Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lame Limits

A few days ago a Jacksonville, North Carolina newspaper published an article about "great" jobs for military spouses.  The writer, Mabel Newsome, starts the article painting a favorable picture of military spouses.  We are more educated than the general public, we want (and in many cases need) to work, and we have a lot of powerful women on our side.  Jill Biden and Michelle Obama have been working diligently to pass common sense legislation that would make careers more portable for military spouses.  Because nursing, teaching, law, and many dozens of other careers require licenses given by the state, a PCS from Virginia to California can cause a successful and talented person's career to come to a screeching halt.  Pair that with the red tape of getting re-certified/licensed and by the time that spouse is eligible to work again, they are staring down a new set of orders.  To a new state.  With a new spool of red tape and requirements and/or tests.  Thank you, Dr. Biden and Mrs. Obama, for your efforts.This is important stuff that benefits the military family as a whole.

Back to the article.  The first few paragraphs looked promising.  Ms. Newsome was right on target.  Military spouses are valuable assets to a company.  We are educated and motivated.  We do want to work.  She sites MSEP (Military Spouse Education Partnership) and the new partnership they are developing with Fortune 500 companies to create employment opportunities for military spouses.  Careers that are portable but lucrative and that utilize the talents that so often go to waste in this lifestyle. 

Then came the list.  Ms. Newsome, with the "help" of MSEP, came up with the most insulting and archaic list of "good" careers for military spouses.  I swear I looked at my calendar to make sure I hadn't time warped back to 1962.  And I double checked that the article was indeed from Tuesday.  You can see the total list HERE. Some highlights? "Temp work", "errand runner", and my personal favorite "gift basket creator".


No, I mean it, SERIOUSLY?  My jaw was on the floor.  All of that drippy "military spouses are the best" and "look at these Fortune 500 companies that want their talent" culminated in a list of things that require no education and where the pay is extremely low.  Like, "let's keep these silly military spouses in the poverty zone" low.  This is what the Jacksonville News thinks as our potential?  "Great" jobs that we should look forward to doing with our "above average" educations?  Sad.

In my nine years as a military spouse I have met successful lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors, pharmacists, CPAs, and business owners.  My mind has been blown by how creative and awesome military spouses can be at making their careers work.  I have worked professional jobs where I used my Master's degree and made great money and had awesome benefits.  It can be done.  It is done every day.  We need to make examples of these women.  This list is not the "best".  It is disgusting and unacceptable and I am angry.

The worst part of this article?  Young spouses might read this and think that this is their limit.  That it is impossible for a military spouse to actually do something that provides excellent pay and benefits.  Young women might throw their hands in the air and decide not to go to college or graduate school because, if "selling handcrafted goods online" is the best they can do, why bother with school?

Before I get inundated with emails from substitute teachers and women with etsy businesses, I want to say that there is nothing wrong with the jobs on this list.  I know many people who love selling Avon or who enjoy substitute teaching.  My problem is that this list implies that we are not worthy of a professional identity.  That the jobs that so many spouses are trained to do are out of our reach, even with the help of our FLOTUS, Fortune 500 partnerships, and MSEP.  Why is it "substitute teaching" on the list and not simply "teaching"?  Why is it "temp" on the list and not "business professional" or "consultant"?

Because there is a deep perception in the professional world that military spouses can't.  And this perception is only fueled by lists and articles like this; framed as a compliment but then ending by slapping us across the face and telling us we aren't worthy.

We want careers.  We want to have a salary and benefits that helps to build our own retirement and not be completely dependent (ha, the military's favorite word!) on our husbands.  We are not second place to our spouses because they are the ones serving, we have the right to be on the same level professionally.  We shouldn't be told to turn our evenings watching the "Food Network" into a job - we should be told to take our college educations and turn them into a career.  Young spouses should feel encouraged, not discouraged, by articles such as these.

Ms. Newsome and the Jacksonville Daily News should be ashamed of themselves.  We are so much better than this.


Megan said...

As a military spouses and a working mom w/ a graduate degree, I really appreciated your post. I too was shocked by the article and glad to see others making their opinion on the subject heard!

Kallen said...

It's actually the Jacksonville, NC newspaper, not Jacksonville, FL (Times-Union). Sorry, have to stick up for my hometown:)

Whit_Martin said...

Way go! Excellent post!

Angie said...

I couldn't believe some of the jobs listed. I understand some spouses are very young, just graduating from high school in some cases, but that doesn't mean that they can't go to college. If they want to go to school and become a doctor, they can still do it. The military does make it more difficult, but it can still be done.

Jill said...

Kallen, thanks! I fixed that typo (and a few others)! :) No disrespect to Jax ;).

kelleylevis said... Seriously? I'm on board with you. SERIOUSLY!? When I was looking for a job when we first moved to SC with the hubby, the list on the NAF job site required degrees, and since I haven't gone to school yet, I took a job at a retail store. I'm currently a manager at this retail store. I'm looking into going into massage therapy and business so I can work from home. I find this insulting to my intelligence. For them to say we have a high level of education but then dumb us down to the point that we're sitting at home eating bon bons and making gift baskets is ridiculous. I might be new to the whole mil-spouse thing, but I'm certainly not going to do something that requires, like you said, little no education. I also agree that this discourages young women and new mil-spouses from going after their dreams and actually getting a job that pays well.

