Last week, I called a rehab center to arrange occupational therapy services for my son. The lady who answered the phone told me that it would be months before my son would be seen and that they were the only facility in our area that provided occupational therapy for children with autism. I couldn’t believe it, especially when this base was approved as an appropriate provider for military families with special needs.
In an attempt to find a solution for the lack of services, I suggested that the rehab center try to hire more people so that they can meet the demand. The lady then told me that they had problems recruiting people to move to the area. I didn’t doubt for one minute that she was telling the truth. I wasn’t overjoyed about moving here either. But then I had an idea…
“You should look into hiring a military spouse. I bet there are many qualified spouses out here that could do the job,” I said.
“But they don’t stay,” said the woman.
I was caught off guard by her response. She then proceeded to blame the current backlog of patients on a military spouse that previously left the job. Maintaining my composure, I informed her that I too was a military spouse. I gave her a nice, but firm response as to why military spouses are valuable employees.
Surprisingly, military spouses are not federally protected against hiring discrimination. Situations like the one mentioned above explains why a majority of military spouses are either underemployed or unemployed. Currently, the unemployment rate for military spouses is 26%, almost triple the national unemployment rate!
Let’s examine some common misconceptions about hiring military spouses:
Misconception #1: It’s better to hire someone that is native to the area.
The Truth: Hiring a military spouse will give you an employee with a very diverse background. Their worldview will be a lot broader than someone who has lived in the same place all of their life. Many military spouses have had the unique opportunity to live in different parts of the world, working for all types of organizations. Employers often value work/study abroad experiences and the military experience should apply as well.
Misconception #2: Military spouses are too preoccupied and will miss a lot of work.
The Truth: Military spouses are experts at multi-tasking, a skill that is highly desired in today’s workforce. We juggle many tasks while our spouses are deployed or TDY. We know how to respond whenever inevitable change knocks at our door. We are efficient, practical, resilient, and able to make sweet lemonade out of the most sour lemons. Sounds like the perfect employee to me!
Misconception #3: I support the troops. I offer a 10% discount to military members with an ID.
The Truth: It’s great that you offer a military discount for the troops. Thank you! But please understand that military spouses sacrifice for this country too. The hard truth is that if you won’t hire a military spouse, then you don’t support our troops. A working spouse can take some of the financial pressure off our troops so that they can focus on the mission of protecting our freedom. Show your appreciation for the sacrifices made by hiring military spouses when qualified ones are available.
Misconception #4: Military spouses don’t stay on the job long enough.
The Truth: All military spouse situations aren’t the same. Some active duty military spouses move every 2-3 years. On the flipside, there are military spouses that have been at their current duty station for more than 4 years. National Guard and Reserve spouses rarely move. Some military spouses choose not to move around in order to advance their career. Please keep in mind that it’s not a guarantee that civilian employees will stay on the job long term either. If a military spouse is hired and has to move, employers have the choice to offer a telecommute option. In the right circumstances, telecommuting could be a win-win for both the employer and employee.
If you would like more information about how to support military families, check out the public awareness campaign started by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden called Joining Forces. Also, if you are a military spouse looking for a job, or an employer looking to hire military spouses, visit the Military Spouse Employment Program website.