PCS Chronicles #6 | PCS and Careers for Military Spouses

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“What Color is Your Parachute?” used to be a popular book aimed at helping people figure out what careers in which they might excel. When you are married to the military, you may feel like you need a parachute when PCSing! When it comes to jobs, you may have an array of professional experience, yet maybe you take whatever job you can get at your new duty station. I submit to you that you can have the career you want…not just whatever job is available.

As a military spouse, you’re talented, educated, motivated and competent Рand want a job you can be passionate about, right?

While I am not married to the military, my military friends say I’m ready to have my honorary military badge pinned on me having worked with the military for 10 years and given the fact that I can speak in acronyms. My story may sound familiar; I moved to Washington State (near Joint Base Lewis-McChord) from California to be with my now husband and his three beautiful children.  My husband travels quite a bit for work and we have the kids half time. I was always a career woman and as a step-mom and wife, I still have a deep desire to contribute to the workforce and make an impact outside of my home. I was, however, fortunate enough to be able to take my job with me when I moved. I work from home and have a rewarding career that I take with me everywhere I go. Not everyone is that fortunate.

In my 10 years of working with the military and most recently launching SargesList, I have gathered much data that I hope can help you find not just a job, but a fulfilling career that is YOURS.

While there are many programs out there dedicated to helping military spouses find employment, and even some new DoD employer partnerships geared towards maintaining consistent employment with companies no matter where you live, they may not be what you WANT. So, now what?

What do you want and like to do? Click here to take a 15 minute career assessment. Because it’s free, it has some advertising you have to get through, but at the end, if you are thoughtful about your responses, you will get a 14 page report on your personality, interests, possible opportunities, etc.

Work for someone else:

Don’t want the hassle and uncertainty of running your own show? Here are some options:

1) Search DoD Civilian Jobs.

2) Search Employer Partnership of the Armed Services: Over 700,000 job postings in the database.

3) Find a headhunter or employment agency that specializes in your industry. www.monster.com This website is a unique resource for job hunters and employers as well.  Anyone can post their resume for free, but for additional fees your resume can be kept on file according to the pay scale you desire.

4) Network within your professional organizations. www.LinkedIn.com. This website will not only keep your resume ready to send to future employers but also has links to professionals in your field.  It’s business resources can network you to previous and present colleagues.

5) On base resources: Most Army posts have ACS, Army Community Services.  For other branches, the Military Spouse Career Advancement Centers are available.  These resources have resume building classes as well as interview courses.  They also can help you navigate the Government job website and process.

Work from home, work for yourself:

Not everyone can work for himself or herself, let alone work from home. To be honest, I work from home and it’s challenging. You need to be self-motivated, able to compartmentalize well and entrepreneurial for starters. There are tax advantages to working from home (write off portion of rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.), but are you up to the challenge?

See if you believe you have what it takes to start your own business: Click here for a list of questions to ask yourself.

If you figure that you want to give it a go, ask yourself, do you want to tap into an existing networking business or build your own or buy a franchise / business? There are many networking types of businesses that are very popular within the military community (Scentsy, Mary Kay, etc.), but here are some ideas that might get you jazzed that you could do on your own:

  1. Website Guru: If you are technical and creative, you could learn how to develop websites. However, if you are good at getting the business (sales), you could outsource the development and manage the creative aspect of the project (look and feel, content, etc.). Build a portfolio, get some marketing materials and your own website / business cards and you have a business that you can take with you anywhere! Get ideas of services that are being offered from other contractors via Elance – a popular way to get your services noticed around the world!
  2. Internet marketing: Social marketing is huge in today’s market. Do you know how to use Facebook, Twitter and other social channels to connect with people? You know the military market and that is appealing to businesses who want more military business. You can approach local businesses, create your own blog and sell advertisements. I have been very impressed with many of the military bloggers out there. Army Wife Network has 27,000 fans, ArmyWife101, MilitaryWifeSavings, MilitaryMoneyMight, etc. These are great examples of military marketing machines that if replicated can leverage your expertise in military life and help others while making some money! Get training and certified for social and internet marketing: http://inboundmarketing.com/. There is a whole military blogging world out there. Check out the Milblogging Conference scheduled for 4/29-4/30/11.
  3. Professional Organizing (Certification needed) – Do you hear people frequently say, “you’re so organized” or the not-so-friendly version “you’re a neak freak”? Maybe you’re like me, like to organize other people’s stuff but not my own? While writing our blog about PCSing and your stuff, I found this Professional Organization site. Thought it would be a great portable career. Put your organizing skills to work for you! Click here.
  4. Massage Therapist (Certification needed) – When giving friends or family the occasional neck rub, do they say… “oh, you should be a massage therapist!”? If you find that it is something you enjoy and you’re naturally talented at, check out how to become a massage therapist: Click here. I went to a military conference in Garmisch Germany and stayed at the Edelweiss Lodge. I had a massage by a DoD civilian who was a massage therapist (same for aesthetician)! If you live in a touristy area, there is probably a good demand for mobile massage in your area!
  5. Aesthetician (Certification needed) – Passionate about skincare and looking your best or helping others look their best? There are many levels of aesthetician. Medical aestheticians are on the rise with our society wanting to look beautiful at all stages. Check out how to become an aesthetician: Click here.
  6. Photography: If photography is something you‚Äôve always had a passion for, why not take a few classes to further your knowledge and skill set? Start with people you know and gain experience and then begin to promote your photog skills via word-of-mouth and on sites like SargesList. When I got married, I found a photographer that travelled around the world. You can do the same in each place you go, use SargesList to promote your services and your portfolio in each duty station! There are also networks you can tap into for taking pictures for virtual tours for housing, etc. FloorPlanOnline, for example. Supplement income by teaching to adults or to kids. We have a local academy that I know I would pay for lessons on how to use my camera. My kids are very artistic and love taking photos and making movies. They would really benefit from professional lessons on how to get the best pictures with their cameras. We would pay for it, others probably would too! Consider incorporating making movies for people too. Take their existing photos, make a movie! We got married two years ago and I still haven’t gotten around to making a movie yet… but would pay someone else to do it – if they were good!
  7. Child care – I have heard that many people do this. There are state regulations that you have to apply for (as in other professions as well). Check out this site for more info.
  8. Virtual Assistant and Medical Transcription – Check out http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos271.htm for medical transcription information or http://www.howtobecomeava.com/ for becoming a virtual assistant.
  9. Pet Grooming – Love animals? Put beauty and your care of dogs to work for you: Click here.
  10. What are you good at? Play the piano, love art, love photography. Leverage what you know and love and teach others. Find local after school programs where you can supplement children’s learning with some education they aren’t getting in the classroom these days. As a lifelong learner, I’m always on the lookout for piano, photography and other classes.

Need Education?

So, now you may have determined what you want to do and now you need more education or certification. Check out National Military Family Association Spouse Education page to get more info.


While this may not be something that you WANT to do, it may be a possibility. Did you know that currently 38 states plus the District of Columbia provide eligibility for unemployment compensation to spouses who leave employment because of a military move. This nearly triples the number since 2004. Click here for more information or HERE for State by State position on the matter.

Finding a career that slides right into whatever community you find yourself in is key.  It makes moving often easier.  Moving frequently is expensive (regardless of reimbursement) and your source of income may be invaluable to your family. If you decide to start your own business either full-time or on the side, just know that SargesList is here to help you promote and grow your business! We are working on getting more job listings posted for military spouses on the site so stay tuned and help spread the word!

More resources:

Take inventory of yourself, your hopes and dreams, recognize your assets and then research the careers that are the best fit for you and your mobile lifestyle.  Don’t get discouraged if the right job isn’t immediately available.  Your next job maybe only a phone call or email away!

Hope your parachute lands you somewhere fun and exciting!


Lisa Klinkhammer
VP of Marketing for SargesList

PCS Chronicles #5 | Your Wheels (POV) and Your PCS
PCS Chronicles #4 | PPM or JPPSO, which one will you choose in your next move?
PCS Chronicles #3 | Pets and Your PCS
PCS Chronicles #2 | Moving at High Speed, Low Drag
PCS Chronicles #1 | Housing First!


  1. Also, just the other day, I ran into a military spouse here at Joint Base Lewis McChord who just completed her education on interior design. She also does staging for home sales! Here’s some info on how to become an interior designer (certification / degree required and state licensing): http://www.ehow.com/how_5133995_become-interior-designer-united-states.html

  2. Excellent and timely post! There are ways to make money out there if you are creative and stick with it!

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