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.
Do you believe veterans and their families should have the right to build civilian careers free of obstacles and biases? Show your support and #Pledge4VetFamilies here.
Who: Stacia Melendy
What: Administrative Assistant with SAIF
Where: Salem, Oregon
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I have been in my current role for two years with SAIF. I was previously working at the Veterans Health Administration (VA) as a Medical Support Assistant
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?
It is difficult for civilian employers to understand military life. They may not understand needing time off for military things like leaving your desk to take a call from your spouse at an inopportune moment because they are deployed and this may be your only chance to talk to them this month. Or getting recognized for your skills that you have enhanced because of your military life experience.
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?
There seems to be a common misinterpretation that it is easy to be a military spouse. This is far from the truth. Being a military spouse is one of the most challenging and difficult things that I have done.
What has your company done to help with any of these challenges, and in what ways have you felt supported?
SAIF is amazing and very supportive of military life, members, and family. So much in fact that they asked my husband—who also works at SAIF—and I to give a presentation for the last 2 years to our organization on what military life is like. We discussed everything from the service member side, to the family side, to the deployment cycle. They did this not only to better understand Veterans on our staff but to better serve our customers as well.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Moving from the VA to SAIF.
What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?
Being in nature, reading, camping, and sewing
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other military spouses, who are looking for jobs right now?
Be open to new experiences, never give up, and most of all don’t forget your self-worth. You are going to make it.
I have been an exceedingly proud U.S. Army and Oregon Army National Guard wife for the past 17 years. Throughout that time, I have learned many things about myself, others, and the world around me, that have prepared me to overcome many obstacles. When I look back on those years and dwell on how they have shaped me, it is impossible to imagine my life—both personally and professionally—without those experiences. In many instances, it is extremely difficult to explain the challenges, skills, and triumphs a military spouse must embrace and overcome to a civilian employer. This is compounded by the fact that being a military spouse is but one facet of who I am as a whole.
This non-standard life has shaped me professionally in more ways than I could say. As the wife of a soldier, I have successfully survived the challenge of two, year-long deployments, while raising two young daughters and managing the logistics of a household. During the first of those years, I had felt left out of the loop, insecure, and alone. This reinforced my own inner strength, and helped me prioritize where I dedicated my limited resources. As the second of those year-long odyssey’s loomed large, I decided to act, and be my own catalyst. To this end I become active in our Unit’s Family Readiness Program. This group was responsible for providing support and guidance for the military families holding down the Homefront. Over the next handful of years, I volunteered in many capacities until I was offered the opportunity to lead this group. Along the way, I met many people, each dealing with military life in their own unique ways. We were all learning the ropes of a military family life. Each of these individuals shaped me in some manner. Their stories touched me, and made me want to be a better person. The strength of these individuals was inspiring. They inspired me to be better for myself, for my family, and community. I gained greater confidence, resiliency, and courage. I built a skill set that has enabled me to effectively communicate with a diverse group. I Learned how to how to better manage personal and organizational change. I gained a deeper understanding of solid management principles, meeting deadlines, and encouraging mutual respect. All of this has made me a better person, and ultimately a better employee.
Now, after 17 years of being a military spouse, I have added to my resume as a military spouse, I am an Army Mom as well. My husband has retired from the military, and we get to work together each day. We have found a company that will take a chance on us and values our life experiences.