Military spouses (MilSpouse) and family members are arguably among the most resilient and adaptable people you’ll come across. If they weren’t born into this world portraying those characteristics, the military life certainly teaches them in a swift and, sometimes, haphazard way. Before I met my husband, I would have considered myself a fairly adaptable individual and most of the time, fairly resilient and go with the flow. It wasn’t until I was fully embraced into the Navy community that I realized how much room I had to grow and flourish. The MilSpouse lifestyle often begs for an extraordinary amount of patience and understanding, a constant need for multi-tasking, compartmentalizing, and objective and strategic thinking.
As of the last official report, released in 2017, there are approximately 700,000 active duty military spouses, 92% of which are female. Currently, military spouse unemployment rates range between 35%-40% with the majority of families relying on single incomes due to complexities of maintaining certifications and jobs across multiple moves and state lines. Compared to non-military counterparts, 60% report dual incomes and the majority don’t face relocation every 2-3 years. Military spouse unemployment is not due to education or degree, rather military spouses with degrees face some of the greatest challenges in nearly every measurable category. Further, 88% of military spouses have some post-high school education, 34% have a college degree, and 15% have a postgraduate degree. Since we’ve married, my husband has moved three times, deployed, traveled more times than I can count, spent summer months in different states, and come and gone out of San Diego enough to make my head spin. Because of gap, however, I’ve been able to continue to foster my own career without sacrificing my personal and professional goals and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to not fall into a statistic that is far too high and avoidable.
Through my marriage and my husband’s Navy career, I experienced a turning point in my own personal and professional growth. Unlike a lightbulb type moment, the growth wasn’t something I immediately recognized nor a single moment in time that I can pinpoint. Rather, a culmination of experiences that eventually fueled an internal passion to become a better mentor, manager, friend, and community member. When I count my blessings, I measure the opportunity to join our military community at the top of the list, both for obvious reasons, but equally for the life lessons I’ve learned.
Being a military spouse can teach you a lot about leadership.
In a culture of instant gratification, electronic communication, and a flurry of content, words matter more than ever – both in text and in verbal communication. Choose your words carefully. During times apart and during a ten-month deployment, my husband and I relied solely on email. While the modern conveniences are an incredible benefit over those 50 years ago, the same principles applied to our heroes on the front line and home front. My grandfather served in WWII and it was during this time that his first daughter was born. With a limited word count, Western Union telegram informed him of her birth. It was by pen and ink that he shared the battles he was fighting. I remember first overly scrutinizing my emails to my husband, knowing how easily things can get lost in written context if not written thoughtfully and when I received his emails, I would cling to every word, as they mattered so much. Choose your words with purpose and meaning both personally and professionally – they are so impactful. Use them for absolute good, always.
Don’t Burn Bridges
You’d be shocked at how small the military community really is, particularly when you consider the communities within, such as aviation. You learn to rely on one another not only because you want to, but because you have an unspoken common bond and trust. You’re going through the same thing, you understand the unique challenges, and what’s expected of you. So it goes with our professional communities. Trust your team; let them know that they can trust in you just the same. We’re in the same squadron, team, huddle, and company. Have each other’s backs, always.
Trust Each Other
I’ve absorbed countless lessons during my eight years at gap, although one stands out among the rest: “Assume positive intent”. This simple phrase transformed my personal and professional relationships. It seems so simple, yet it can change the entire direction of a conversation, interaction, or entirely shift a reaction. I trust my community of Navy spouses blindly. Why? Because I trust that they are experiencing a similar situation to what I am and they have my best interest and our collective best interest at heart. Why would I trust my colleagues or team professionally any less? I wouldn’t. At gap, we pride ourselves on fostering our unique culture, where we do great for each other our clients, and our community. Trust each other and always assume positive intent.
Be Open & Ready for Change
Military life is dynamic, whether it be a consistently changing geographic location, coming and going of community of friends and neighbors, or the hours and faraway lands that lead your spouse from home. Nothing stays the same for long…and just when you think it has, it changes. The Navy doesn’t take into account if you feel like moving or not, it only asks for your adaptability and trust and know that you’ll be supported along the way. Embracing change and expecting it from your team allows for adaptability, quick-thinking, and the ability to pivot and shift gears when needed. The willingness for change flows best in both directions; instill in your team that you’ll support them through the necessary changes and trust also that what is asked of you, as a leader, is for best reason.
The majority of military spouses have had to quit a job because of their spouse’s service and once they do settle into a new location, approximately 41% report difficulty in finding a new position due to an employer’s hesitancy to rehire. As the chamber of commerce foundation points out, these type of employment challenges not only affect a MilSpouse’s career development, but the implications are far greater as they eventually impact the military’s ability to recruit and retain its members. I’m grateful and proud to be a part of the team at gap intelligence for so many reasons, only one of which is its support of our military lifestyle and also our other active duty families that are part of our team. Without hesitation, gap allows the flexibility to serve as a military spouse. With the ability to work remote, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel alongside my husband when he is called on the road, attend out of town ceremonial events, and to keep up with our ever-changing schedule. Working for a company that truly honors and embodies its core values not only impacts our family, but extends far beyond our immediate circle.
Do you have what it takes to be a gapper? Head over the careers section at gapintelligence.com to learn more about open positions. Find more info the bottom of our about page.