Archive for the 'Career' Category

Networking Tips for #MilSpouses

Oct 06 2014

Guest Author: Reena O’Brien, Communication Professional and Army Spouse.


My entry in to the Army life happened later in life. I spent 15 years working for the same company. So when I married my husband and jumped into the life of a military spouse, it meant a regrouping of sorts. How was I going to maintain my professional life? Well – truthfully – I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to do it…

My first military move took us to Tallahassee, Florida. I was excited and nervous! I am originally from Florida so it was like going home but starting over at the same time.

So, I sourced my network. What does that mean? Well, I told everyone and anyone I knew where I was going and what I was looking for. I even shared my goals with people I didn’t know very well. I didn’t want to just take any job – after all, I spent almost half my life devoting myself to a career and an industry. I wanted to use those qualities to benefit an organization and grow myself. Some may see that as picky, I see it as “setting my bar high.”

My goal was to network. The dictionary describes it as, “to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment.” I set up meetings with people who were friends of friends. They were all happy to take time out of their day to meet with me. The thing is people like helping people. It makes them feel good. My meetings always included kind words and good advice. They didn’t always result in a job prospect but they provided me with a new found friend, mentor and contact.

So how do start? Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Reach out to your group of friends, colleagues, former or current co-workers. Military spouses are so good at the unknown. They are pros at breaking the ice. Put yourself out there. Tell people what you are looking for and see who they might know.

2. Soak up the Intel you get. Networking could mean a structured meeting, a coffee break, a lunch date, a phone chat or an email conversation. All of these are great ways to get your name out there, share your skill set and explain what type of job you are looking for.

3. Target a specific company. Are you interested in a certain company? Reach out to them. Find out who the Director is or HR Recruiter and express interest. They may not have a position open but show some initiative. And when a position opens, you have a better chance of being remembered.

4. Take notes and review your notes. Even if you don’t want to take notes during the meeting. After it is over, organize your thoughts and see what information you gleaned and how it can help you grow.

5. Keep in touch with the people you interact with. Maintain and build on your new (and old) relationships.

Luckily, I landed a job after 2 months. It was truly a job I loved and was sad to leave when we had to PCS. I got the job because a friend of a friend had mentioned my name. This was not by chance. This was because I made the effort to put myself out there and build relationships.

What networking strategies have you used during your job search? Please share your tips by leaving a comment below. 

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“Real Spouses, Real Stories” Panel at Camp Lejeune, NC

Sep 26 2014

Guest Author: Kelly Cotton, Marine Corps Spouse and MOAA Spouse Ambassador


Last Wednesday, MOAA Spouse Programs hosted its 10th Spouse Symposium, “Keeping a Career on the Move” at Camp Lejeune, NC…and it was F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C! I’ve had the privilege of working with MOAA Spouse Programs as a Spouse Ambassador on most of these events, but this was the first time I have worked with the panel of military spouses who were able to share their personal stories. I was so moved by each of these ladies – amazing women with very diverse backgrounds and experiences, all coming together to offer tips and lessons learned on their own professional journey.

As I listened to the panelists share their stories, I couldn’t help but notice a trend of great statements – you know, the kind of statements that meet you where you are, the kind of statements that you need to hear for this particular time in your professional life. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this, because as I looked around the room, I saw nodding heads all through the audience. I recognized those looks of “Yes, that’s me!” and “Thank you for confirming that I’m not alone in this journey.” I thought it only fitting to share some of those statements in this blog:

Karen R., Director, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
On volunteering (which by the way lead her to her current paid position):
“I really was someone!” (What every milspouse wants to say when arriving at a new duty station and has left behind a job/career for that PCS move.)
“It wasn’t costing my family anything for me to grow as a person.”

Laura C., Senior Manager Community Outreach and Events, Semper Fi Fund
On changing your personal perspective about your career path:
“Career-preparedness is figuring out what works for me.”
“You can’t do it all. Some things are more important to you at different times [on your journey].”

Jessica M., Financial Foundations Specialist, USAA
On taking advantage of opportunities and challenges to develop and grow skills, including those outside of the next logical step:
“We might not always have a linear trajectory. [Regardless] do it!” “I wanted to be a ‘well-rounded person’ [professionally], and I found the organization that found that in me.” (Commenting on her diverse career background and figuring out the long term prize was finding her passion.)

Danny H., Director of Sales, East Coast Hospitality:
When asked to comment on the top three tools she would share with other milspouses trying to keep their careers moving forward when faced with moving every 2 to 3 years:
“One, be proficient in your job search before you PCS, including having your resume ready. Two, make sure your references are ready to speak on your behalf. And three, have a reliable babysitter!”

Stephanie G., Founder and CEO of Stroller Warriors Running Club:
When asked about how to overcome the “what-ifs”:
“Always expect the unexpected. Roll with it. Don’t let it keep you from trying because more often than not, something good will come out of it.” “Effectively identify resources and delegate.” (This quote actually came from a friend and mentor of Stephanie’s when Stephanie was struggling with her own role in the leadership of Stroller Warriors. This little gem taught her to see the gifts and skills that others brought to Stroller Warriors.)

Roxanne R., Co-Founder of the Military Spouse Foundation and the Moderator of this Panel:
On balancing motherhood and a career:
“The fear of failure – we all experience it.” On the “what-ifs”, especially overcoming the “what if I fail?” thought.
“I always involved them [her children] in community support.”



If you were in the audience, I have no doubt you pondered over a few of these gems. I have no doubt they inspired you. And I have no doubt that you will take these thoughts forward with you in finding your passion and your place professionally. To sum it all up…, well, our panelists did not disappoint in closing either. Below is the one thought they each wanted to leave with you:

Karen – You are stronger than you think you are.
Jessica – Enjoy the ride.
Stephanie – Do something that makes a positive impact every day.
Laura – Go out the door. Don’t wait for someone to knock.
Danny – Don’t give up. You are really valuable!
Roxanne – You can accomplish anything in life you want to. You just can’t do it all at the same time. (A quote from Maria Shriver that Roxanne has carried with her through all of her professional endeavors.)

Want to learn more?  Here’s a recap of the day’s events from A to Z.
Stay engaged with MOAA Spouse Programs:  Sign up for our newsletter MOAA Spouse-Enews, follow @MOAA_MilLife on Twitter, and be sure to fan us on Facebook.

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