Little did I know at the time, but when I married my active duty military spouse, my career plans became secondary to... just about everything. Being career-minded, goal oriented, and sporting a bachelor's degree, I wrestled with the inevitable for a decade before finally realizing that I needed to find a source of income that did not require me to live somewhere any longer than three years. Sure, I worked at plenty of companies, and while I received glowing reviews from my employers, and displayed leadership skills, I was never given a promotion. Either I wasn't with the company long enough for the opportunity to present itself, or the employer would (incorrectly) assume that it would be smarter for them to invest in someone who "would be around longer." Oddly enough I outlasted every employee in my department at my last job... except for one, who was my boss. And only one other employee had an active duty spouse. The rest were "natives." Be careful about assuming, people...
But since most employers do assume, my career path has been less than direct. It looks like I can't hold a job because of the moves I must make for my husband's career. Or, especially when I was younger, prospective employers didn't believe how much experience I actually had. They assumed (there's that word again) that I had padded my resume. When, actually, I just asked for more work and opportunities to learn more. If you hadn't guessed by now, I don't like to be bored and if I am required to be somewhere for eight hours, I'd rather be busy.
My jobs have always been in some form of communications, from reporter and photojournalist, to advertising and marketing representatives/consultants/whatever-title-they-wanted-to-give-me-except-manager-because-then-they-would-have-to-pay-me-more. Later, I would own a crafting business I founded, only to sell it for a loss when the economy tanked in 2009 and, I yet again, had to move.
Some of this may resonate with other military spouses. Depending on their career paths and training, they may also have to get certified in different states (which can take months or years), and/or make sure they get the continued education they need to maintain their American certifications... in Japan or Europe. All while they are juggling kids, the household and the curveballs life tosses their way - like their active duty spouse being deployed for months, or sent across the country for weeks to attend one of the inevitable "trainings" that he or she has to do for either their job or their rank. But, of course, employers also assume that these military "single parents" will be less reliable because of the absence of their spouse. I find that to be hilarious. I've found that dependable people are dependable regardless of their home life. You can't get the lazy broad with an accountant husband and a mother-in-law in residence to be on time to anything if she doesn't want to. Trust me, I've witnessed it.
Well, it DID break my goal-oriented heart - for about a decade. Which was about 10 years too long. Instead, I decided to play by my own rules... which is what I'm better at anyway.
About three years ago, I decided to change my goals. I had to readjust so that it was no longer about becoming a manger at some company that wouldn't allow me to telecommute from wherever we got stationed next. I didn't want to be at the mercy of someone else's "assumptions." I had to "think different" (sorry, Apple haters, but I love the premise of that company's story and philosophy) and think bigger. Forget about being a manger. My goal was to do something I loved, and make some money doing it. I'd lead by example.
I took stock of what I liked to do, and what I thought I was good at: scrapbooking, crafting, photography, reading, writing, teaching, problem solving, learning, organizing, leading. And, now, I'm doing them all.
Thanks to the spouse's G.I. Bill, I was able to earn a master's degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL, for free. I did this while my husband was stationed at NAS Pensacola, graduating two months before we moved here to Japan. I took a full course load (9 graduate school credit hours a semester, which was three or four classes) worked at a marketing job, was a graduate teaching assistant (which means I taught public speaking to freshmen and sophomores) and still managed to get to most of my sons' baseball games. I even occasionally slept. Everything is a trade-off though: I also gained 50 pounds. Yikes.
|I'm a master! ;)|
|Graduate teaching assistant|
Hours after completing my final project required for a masters degree, UWF offered me a position as an adjunct instructor online. So I now teach Global Communication to college seniors, which I love doing. I wish I could be in the classroom, and I wish I could pursue my doctoral degree, but that's just not possible right now. And instead of seeing it as a career goal unfulfilled, I am seeing it as something to maybe do later, when the time is right. The time is right for other endeavors right now.
|Jessica Guthrie Photography|
If you are having a hard time thinking of a business idea, then yes, there are the catalog party companies for jewelry, containers, toys, crafting, fitness, makeup... if you're female, you've probably ordered from one of these, or have already been a consultant for one. I don't advocate doing the direct sales thing to get rich, or even have a full-time-job income. The only people who get rich selling Tupperware/Avon/Princess House/whatever-other-company-has-parties-and-a-catalog are the people who started the company to begin with, and now have every single consultant beating the streets for sales providing them their paycheck. Or, the rich people are the dream story you hear from your upline and read about inside the front cover of the company catalog: the 0.5 percent of company consultants who have made parties and sales their life, are incredibly driven, and, well, let's face it, are pushing their products 24/7. They are the ones who you see at the supermarket and then you try to turn your cart down another aisle quickly. You hide before they can ask you to join their team or have a party because you haven't had one for them this month yet and there's a new hostess special she knows you're gonna love. And the reason I know this is because I sold Princess House (it's like Tupperware, only glass instead of plastic) for about two years. I learned a lot, "earned" a lot of free or half-price items that still grace my kitchen, but I never got rich. I wasn't pushy enough at the supermarket. I didn't want to be avoided. However, I do think that being a consultant for one of these companies teaches you a lot about people, sales and marketing yourself, but as a long-term career, it very rarely works, even for those with the best intentions.
I also decided that if I had to be a pushy, driven consultant, it was going to be for my own business, not someone else's.
But starting a business aboard MCAS Iwakuni wasn't as simple as creating a Facebook page and sharing the link on Iwakuni Classifieds. There's a little more that goes in to having a business here; some of it can be complicated, and very little of it is well advertised or explained. So, I set out to solve that problem and founded the Iwakuni Home-based Business Organization (IHBO) in October 2012. It's a group of active duty military, military spouses and other SOFA-status people who also happen to have some kind of business that they own. You can see some of them here. We are not affiliated with the base or the government. We are here to help other business owners navigate the SJA paperwork, follow the marketing rules the base has so they don't get in to trouble, and understand what customer service in a small community entails (Rule #1... don't bad-mouth your competition... this is a very small community and it will probably not bode well for you in the long run). We also host business expos on base a couple of times a year, and have meetings about once a month to network, share ideas (like blog post titles that are catchy) and pool resources. You can find out more about the IHBO, learn how to join the group, and get some info on starting the SJA process here.
I know this post is long and without pretty pictures, but if I have helped some spouses find inspiration and/or avoid the pitfalls I've stumbled in to at some point, then it's done its job. And if you're staring to "think different" about your career path, then perfect. I can't wait to see what you come up with. Live the life you can't wait to wake up to.