You may have heard the term underemployment. I recently read a story on a public radio website about the impact underemployment has on military families. If you are not familiar with underemployment, it is when someone who is highly skilled but working in jobs below their experience level, education or part-time, but would prefer to full time.
There are many factors that play into underemployment for military families; the constant moving being at the top of the list. Some companies see the value in remote employees. For others, it is out of their comfort zone, business plan or business model. There are more and more companies that are hiring remote employees, but there is still a desire from companies to have their employees work in the office.
Since I work remotely, I started pondering the differences from when I worked in an office environment.
First, no commute. This saves on travel time and gas. It also gives you back time with your family.
Secondly, productivity. You are more likely to jump in and do some work during some downtime while you are not on the clock. My office is off my laundry room, so I always find myself in the evenings or on the weekends checking emails and responding or updating things when time allows.
On one hand, this doesn’t help my work/life balance that I strongly believe in. However, it does allow me to manage my tasks and stay ahead of the game.
There are many reasons behind the underemployment of military spouses. A study by Blue Star Families puts underemployment rates among military spouses at 35 to 40 percent compared to the 6 percent for their civilian spouse counterpart relative to the level of education.
Often, military spouses fear the response from employers when they learn you are married to an active duty service member. Many spouses can share those stories of an interview going well and somehow the connection to the military comes up and the tone of the interview changes. Those companies end up losing out on a great employee with a varied skillset. And that military spouse loses out on an opportunity to continue their professional growth.
Many military spouses go after those careers that are PCS-proof. It may mean going into business for themselves, and many military spouses are very successful in a variety of at-home businesses. There are some, though, who find it difficult to continue to build those professional networks as the PCS orders come in every few years.
Then you have the “portable careers.” The Department of Defense encourages military spouses to consider marketing, teaching, nursing or web designing. These are great careers, but sometimes as military spouses we face different licensing and certification issues that make it hard, time-consuming and expensive to continue with these types of careers. The other side of this is not everyone has a calling for these types of careers.
Being married to a service member shouldn’t impact your career choice, but it does. Another recent Blue Star Families survey also illustrated the employment challenges for military spouses had serious implications for future military talent. Military spouses expect to have successful careers and the findings from this most recent survey shows a high level of dissatisfaction, therefore making “military life less attractive to spouses and potential spouses.” In the past two years, more than 75 percent of respondents reported being a military spouse negatively impacted their career.
From job fairs to job boards, resume help to employment tool kits. From Military One Source to Blue Star Families to the National Military Family Association, there are many organizations to help military spouses.
Reena O’Brien is a military spouse and Herald correspondent. She lives on Fort Hood.