Statistics show that military spouses are unemployed at four times the rate of civilians and those military spouses seeking work are unemployed for an average of four months every time they move. These statistics are the lived reality of many military spouses in the UK and it is one I closely identify with.
Military families in the UK on average move every two years with many living in remote locations with poor public transport networks which makes it often difficult for spouses to find employment. Also, Naval families (made up of those serving in the Royal Marines and Royal Navy) can expect their serving member to be away from home for an average 660 days over a three-year period so child rearing is most often shouldered by their spouses.
Earlier this year I found myself having to undergo yet another round of job hunt as my family and I underwent the process of transition into civilian life after my husband left the Military. Military transitions can be daunting and more so if one decides to resettle in one of the busiest, expensive and most competitive cities in the world, but the Mr and I have never been conventional people and we don’t do things in half measures so we leapt to the Big City.
Within the year, he had re-skilled and re-grafted himself into the sector of his dreams while I held down the fort studying and working at the same time. Once we became sure-footed, we decided that it was now my turn to do the same. I had set my sights on social housing as soon as I had arrived in the UK. I thought I saw a future allocating homes for the socially disadvantaged and advocating for change. However every social housing organisation and local council I applied to were looking for a specific skill set which I didn’t have- I don’t know what it is. This presented an opportunity for me to cast my net wider. I looked at other fields, venturing away from keywords that included universal credit and welfare benefits, anti-social behaviour and homelessness.
I let indeed.com and the Guardian job search engines throw up random jobs. It was then when the opportunity for a three-month internship into the financial sector came up. It was being facilitated by a company that specialises in the recruitment of military personnel and spouses, RV1. I applied and within weeks was discussing tentative starting dates and getting ready to get back into the workforce. By the second month I had secured a paid work contract. After all the “No’s” given by the Social Housing sector, this chance given by the Financial sector was very refreshing.
Okay, so I make this process sound too easy, however, the fact of the matter is that I had a lot of help along the way. From the Director of the company who encouraged me and kept me updated along the way, to the new workplace that welcomed me into their fold, every process in the chain just fell into place.
Military transitions, while daunting, can be opportune times for growth. I share with you some of the things I have learnt specifically from my internship experience and my career change.
1.There’s help out there.
I believe that it is important for every military spouse or ex-service personnel seeking work to know that there are organisations and individuals outside the military who want to see us succeed and will provide the platform for us to do so. For me, this organisation was RV1 but there were numerous organisations, personal friends and family members who were vested in my career change and genuinely rooted for me and it helped greatly to know that there were people who wanted the best for us.
More importantly, seeking help does not stop once you get your foot through the door. As I found out through this work placement, it is imperative to seek assistance and be willing to be taught because the steep learning curve would be insurmountable otherwise. So reach out and ask for help, remember even Jesus said to ask and you will receive! You will never know who can help if you don’t ask.
2. Be committed
Signing up for work placements requires so much commitment. It’s easy going to work knowing you will be paid, but when it’s done for some intangible reward that may or may not translate into a job offer, the commitment required is so much greater.
I recommend weighing the costs before you commit yourself to undertaking such work placements. The advantages of committing to work placements are huge but if there is no commitment then we don’t do such opportunities justice. It is important that the financial costs of having only one income earner in the family be carefully considered as well. Call up your creditors and arrange payment plans and be ready to go without new clothes or pairs of shoes for a while as you make your pound stretch.
3.Enjoy the experience
Finally, for work placements to be truly effective they must be engaging and enjoyable. The level of engagement may be largely determined by the organisation you are doing your work placement in but the enjoyment of it is within our control.
Simple things like arriving to work with a positive mind set, carrying out tasks with cheerfulness or getting to know your colleagues all contribute towards this. Work experience after all is not only about understanding accounts and spreadsheets or knowing how to use the office scanner. It is about mucking in, cheering on and working out; all things the military fraternity know too well.
So this has been my experience so far and I hope that whoever reads this may be inspired to take the leap when given a chance to do so. To us spouses, lets not limit ourselves to the familiar and the comfortable. The challenges of military transition are many but I believe the opportunities it presents far outweighs all the difficulties you can ever face.
Finally, I take my hat off to all military families that had had to undergo transition before we did, many who now hold influential posts around the UK, thank you for making the transitions pathways straighter. To those who will be doing this in the future, all the very best in your new adventures and I hope you land that dream goal.
Lets go hustle,