When you are the spouse of a military member, it can be hard to adapt to a new base, a new community, and it can be especially hard to find a job. After all, what employer wants to hire someone they know is going to move out of the area in three to five years?
While it’s true that military spouses move a lot (much to their chagrin), they also offer a lot to their perspective employers like grace under pressure and the ability to plan, organize, and execute a mission just as well, if not better, than their active-duty counterpart.
But Army spouse Samantha McLeod of Tacoma said it’s hard finding a job when you’re always on the move despite having a college degree and relevant experience. McLeod is currently employed in Seattle, but she is endeavoring to find employment closer to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “My job search has been difficult, which I am sure has to do with me being an Army wife and having a very messy resume because of that,” she said.
To combat (pun intended) this issue, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes — in collaboration with USAA, the State of Washington, the City of Tacoma, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce — recently announced the first statewide Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ).
The intent of the Washington MSEEZ is to connect military spouses — through a network of business, civic, and military communities — with companies committed to hiring.
“When communities come together to recognize the talent and potential military spouses bring to the table, we collectively take another step in the right direction to combat military spouse unemployment and underemployment,” Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes and vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.
In a recent study, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found an overwhelming majority of employed military spouses said that having dual incomes was vitally important to their family, but only half of all military families polled reported having two incomes. The disparity can place additional burden on military families, which can place a strain on family members, and may even cause the service member to leave the military.
“Creating more family-wage job opportunities for Tacoma residents is one of my goals as mayor,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “I am proud to support an initiative that brings together business, government, and nonprofit leaders to focus on a group of workers whose many talents are often underutilized or untapped in Pierce County — our military families.”
Hiring Our Heroes currently is launching MSEEZ near McLeod’s home at JBLM and across the state. Though she has yet to take advantage of MSEEZ, McLeod is hopeful.
“Anything that will help spouses find employment — and not have to hide the fact that they have worked in a lot of places or the fact that they are married to someone in the military — is something that I am all about,” she said. “(Because) we are uniquely resilient and have dealt with a wide variety of environments both in our day-to-day lives and in our many jobs. We know how to adapt quickly, learn quickly, and not completely crumble if something gets thrown at us at the last minute.”