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Military Spouse Job Fairs in March

Spring is coming! We promise. The snow will melt and you will be excited to leave the house again! Capture that renewed sense of energy now by attending a job fair. This month employers will attend job fairs around the country and be on the lookout for talented and dedicated military spouses just like you.

Check out this list and find the job fair nearest you! Be sure to click on the link for full details about each job fair and to register to attend.

March 6

Houston, Texas

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/houston-hiring-expo-houston-rockets

 

March 10

Manchester, NH

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/manchester-hiring-fair

 

March 11 – 12

Fort Benning, GA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/fort-benning-transition-summit

 

Colorado Springs, CO

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/colorado-springs-military-spouse-networking-reception

 

Louisville, KY

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/louisville-hiring-fair

 

Salem, OR

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/salem-hiring-fair

 

March 12

Fort Carson, CO

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/colorado-springs-military-spouse-hiring-fair

 

March 25

Dallas, Texas

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/dallas-hiring-fair

Grand Island, NE

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/grand-island-hiring-fair

 

Greenville, SC

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/greenville-hiring-fair

 

Washington D.C.

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/dc-hiring-expo-washington-wizards

 

March 26

Travis AFB, CA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/travis-afb-military-spouse-hiring-fair-networking-luncheon

 

March 27

Indianapolis, IN

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/indianapolis-hiring-fair

Snow, Snow, Go Away

By Tiffany Shedd

February may be the shortest month of the year, but with all the winter weather we’ve gotten, it seems to be lasting forever. I thought that we weren’t going to have much of a winter, because last winter we started getting snow in early November.

This year, our first significant snow fall didn’t arrive until two weeks ago, and we have had snow pretty consistently every three to four days since then. It’s snowing right now.

Who is sick of the snow? This lady, that’s who. I bet there are a lot of you who are also tired of the cold, the snow, the school delays and cancellations, and missed appointments. I have got a major case of cabin fever. How about you?

Before I had a child, I don’t think that weather affected me nearly as much, aside from being stationed in Alaska and having S.A.D (but that’s a whole other subject). My little man loves being outside, so winter is particularly bad for him. He is a typical, stubborn 2-year-old and won’t keep his hat or mittens on.

The hat, I can deal with, but the mittens are problematic. His go-to move is to take the mittens off and immediately shove his hands into the snow. This always results in the same exact reaction. He slowly lifts his hands up above his head and starts shaking and yelling in rage at how cold and tingly his hands are. Any attempt to put the mittens back on are met with more screaming. Any attempt to take him into the house to warm up are met with blood curdling screams that typically cause the neighbors to check to see if he is being hurt. It isn’t pretty, folks.

So, outside time is scarce, for both of our safety (my mental and his physical). That leaves us stuck inside for far too long. In desperation, I admit, I often turn to Nick Jr. or Disney Jr. for some back up, but there is only so much Peppa Pig and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

I have tried crafts, like coloring and painting. These only hold his attention for about two to three minutes. We have read “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” every day for the last three weeks. Yes, we have other books (hundreds of them), but when little man starts chanting “cheese, cheese” over and over again, it will only be quelled by reading this one. 

I have scoured the internet for toddler approved activities. I have a Pinterest board full of them. Have we tried any? Nah. The set up (ie: finding all the materials, getting them set up and ready) takes about three times as long as it will hold his attention. Toddlers have a really short attention span, if you hadn’t noticed.

Luckily, we are part of a great local mommies group. On days that are safe to travel, we have been spending time with other snowbound mommies and kids. Cabin fever isn’t as bad if you are in someone else’s house with more adults to commiserate about your snow sickness.

We have also taken advantage of our local libraries. They have weekly story times and a lot of them have play areas that are usually filled with other kids whose moms, dads, grandparents or nannies just couldn’t take staying at home anymore. I usually take a couple of minutes to find something for myself while we are there too. Mama’s gotta take care of mama too!

Our library even has activities and special times for kids with special needs (like ADHD and Autism) to come and enjoy as well. Just ask a librarian or check your library’s site. Most local libraries have Facebook pages now, so you can see what they have going on without searching their webpage.

I know I mention Facebook a lot, but it really is a great tool for finding local things and groups to get involved in. I have found more on Facebook than I have trying to find information in newspapers and local websites. Without it, I wouldn’t know about the Sensory sensitive movie times that AMC Theaters offer. I wouldn’t know about the special needs kids’ days at the local kids’ museum. It isn’t just for checking up on high school friends and posting funny cat videos, it really can be an excellent resource for parents, especially special needs parents.

