A permanent change of station (PCS) means major upheaval for the whole family. Packing up and moving to a different state or a different country is inherently stressful, even traumatic for children. Little ones have to say good bye to their friends, make new friends, and acclimate to a new school. Another casualty of a PCS could be your career, which can be affected in a number of ways. Finding a New Job. A survey a few years ago found that over 50% of military spouses had trouble finding work and 90% were underemployed, i.e. more education and experience than required for open positions. They are also more likely to make less money than their civilian counterparts. If you have a job requiring state licensing or certification, you need to get a new license. A PCS often requires a military spouse to quit a job and find a new one. Depending on what type of field you’re in, you may have trouble finding work in the new town. This may necessitate career adjustments such as shifting to a similar position in the same industry or finding a new career in which your current skills and experience are transferrable. Commute. Then when you arrive at your destination, your spouse will likely want to live as close to his or her base as possible. This could mean prohibitively long commute times for you. When you’re looking for a new home keep in mind that where your live, or on which side of a base for example, can affect your commute and the jobs you’ll apply for. Before you sign a lease or sales contract, consider if you’ll be able to find work in your field in that area. Research the location of possible jobs and orient your housing search around areas where you could find work in your industry. Ask your spouse to compromise so neither of you have a super long commute. Interrupted Advancement. Quitting a good job and finding a new one isn’t just frustrating, it can also slow or stall your career advancement. In most fields, there’s a natural progression of advancement from entry level up to manager. Advancing up that ladder is often much easier in the same company or the same city. Switching to a new job in a new town may require you to go back a few steps or transition to a totally new position depending on what’s available near the base. Unemployment and Underemployment. Military spouses have no choice where they’ll be moving. You might end up in an area with few employment opportunities in your field. Many spouses aren’t working because they couldn’t find jobs matching their education and skills or work flexibility to accommodate their spouses’ schedules and child care responsibilities. Some spouses can only find part-time work, while others can only get hired for jobs well below their skills, education, and experience, and thus are underpaid. Attractiveness to Employers. Many employers are wary of job applicants with lots of short job entries on their resumes. They may prefer many years at one company to show commitment. Thankfully there’s the cover letter. This is where you can explain why you had to leave your previous position. Another issue is that employers want employees to stay with their company long term. They may assume military spouses are more likely to quit in a few years, which makes them less attractive applicants. Solutions. When you’re dealing with PCS-related career challenges, remember to:
- Expect that it will take longer than you want to find a job
- Do as much research as you can about the area and the job market
- Take advantage of the resources available to job seekers and military spouses like
- Checkout Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA). You may be eligible for financial assistance to get a license, certificate, or degree. Other MyCAA resources include career development programs, employment readiness counseling, and career services.
- Attend career fairs and seminars
- Upgrade you resume and LinkedIn profile
- Look for telecommuting opportunities
- Volunteer in the local community and look for internships
- Network with the people in the area and in your industry
- Use the free time to expand your knowledge and skills with online training programs
PCS moves are challenging, but don’t despair. You’re not alone: career difficulty is a common issue for military spouses. Research and preparation can help alleviate difficulties. And this could also be an opportunity to get to know your new neighbors, boost your skills, and explore your new home. Who knows? You may find a job opportunity where you least expect it.