Managing Careers for Military Spouses

Bonnie Kurka ImageBy: Bonnie Kurka
Business and Career Coach, Executive Career Suite

Head in the right direction through self-management

Do you want a career, or do you just want extra cash? If you’re after a career—and the professional, financial and personal rewards that go with it—you need to get organized. Start by answering the following:

Do you settle for the “best job you can find” at each duty station?

If you volunteer, do you do so with no goal in mind?

If you answered “yes” to either of the questions you may be lacking a career plan. If so, it’s time you learned how to organize and manage your professional future.

Getting Organized

Before you can begin to manage your career, you need to conduct a personal assessment. What skills do you have? What are your strengths? What do you love to do? What are you especially good at? Make a list of these items using two columns: skills that you have that enhance your career and skills that you would like to have.

Next, list your work history—volunteer and paid. Be sure to keep track of quantifiable details. For example, if you were treasurer of an organization, what was the budget you managed? If you chaired a fundraiser, how much did you make? If you were a volunteer chairman, how many people did you supervise?

Once you have your background completed, look at your long-term career goals. Where are you in the process of achieving those goals? What do you need to do to get there? You’ll want to start by following three simple steps.

First, professional development should always be a part of your life. Look at the list of skills that you would like to have. Do you need to learn new technologies or earn a new degree? What classes or seminars are offered locally? Some base locations have free or nominal-cost classes for family members. Take advantage of what your installation has to offer.

Second, look at what other positions could enhance your career goals. Sometimes there isn’t a position that is a perfect fit, but all isn’t lost. It makes sense to take a job at the same level but in a different field in order to round out your skill set and to give you broader experience.

Kim, an Army wife, said, “I would say the biggest challenge that I have found in trying to maintain my career as we moved around is not so much just finding a job, but finding a challenging job and maintaining my proficiency. When you have a specialty, it’s hard to find that level of job around typical Army posts. I think what has helped me the most is staying in touch with people I worked with and for. By doing that, I was able to do some long-distance consulting work and usually had a job waiting when we returned to a big city area.”

Consider what volunteer opportunities would help meet your career goals. For example, if you have worked as a bookkeeper or administrative assistant, and your goal is to move into management, you might want to consider a volunteer management position where you have the opportunity to supervise others and manage a program.

Third, keep records of everything you do. Keep certificates of classes you take, even if it’s a free class from a volunteer organization. Keep thank-you notes or certificates from your volunteer work. If you get an award, be sure to keep the documentation noting why you received that award. Keep a copy of your performance evaluations.

Schedule a time each year to do a career assessment. Right before a move is a great time to do this. Take a look at what you have done during the past year. Have you gained new skills? Have you captured all of your volunteer experiences? Do you have those certificates? What are your most recent accomplishments?

Get letters of recommendation and performance evaluations before you leave. Yes, performance evaluations are important, even for volunteer positions. Keep a notebook or file with all of your information. Then when you need to update your résumé, you will have those accomplishments, awards, and experiences saved in one place.

Career management is a conscious plan. Don’t meander about— find your path to success.

Bonnie Kurka is a Business and Career Coach specializing in military transitions, leadership development, and business etiquette. She is an Army wife. You can find her at: