A mobile lifestyle adds challenges to any career, but rising self-employment opportunities have given military spouses more career options than ever before.
Janet Farley, a career counselor and the spouse of a retired soldier, advises military spouses to explore six questions when considering whether working for themselves is the best career choice:
- Is your family on board? Communicate your goals and desires first to those closest to you.
- Are you well informed about the business of running a business? If not, get that way. The Small Business Administration is a great place to learn more.
- Can you afford it? Janet advises starting a self-employed career on the side first, while working a full- or part-time job. Learn with a safety net.
- Why do you want to do it? Clue in to your own mission statement or calling, as well as your compelling talents.
- Does your idea depend on a local customer base, or will it move with you when you do? How much rebuilding will your business require after a move?
- How are you going to do it? Desire alone is not enough. You need a plan. Be aware of available resources and know how to tap into them.
Military culture is becoming more hospitable toward spouse careers, says Janet.
“Today, we see a genuine support for the career development of our professionally-minded spouses. An evolving global and mobile workforce on the civilian side of life has also helped our spouses along the way. The moon, the stars and the planets are finally getting aligned in our favor.”
Janet advises spouses looking for career direction to look first at what they have been doing and then at where they want to go.
“Find the common denominators between the two and formulate a way ahead for reaching that goal … We identify the weak areas and work on them while noting the strong ones so we can push them out there front and center,” she says.
Janet’s own career path has led her to self-employment. The way she came to that decision helps her advise others who are considering it.
“I knew that freelancing and consulting would allow me the flexible time I need to be present in the moment for my family,” she says, “a top priority for me.“
“The decision to go into business for yourself isn’t always an easy one to make,” Janet says. “You become the boss, and you have to have the desire, the discipline, and the know-how to make it work. If you are a military spouse and you want to have a career, you can. It’s up to you.”
Janet Farley is the author of Mission Transition: Managing Your Career and Your Retirement, and a coauthor of Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom and Strength in Military Life. She has also written several more books about careers and transitions for both military members and spouses.