Mandinkers said...

Excellent response to a very insulting article!

Anonymous said...

I guess I wasnt butt-hurt over the article because the writer was suggesting jobs that were pcs friendly "regardless of location". And yes, I'm college educated and not offended.

Jennifer Wright said...

None of those jobs were "PCS" friendly. All would require building up of contacts and networks to get leads on temporary, low-paid, high-turnover, often low-skilled ("errand runner", for goodness sake!), low-skill BUILDING jobs. Retirement benefits? And what are the spouses in these jobs going to do if something happens to their loved one and they suddenly become the family breadwinner?

Liz B. said...

I have always had the same problem when I read any article talking about "military spouse friendly careers." Really?!!!!!!!!!!!! I a teacher, which I have moved and taught(with hassle and expense) in different states, but if I thought my only options were unskilled/low skill employment, I would be a very unhappy Navy spouse.

Anonymous said...

She did say that at the begining

Kim@DaisyFayeDesigns said...

As a military spouse who has had a career and now has an "online business selling handmade goods", I can definitely see both sides of this. Military spouses are capable of so much more success, but it can be limited by by where we live or how often we move. I do feel like many spouses give up and start having babies. I left my career because I wanted more flexibility to spend time with my husband with his hectic schedule and back to back to back to back deployments. My "career" did not allow me the time off I wanted to spend with him when he was home. My "job" now allows me to make a little extra money doing something I really enjoy, which is great. And I can also take off work whenever I need to without checking with anyone else, which is what these jobs allow for, which I think is what makes them desirable to spouses. As a military spouse, I know time is precious and I spend a lot of time thinking about my priorities. I could have had a career, but my family is my priority and these more flexible jobs ARE great for spouses. And while I do agree that many of these are below the skill sets of most military spouses, I can tell you that what I do would be very difficult to do without my business degree. I actually feel that I use my degree more now with my small, online business than I ever did in my career.

MilitaryOneClick said...

Hello - my name is Jen and I am a military spouse and started a free website called MilitaryOneClick. I am thrilled to see the passion in the reaction to this article. I also wrote a reaction article and it is posted on my home page. I think this is an extremely important topic and I hope the discussion continues. Also - I am always looking for great guest bloggers - it's volunteer - however it is a great way to promote your blog and business. Send me an email Sorry I can't pay yet (it is a goal) but we reach about a million a month - so it's great exposure. Great job girls - we will get there - Jen

Karen said...

Well said Jill. I referenced you in my post about the article - you did a great job at capturing the exasperation within the military spouse community.

Lori said...

Ha ha. Funny thing is that this is our daily paper. I read this the other day and couldn't help but laugh. Then I read it to John, with extra emphasis on all the great opportunities of which I could take advantage, and hey, didn't even need to use those couple of Bachelor's degree and that Master's I spent years working on! Bonus!

The problem with it all is that sadly, those are the 'top' jobs because they are the probably the most easily portable—those of us who have worked for degrees which require licensure don't have the easy ability to PCS and still continue in similar job position.

Yeah, I read that.


Then put it in the recycling bin.

Anonymous said...

I love your take on this! There are so many qualified, skilled, educated spouses that are not given an opportunity to shine due to frequent moves. I would also have to add that as a Dependent Spouse living overseas in Italy the SOFA agreement limits our ability to get a career oriented job dramatically. According to the agreement the US has with the Italian government we can not have an in home business (I.E. Avon, Pampered Chef, Bowmaker, cake decorator/baker,etsy, etc.) or work on the Italian economy as a spouse. So that leaves the handful of jobs on base available to a large pool of spouses. The nursing jobs and teaching jobs get scooped up in a second as well. It leaves the option of working for around $11/hour and then paying for childcare (if you can get your child into the CDC on base since in-home care is not an option.) This issue is a major one for people living overseas wishing to continue a career. I know I personally have a 3.5 year gap on my resume due to living overseas.

Anonymous said...

There needs to be more help on our bases for our military spouses weather they be husband or wife. There is so much that they offer on base that 90% of the spouses don't even know of because they don't care to get the information out to us! But there is a lot more that they could do to help spouses adjust to new posts and to returning to the work force at a new duty station. The list in that article is ridiculous!!! Our soldiers give their lives to protect our country, and the spouses give their lives for our families and soldiers. We are important to. We deserve better options and first pick, but we don't get them because in an employers mind... they think because you're military that you are already taken care of and you don't "need" the job. They don't realize that we "need" the job just as bad as the next person; if not more due to our position in life. I think the person that wrote that article for the news paper is ignorant and needs to go to their nearest military base and actually speak to spouses (men and women) and then re-write her article.

nancyelizabeth said...

I am a military spouse and maintain a career as a mechanical engineer for a major airline. When we PCS'd I was able to start working from home but it didn't and still doesn't sit well with all my co-workers. Also I almost always am feeling guilty about not being there for my husband enough, or taking time off work to attend military events. It's definitely a struggle for me and I've debating leaving my job for an online job that allows me the flexibility to be a better Marine wife. I think the issue deserves attention and thoughtful discussion. Thank you for bringing attention to it!

Anonymous said...

This post hit the nail on the head. I couldn't find the link to the original article to read it but, I often struggle with carrying on my own career as well as being supportive of my spouse. I work as a sales executive and have found that it is the most flexible for our ever changing life.

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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