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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Who: Stacy Bilodeau
What: Social Media Coordinator Fisher House Foundation
Where: Murray, Kentucky (works remotely)
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
Almost two months now! Before coming onto Fisher House Foundation team I was volunteering, A LOT. I was running (and am still running) the Joint Spouses Conference of Hawaii’s social media pages and providing graphic design work to fellow military spouses and military-affiliated organizations.
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?
I don’t think a lot of people realize how many times a Coast Guard family might move. My husband has been in the Coast Guard for seven years now. We have lived in five different beautiful states: Virginia, New York, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Kentucky. This has brought with it very unique challenges for myself trying to find employment. But I made the best of it and picked up graphic design jobs when I could, sometimes doing design work for free. We also have two young kiddos, and up until this year I have needed to find affordable licensed child care providers. In some of the states we have lived in it has been a challenge, with such long waitlists.
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?
People think military spouses are lazy and choose not to work, and that we knew what we were getting ourselves into when we married our service member. These are SO FALSE!!! We want to work, and we want to contribute to our family. But sometimes that is not in the cards. My husband has a crazy in-and-out schedule, being gone for days or weeks and other times for months and months. I needed to be that rock, providing that consistency to our children. I wanted to work, I wanted my own career, but at the time my family needed me and my own career had to be put on hold. That deck of cards was hard for me to hold for a while, adjusting to the stay-at-home parent role. I was so ashamed to say “I am just a stay-at-home mom.”
What has your company done to help with any of these challenges, and in what ways have you felt supported?
They took a chance on me! They hired me, a military spouse, who has had to put her professional career on hold for seven years. If more business would follow in Fisher House Foundation’s footsteps and take that chance on a military spouse, I think they would be so glad they did.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
I have only been working with FHF for about two months, but I was really proud of myself when some of my design work was sent up and everyone liked it — that made me feel so good!
What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?
Watching my kiddos play sports. They are now six and seven and I just love watching them play the sports my husband and I grew up playing. I love running and baking.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for other military spouses who are looking for jobs right now?
Have patience and don’t get discouraged! Your life’s deck of cards that you’re holding might be so full right now, and the career card might not be what you’re holding. And that is OK! This took me a very long time to realize. Having patience, watching your babies, taking care of a loved one, volunteering, or just holding the military spouse card might be all that you are able to do right now. Your life’s deck of cards is going to look different than another military spouse’s. But know that there is a whole group of amazing military spouses cheering you on, and that they’re there for you with whatever life throws at you. You’re not alone, and don’t think you have to do this military spouse life alone.
I very much believe in volunteering. Take your talents and your passions and volunteer. You will be so glad you did, and this will keep your resume up as well as fill your heart.