Just remember that winter is technically almost over, even if it is still snowing and horribly cold. Hang in there. You’ll be outside sweating and wishing for cooler temperatures soon enough. Think about all those ice cream cones and picnics the next time your kid dumps every toy basket before 9 a.m. (yes, that happens here every morning). Cabin fever isn’t deadly, but it is as hard to shake as that bad cold you’ve probably had since November.

Make Your PCS Resignation a Win-Win

Resignation can be tricky when it’s time for you to PCS. On one hand, you want to give your employer plenty of time to advertise, interview, hire and train your replacement. On the other hand, you don’t want to set off a series of events that gives him or her excuses to let you go sooner than you are ready. And quite honestly, you never know how an employer will take the news until you deliver it.

“I recently had an employer who let me go just a few weeks after finding out that I would be moving to Rhode Island with my husband this summer,” said Army wife Kat Elwell. “I personally did not think this would happen to me because the university I work for has a non-discrimination policy against military spouses, but it was a great reminder that being let go after giving notice can happen anytime, to anyone.”

So while it’s easy to get caught up in planning everything around making the situation easy on your employer, do yourself a favor and plan for your professional and personal well-being in the process. Here are five ways to create a win-win situation for you and for your employer.

Give Plenty of Notice

Most times you will have an idea when your PCS is nearing. Have a meeting with your employer to discuss the possibility three to six months in advance, depending upon how critical your position is to your department’s operation. Use the opportunity to hear his or her concerns and to show that you intend to alleviate the ones you can. Think about what those concerns might be and present ideas for how you will handle them. You can give written notice later on as a follow up when you are surer of the actual PCS date.

“As we all know though, even once your service member has orders, those can sometimes change, so spouses should keep the lines of communication open with their employers," Elwell said.

Find Your Replacement

Nothing will lighten your employer’s stress more than knowing your departure won’t leave her short-handed. So, while networking to find your next job, you should also network to find your replacement. Look around you for internal leads. Has anyone expressed interest in your work? Is there a co-worker or intern who has or could impress the boss? Then, look for external prospects by asking colleagues outside the company for referrals. If the new person is brought onboard while you are still there, offer to train her to ensure a smooth transition.

Tie Up Loose Ends

Nobody knows the ins and outs of your day-to-day work better than you do, so you’d also be the best person to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. One great way to tie up the loose ends is to think back to when you first started the job. What processes or procedures have changed since then? Was there a desk guide in place? If there isn’t one now, create it. If there is one now, update it.

Don’t Overcommit Yourself

Avoid taking on too much extra work, out of guilt that you are leaving the job. Don’t start new projects or lead them. Leave yourself room for time off when you have appointments, when the movers come and when you have other PCS tasks. Effectively balancing your schedule and your workload will go a long way in making your manager comfortable that you have everything under control.

Be positive

“My best advice is to stay positive, smile and try to keep it light. If you are dreading giving notice and you wear that on your face, the employer will assume it is a negative situation,” Elwell said. “Saying thank you or expressing gratitude can never be interpreted badly, and often it makes a long-lasting impression.”

When all is said and done, your goal is to give proper attention to the personal side of PCS and still make sure you have set yourself up on the professional side for a glowing letter of recommendation, a job reference and ultimately, your next job.

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

The babysitter cancelled. So the two toddlers headed to work to me, which today was at a school out on an island, across a long bridge and very far from much of anything.

We were locked out of the building, the wind was whipping, papers were blowing. Toddler number one had to pee. Toddler number two blew out her diaper, bad. Toddler number one peed her pants.

The event ran late - two hours late. The toddlers screamed, cried, ranted, raved.

And then, the virus that had plagued my house for two weeks, that the two screaming toddlers had just overcome; the virus I thought I had managed to dodge with zealous hand washing and OJ drinking, struck.

I threw up. Everywhere.

And then, it moved south, if you know what I mean.

Finally, it was time to go. We loaded up. The battery was dead.

A little more than 45 minute later, the local police arrived to jump us. I couldn't leave the seat of my vehicle to greet them. It was icky, if you know what I mean.

