Professional Fulfillment as a Military Spouse – The Challenge and Local Resources to Help

Contributed by Shannon Rauen, Membership & Capacity Builder, Center for Nonprofit Excellence and volunteer chair of the Military Spouse Career Committee.  

As a military spouse, you expect to encounter a number of recurring challenges.  Managing a household solo while your spouse deploys or goes TDY, packing and unpacking your household over and over again, or plunking yourself into a new community to rebuild a network once more.

Ask a career-minded military spouse about their last job search and I bet you’ll hear about how tough it is to find a position in a new community where you don’t know a soul, the pressure they felt to take the first job offered them for fear it would be the only offer they received, or perhaps how they are underpaid or underutilized at a job they did find.

If you are a military spouse, I’m not telling you anything new – odds are you know this well and have experienced one (or all) of these scenarios first-hand.  What is new is a growing focus and study on the issues of military spouse employment; the findings are alarming.  According to Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) Employing Military Spouses Series:

  • Military spouses experience unemployment at a rate significantly higher – estimated to be 3 times higher – than our civilian counterparts.
  • When we do find jobs, we are typically paid less for the work we do. IVMF’s study found that military spouses earn, on average, 38% less than their civilian peers.
  • Think an advanced degree is going to make up for that wage disparity? Think again – in spite of the impressive level education amongst military spouses – 25% of us have a bachelor’s degree and 10% an advanced degree – the more education you have the greater the wage gap between you and your civilian colleagues.

It would seem the odds are stacked against a milspouse seeking any sort of professional fulfillment, but have no fear.  As a three-time resident of this incredible city, I’ve found that Colorado Springs offers a multitude of programs, services, and connection points to help us find good jobs.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • In Gear Career, Colorado Springs chapter – a national effort by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, In Gear Career’s local chapters are soft landing places for career-minded military spouses. The COS chapter meets monthly to share tips, grow as professionals, network, and support one another.
  • Pikes Peak Workforce Center – a gem of a local resource offering trainings, resume workshops, online job searches, job fairs, and so much more.
  • Networking groups galore – check out Colorado Springs Young Professionals, Colorado Springs Rising Professionals, Girl Crush Social Club, and Peak Startup for events that will connect you with professionals working in the community.
  • Looking to start your own business? The Colorado Springs Chapter of SCORE provides free mentorship, expertise, and advice all free of charge.  They also offer affordable, relevant trainings in partnership with Pikes Peak Community College.
  • Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence – through collaborations with community partners, this nonprofit provides transition and wellness services for Veterans, Military and their Families. Their Peer Navigators program hosts regular networking events that are open to military spouses.
  • Employment Services on Your Military Installation – regardless of your Service Member’s branch, there are programs and resources on each of our many military installations in Colorado Springs. Reach out to Ft. Carson’s ACS or Airman and Family Readiness at Peterson, Shriever, or the Air Force Academy to connect with employment specialists who can assist in your job search.

The most important thing any job-hunting milspouse can do is show up.  Be more than another sheet of paper in a tall stack of resumes – network, network, network.

A great opportunity to do just that is quickly approaching.  May 16-18 will see the ultimate local job fair come back to the Springs.  MVEE boosts two full days of professional development – with a track designed specifically for military spouses – followed by a gigantic job fair.  Those who attend panels on the 16th and 17th have first crack at the job fair.  Registration is available and I would love to see you there!

Shannon Rauen is the Membership & Capacity Builder at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, which serves the diverse and growing nonprofit sector in the Pikes Peak Region, and serves at the volunteer chair of the Military Spouse Career Committee



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