Veterans and those who love them make no shortage of sacrifices on behalf of this country. But one sacrifice that’s perhaps not as readily acknowledged is the obstacles both veterans and military spouses can face when building out their careers in the civilian realm. This Veteran’s Day, Fairygodboss and Getting Hired asked folks in the veteran and military family community to share the ways this identity has aided and at times impeded them professionally, as well as their No. 1 pieces of advice to fellow military community jobseekers.
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As a military spouse herself, Frances Brown realizes that many people in her position are wary of sharing this identity with potential employers. Having a partner in the military is known for, among other things, necessitating no shortage of moves, and the corresponding pattern this leaves on a resume can be challenging for spouses to navigate.
And yet, Brown believes that military spouses shouldn’t have to fear discrimination for the sacrifices they’ve made — quite the opposite.
“I’m very proud of my husband, his accomplishments and all of the unique experiences that his career has brought to our family,” Brown said. “For military spouses, I’d advise to disclose that they’re a military spouse in the first interview. I think it’s really important to get it out there right away to determine if the job is going to be a good fit.”
Luckily for Brown, she’s found her right fit at Hilton, where she works as an Assistant Coach on the VIP Housing Desk and also serves as a Military Spouse Ambassador. Recently, she shared with Fairygodboss just how the company supports her as a team member, a mom to five children, and a military mom to the families of her husband’s 350+ strong crew.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I became an assistant coach on Hilton’s VIP Housing Desk last May. My primary focus is to secure hotel accommodations for insurance policy holders and their families that have been displaced from their homes when disaster strikes. I came to the department from the Diamond Desk, where I started in July of 2016 after a short time as a reservation sales specialist. I am also a Military Spouse Ambassador for Hilton, where I share employment opportunities with transitioning military, veterans and military spouses. My work background is primarily in construction management and I have experience in commercial real estate leasing and real estate escrow closings.
As a military spouse, what are some of the more unique challenges you’ve had to face when it comes to finding and maintaining employment? Are there any obstacles people might not expect?
My husband and I have been married for 10 years, and he has been operational all of this time —meaning he’s been on a mission or assignment where he deploys. We’ve never gone more than six months without him deploying. Finding and maintaining employment that will allow you the flexibility to take an unexpected leave of absence or be able to pick up and move with you is a constant challenge. It’s hard to find fulfilling work that is also flexible.
How about misconceptions — are there any false beliefs or stereotypes about what it means to be a military spouse that you’ve encountered, especially as it relates to you professionally?
Military spouses wear many hats—we are partners, caretakers, parents, chauffeurs, handymen, and friends. We also become like a close-knit family when our partners deploy, which means that we are not only providing support to our own families, but to other families in need. My husband is the Executive Officer of a guided missile cruiser, and he has an amazing crew of 350 sailors working for him. When the ship is gone, the least I can do is try to chip in to help my brothers and sisters get through the difficult time of separation. From time to time providing this support can be challenging, as I work remotely and I have five children. Supporting my fellow military spouses is always a top priority for me, though. If my husband can provide peace of mind and assure one of his sailors that their partner has someone checking in on them, it’s all worth it.
The support that is needed varies — if somebody is sick or hurt, I am going to do what I can to help them. That might mean making and delivering a homemade meal, visiting them in the hospital, giving them a ride somewhere, babysitting, pet sitting, or grocery shopping for them. Finding an employer that will be supportive of these duties is something I found at Hilton. A few weeks ago, one of my military spouse sisters was hospitalized and I needed to go check on her. My manager let me go with no questions asked. I was able to visit, make sure she was okay and report back to the ship so her husband wouldn’t be worried — that’s really important to me. I wouldn’t work for a company that wouldn’t support me in my duties as a military spouse.
What has your company done to help with any of these challenges, and in what ways have you felt supported?
I’ve felt ongoing support from Hilton since I started. My manager, director and development coach are constantly checking in on me when they know my husband is gone or one of my kids is sick and making sure that I have a manageable work-life balance during the chaotic times. I am currently alone with my children as my husband is deployed, and since there have been back-to-back hurricanes it is also a busy time for the team. Despite this, my management team are always making sure that I’m taking care of myself, that my kids are okay and that I’m not falling behind on other parts of life.
Do you believe your experience as a military spouse has provided you with any unique perspectives or talents that aid you professionally today?
Absolutely — I’ve learned to embrace and celebrate change because of the constant unknowns that come along with military spouse life. It’s certainly prepared me for the controlled chaos that we see several times a year during catastrophe season when we are called into action to secure accommodations. Being able to adapt and adjust to any situation is something that is often demanded of military spouses. My experiences in these life situations have helped prepare me for my career with Hilton.
I also think military spouses are versatile, and they embrace diversity. We’re moving all the time, so we’re always happy to make new friends or meet new people, always willing to try something new. When you’re hiring a military spouse or veteran, you know you’re going to get somebody who can think on their feet and who is really comfortable with change because it’s thrown at them every single day.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
The career move that I am most proud of would be taking on the role of Military Spouse Ambassador for Hilton. There are so many employment gaps for veterans and military spouses, and I love being able to share my Hilton story and open job opportunities. I completely understand how hopeless it can feel trying to find a job that provides the flexibility and support needed in this lifestyle.
What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?
Outside of work I love to travel. Another huge Hilton work perk—Team Member travel discounts!
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other military spouses, who are looking for jobs right now?
My number one piece of advice would be to apply for everything, even if something might not be exactly what you’re looking for—give it a shot. Apply for it. The worst that can happen is that it could not work out. The more experience you have interviewing, the more confident you’re going to become. This also allows you to get your foot in the door, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
For military spouses, I’d also advise to disclose that they’re a spouse in the first interview. I’m very proud of my husband, his accomplishments and all of the unique experiences that his career has brought to our family. I think it’s really important to get it out there right away to determine if the job is going to be a good fit. Interviews are a two way street—it’s not just the employer interviewing you, it’s you interviewing them to see if your family’s needs are going to be met.