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Careers in transition

Experts offer tips on professional development for spouses

Northwest Guardian

Published: 01:47PM February 14th, 2013
Careers in transition

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Panelists (from left) Chris Pape, Missy DiCiro and Launa Klimowicz lead a discussion on “Spouse and Policy” during the symposium.

As the deputy director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, Karen Golden is passionate about helping military spouses face the challenges of finding jobs and developing careers of their own. Her motivation is understandable because she is not only a social worker, but also the wife of a Marine.

“I’ve moved 11 times, which means I had to obtain 11 different state licensures in order to find a job,” Golden said. “State licensure and career portability is a huge challenge for military spouses.”

Golden’s experience was common to many of those who attended a military spouse symposium Feb. 8 at the University of Washington Tacoma to hear expert advice about job hunting, education options and career development for military spouses. Sponsored by MOAA, the conference pulled together resources from local businesses and organizations like Joint Base Lewis-McChord Army Community Service to provide employment workshops and resume critiques.

Golden said the theme of the day was advocacy for military spouses, who have an unemployment rate twice as high as civilian spouses because of deployments and permanent-change-of-station moves. With 35,000 active-duty military spouses in Washington state, the economic impact on the family of an unemployed military spouse can be substantial.

“Military spouses are in transition and out of the workforce for an average of six to nine months (with every move),” Golden said. “That time out of the workforce costs your family money.”

The symposium provided strategies to mitigate the negative effects of frequent moves. Many attendees didn’t realize most states pay unemployment compensation to military spouses who leave their jobs because of a PCS. Military spouses can also use volunteer experience to fill gaps in employment on their resumes.

“We want to get this information out there,” Golden said.

Lewis Community Spouses Club Ways and Means chair Missy DiCiro acknowledged the value in her volunteer experience and added “international military spouse” to her resume to account for the periods she lived overseas. She said potential employers find her experience interesting, and it usually gets a conversation going.

“Employers find (military spouses) resilient and organized and energized,” DiCiro said.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray spoke at the symposium in the same theme, encouraging the approximately 300 military spouses to use their strengths.

“You understand hard work and the day-to-day discipline it takes to succeed both at home and on the job,” Murray said. “You are resourceful in ways that I’m sure few other job candidates are.”

The conference was also an opportunity for a new JBLM spouse advisory panel chaired by Patti Brown, wife of I Corps commander Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, to partner with the MOAA and other agencies outside of the installation. The panel gives advice to local organizations, nonprofits and educational institutions about fostering the careers of military spouses.

“There are so many corporations that want to help, but they don’t know how,” Brown said. “The panel is a good resource for them to provide guidance.”

Madeline Lanza, also on the spouse advisory panel and wife of 7th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, called the military spouse symposium a success.

“It’s important to bring spouses together to offer practical, hands-on advice to people who need it and don’t always ask for it,” she said.