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: Tracy Flanagan
What: Co-founder and Senior Vice President, JDog Junk Removal & Hauling
Where: Berwyn, PA
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I started JDog Junk Removal & Hauling in 2011 with my Army Veteran husband, Jerry Flanagan. Before we embarked on that adventure, I explored many career paths and industries. At one point or another, I worked as a legal secretary, an EMT, a financial planner for my family’s business — the list goes on. I caught the entrepreneurship bug and started a sewing business out of my home so I could care for my daughter while still helping to support my family financially. Basically, I’m a jack of all trades!
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 professionally?
Two misconceptions about military spouses immediately jump to mind. The first is that military spouses aren’t interested in having careers because they anticipate having to relocate frequently. This is far from true. I know many driven and dedicated military spouses in the workforce. In fact, most military spouses are even more dedicated to their career because they feel they have to “prove” themselves.
The second misconception is that because the spouse isn’t serving, the military is separate from her life. Military spouses sacrifice and serve their country, too, and as a result, they are brave, resilient, and incredible multitaskers.
What has your company done to help with any of these challenges, and in what ways have you felt supported?
JDog has given military and veteran spouses exactly what they crave in the workforce: opportunity. Opportunities to be business owners and bosses, or for employment with a purpose.
All JDog franchises are owned by veterans, military spouses, and military family members, and we highly encourage the hiring of additional veterans and military family members. I truly believe that the military spouse makes a unique sacrifice, which too often goes unrecognized. Additionally, because JDog is a national brand, the frequent moves associated with military life doesn’t limit opportunity like it does for other companies.
On a deeper level, JDog has given military and veterans spouses, including myself, a nationwide community that understands their challenges and can relate on a personal and professional level. I founded and lead JDog Spouses, a support community that provides advice, resources, and other ways to balance family while growing a JDog Junk Removal business. JDog may have started with only Jerry and I, but we’ve grown into one large family, supporting one another wherever we can.
Do you believe your experience as a veteran spouse has provided you with any unique perspectives or talents that aid you professionally today?
Working with JDog military spouses has completely changed my perspective, both on business and life as a military spouse. Coming into JDog, I was a veteran spouse and had only heard about the challenges other military families faced from their deployments, location changes, and all the other sacrifices that come with the uniform. After building JDog around the mission to place veterans and their families into business ownership roles, I began realizing how important these opportunities were for them. Hearing about their experiences and listening to their stories has empowered me to support them in any way possible, and JDog has given me the avenue to do so professionally.
For the military spouses I work with, their talents are unique and valuable to the business world. Military spouses are amazing multitaskers because they need to fill all the parental roles when their loved ones are away. This can sometimes mean taking care of children, a home, finances, and a career all at once. Because of this, military and veteran spouses know how to take charge and step into bigger projects or positions when needed. They are flexible, resilient, and possess the skills it takes to succeed in any career path.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
The career move I’m most proud of is starting JDog with my husband. At the time, we had no idea what JDog would become. Even with all the unknowns, I jumped in with both feet, supporting and believing in Jerry and his mission. A lot of people are afraid to take risks, but having come from so many different career paths and having worked in a family business, I had the confidence to say let’s go for it.
What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?
When I’m not working I’m dancing! I’ve been dancing for almost 40 years now, and I take jazz and modern classes on a regular basis. Between classes, rehearsals, dance groups, and performances at my church, it really takes up most of my free time. I love it!
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other Veteran and military spouses, who are looking for jobs right now?
My best piece of advice for women, especially other veteran and military spouses, is to be informed and stay connected. Community is essential to succeed in the military, both for those who have served and those who’ve served through their marriage. Finding people who can support and understand you, whether that’s personally or professionally, can make all the difference in your home and professional life.
There are a lot of community and support groups out there for military spouses, including online networks. Many military communities are beginning to launch platforms to match military spouses to potential jobs and employment resources, empowering them in their job search. I encourage spouses to research and utilize the resources available to them to help them grow professionally and leverage their unique gifts as a military spouse.