By Senior Airman Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
When permanent change of station orders drop for military members, military spouses do not automatically have a new job assigned to them with a tidy checklist that tells them exactly what to expect during their move.
It can be an uncertain, frustrating and scary time of upheaval, but thankfully there are programs, agencies and a cadre of other spouses with the experience and tools to help with the military moving adventure. Bottom line: you are not alone.
“This will be our sixth move,” said Carrie Waller, watercolor artist and military spouse.
Waller has owned her painting business for four years and is preparing to move with her family soon after her husband received new orders to Japan.
“When we moved to Germany in 2001, I had just graduated, and I had my degree in interior design,” said Waller. “I tried to get a G-S position as an interior designer. I spent about a year trying until I realized what I wanted to do might not happen. At that point, I decided that I would figure out my own path.”
Waller started teaching art classes for the Air Force and Army. She became a contractor for the Army and conducted the art program for the Boys and Girls club. She painted murals and started a blog that she still maintains.
Like Waller, other military spouses said they had to be creative when things didn’t work out exactly how they planned when having to PCS.
“I own a company called Signature Decks and Fences,” said David Elliott, construction supervisor for his business and military spouse.
Elliott started his business in 2005 before he was married to his spouse.
“My business is still in Panama City, Fla.,” he said. “It’s still going. I’ve done a lot of emailing, and I make a lot of phone calls. I thought it was going to be easier than it ended up being. My closing ratio has tremendously dropped since I had to leave.”
Being away from his business has caused some issues, but without the help of family and friends, especially his father, Elliott said he wouldn’t have been able to keep the business going.
Though Waller was able to move her art business whenever her family moved, Elliott decided that running his business long distance while finding a local job would be more beneficial for his family.
“It was hard enough to run a business from afar, so to add one here was out of the question,” Elliott said. “I have a great reputation there and a lot of clientele in Florida. What happens if we leave here and I’ve started a business? I’m not prepared to run two businesses from afar. I like it the way it’s set up now, and I also work here for a company where I’m a construction supervisor.”
Elliott’s advice to anyone who struggles with finding work is to use sources that are available on the internet and on the base.
“I looked online for assistance within five months of my wife receiving the orders,” he said. “I found resources that helped me develop a website to display my talents. I also went to the Airman and Family Readiness Center, and they helped me create a resume.”
One way Waller said she stays ahead of the game and remains connected in her area of work when her family has to move is by researching the area and networking before moving.
“I think networking is your biggest ally,” she said. “From networking myself and getting to know as many people as I can when we move, I still have friends in Germany. One of those friends is a lady named Sue Hoppin, and she started the National Military Spouse Network.”
The whole purpose of that organization is to help military spouses network when arriving at a new location.
Waller explained that if a spouse living in one area moved to another area and was wondering who might be able to answer questions or provide guidance, the National Military Spouse Network provides the tools necessary to do so.
If a military spouse has a job that builds on clientele, like photography, it can be difficult when leaving an area because that kind of clientele can’t follow someone to another base, networking through the National Military Spouse Network, encourages newcomers to branch out and meet new people.
Though PCSing can be frustrating, both Waller and Elliott said there are a lot of advantages in moving as well.
Waller explained that knowing that you would only be stationed at one place for a short amount of time, you tend to “hit the ground running,” getting your business out there as soon as you can.
“You can’t get stuck in a local rut when you move so much,” she said. “When you move all the time, you are on a fast track. You only have a year or two or three to get your business established.”
If a spouse struggles with finding a job, Waller, who taught herself how to paint, encourages them to figure out what their passion is and don’t be afraid to invent your own path.
“When we moved to Germany I thought I was I was going to get a job in interior design,” she said. “I was stubborn for about a year untilI realized this is not going to work the way I planned. I put myself out there, and I turned something negative into a positive. If you can’t get the previous job you had at one place, be willing to do something different, and say ‘how can I make this work?”
Elliott said he sees more positives in PCSing than negatives.
“I was actually looking for a break from my company,” he said. “You can kind of get worn out with one thing, so to think that I can run it and do something differently was like an exciting new adventure in life. I was looking forward to moving, seeing a new area and meeting new friends.”
Both said the key to making job searching due to PCSing less stressful is to be persistent, start early, network, research and be confident and try to find something that’s enjoyable.
Waller started networking with artists in Japan as soon as her family received the assignment, which was six months before their arrival date.
There are many opportunities for military spouses to find jobs. The Airman and Family Readiness Center can teach spouses how to write or edit resumes. Visit websites like www.nafjobs.org and www.usajobs.gov, where there are lists of non-appropriated funded jobs available. Another method and one of the easiest ways to find jobs is by using social media, which is another way of networking. Use these resources to take stress out of PCS.