,000 jobs will be eliminated permanently and 10,000 plus Soldiers, family members and civilian employees will be relocated. So where does this leave the career driven spouse looking to find employment matching their education and background? The spouse who wants to grow and advance as a professional?
While I cannot promise you a job, I can help you prepare if the opportunity presents itself. Most of the spouses living in Schweinfurt fall into one of three categories; 1) PCSing back to the States, 2) Relocating to a new base within Europe or 3) Staying in Schweinfurt until the end. Regardless of your future, these recommendations apply to all military spouses looking for employment.
1. Make sure your resume is up-to-date:
You never know when an opportunity will strike. Start by visiting Tanya Toussaint, the Employment Readiness Program Manager at ACS. Mrs. Toussaint recommends having both a federal and civilian resume on hand. So utilize her free services to develop a winning resume or for help proofreading the one you currently use.
New to Schweinfurt is the “Ten Steps to a Federal Job” software. This is an e-learning program designed to assist with writing federal resumes and applying for government jobs. The software can be utilized from the comfort of your own home or office. Plus, as of now, it’s only available in IMCOM Europe so make sure you take advantage of it while you are here. Contact ACS to get started.
2. Dedicate time to your career search:
Devote a set time everyday to research jobs and keep abreast of the latest trends and advancements in your field. Develop an office space in your home where you are comfortable and can thrive. Maintain an optimistic mindset about finding employment – “Optimists see opportunities in every difficulty,” said Winston Churchill. It may be challenging to find employment as a military spouse, but it’s not impossible. Believe that there is something out there for you and be ready when it surfaces.
3. Network, network, network:
Commit to being an active community member and ensure that people know you by name. You never know who is watching. Market yourself and build a good reputation among the right people. This can help you secure a recommendation or interview when you least expect it. You want people to think of your name first when a job opens up. Truthfully, I’ve noticed that a lot of jobs are acquired through who we know and the connections we’ve made along the way. The Military is a small world. A contact you make today, might lead to an opportunity tomorrow.
Recently a friend of mine recommended an invaluable on-line networking resource called, In Gear Career. This is a non-profit organization established by military spouses for military spouses. Their mission is to help spouses “seek and obtain professional employment”. I highly recommend checking out their website and connecting with them on Facebook. Most of their information and services are provided in an online forum, so you can connect virtually wherever you are. In addition, they have local networking chapters in the States and overseas. Currently there is only one chapter in Germany (Kaiserlautern), but with the right leader and enough interest one could be established in Schweinfurt or wherever your orders take you next.
Job fairs are another excellent opportunity to not only network, but also get a feeling for what are the current trends in your career field. For military spouses relocating to Grafenwohr in the upcoming months, a job fair is being held April 25 on Rose Barracks. ACS will provide transportation to help you get there. Click here to learn more or contact ACS for more information.
If you are looking to stay in Germany after base closure and find employment on the economy, the City of Schweinfurt and the German-American Club will be sponsoring their own jobs fair to help USAG Schweinfurt community members. The Schweinfurt Job Forum will be held April 13, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Mercure Hotel downtown. Entry for all participants is free and there is no reservation required for the event.
It is no secret that Army spouses face challenges unique to the military culture; employment being one of them. I truly believe this is what makes us so resilient. We know how to face obstacles head-on and can bounce back fine — if not better. But unfortunately resiliency doesn’t always eliminate the frustrations that accompany these trying times. While it’s okay to acknowledge these frustrations, it is also important to know how to move forward. So how do we use our resiliency skills to overcome our employment frustrations? We prepare for opportunities, we dedicate time to personal growth and we network. Whether you are PCSing back to the States or staying in Germany, I promise you employment opportunities are out there. Now, it’s up to you to position yourself to succeed in landing the job you’ve been looking for.