And, I forgot I had left the super nasty diaper on top of my SUV so we wouldn't have to smell it inside the whole time. The cops definitely noticed.

The hour and a half ride seemed like an eternity as I fought to keep the urge to vomit at bay and tried to convince the screaming toddlers, that seriously, we were almost home.

And at home, the dog had torn up the garage. The cat had puked on the carpet. And my oldest son was puking too.

My youngest son was in tears. It was 9 p.m. and he needed a costume of Hawaii's King Kamehameha by 8 a.m. the next morning for school. 

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

And sometimes, that happens.

But sunrise the flow of sickness had subsided. The costume was done, if not perfect and the messes were cleaned up.

It's going to be a fantastic, wonderful, very good day.

Deployment to do list: more than powers of attorney and tax documents

The deployment checklist is a real thing.

Of course, there’s many things we do before my husband deploys that one would expect. Practical stuff any military command would hope you do, like powers of attorney and getting our taxes filed.

But then there’s the things that you won’t find on any official list.

The things like, “Buy new undershirts and socks,” or “stock freezer with easy-to-defrost-and-reheat frozen meals.”

I always make a trip to the wholesale store with my husband, to load him and us up with snacks, so I’m not braving that grocery trip with my toddlers.

And then there’s the downright crazy, like “touch up paint on walls and doorframes where toddlers have smudged it.”

A few weeks ago, I literally made my poor husband spot-paint all the walls in the living areas from the waist down because if I have to spend four months staring at those smudges only toddlers can leave that no sponge and soap can scrub off - I will go insane.

And trying to paint it myself with those same toddlers’ “helpful” hands?

Yeah, right.  Not happening.

Some other things on that less-than-normal deployment checklist include “shopping for a secret chocolate stash” and “making sure we have our Amazon Subscribe-and-Save set up so we don’t run out of toilet paper, dog food, and popcorn.”

I make sure we have clothes in the next size and season for me and the girls.  We get dresses for any weddings, parties and big family events we are expected to attend.  I refuse to go swimsuit shopping with toddlers in tow, or, really anybody.

I stock up on at-home workout videos.  We record greetings from Daddy he can play when he misses holidays, birthdays, and dance recitals.

I buy an emergency stash of cold medicine, cough syrup, probiotics, ibuprofen, and vitamins, so I’m not running to the drug store with a vomiting child or a migraine.

I make sure I know all the passwords to his e-mail and Facebook profile, as he won’t have access to them while he’s underwater.

And I find silly little joke gifts to shove in his pack – silly putty that comes in a neon-colored plastic toilet, tablets that turn water into bacon-flavored soda, toilet-spray that blocks the bathroom smells and makes it smell of an old-lady perfume – to keep him grinning in the rough months of no contact with us.

It’s funny how important it all becomes.

Silly.  Crazy, even.

But important.

Right up there with the powers of attorney and taxes, in fact.

Cool Jobs: Personal Trainer

Anyone who has been stationed near Pearl Harbor has at least heard the name Dumbell Fitness. These ladies spend their days not just exercising but cheering each other on as they work toward their fitness goals. Navy spouse, Heidi Holloway, is one of the instructors and doesn’t just spend her days running dozens of miles next to clients because it pays the bills, she does it because she loves to help them succeed.

Here is more from Heidi about her cool job:

Heidi Holloway, Navy Wife

Job title: Personal and group trainer, and health coach.

Where do you work: In Hawaii, for Dumbell fitness, and Hickam gym.

What do you do? I teach a low impact boot camp for Dumbell fitness. It is a class designed to help beginners become comfortable with regular workouts and strength training. This class is also great for those returning back to working out after an injury, or even for those who are pregnant. The low impact modifications are a great option to help ease into a workout without causing injuries.

What kind of degree, training or experience do you need for this job? I have a Personal Training and Health Coach Certification through ACE, a group certification through AFAA, and a Spin certification through Madd Dog Athletics. I am also CPR/AED trained. All of these certifications require an extensive knowledge of the human body and how it responds to regular strength and cardiovascular training.

Why do you like your job? This job is my passion. A few years ago I was a beginner to the fitness world myself and just starting out on my own journey to health. I never would have put myself in this position then. But over the course of my journey I have fallen in love with health and fitness and helping other people reach their own health and fitness goals.

What is your ultimate career goal? My ultimate goal would be to help as many people as I can to achieve their own personal success story. To help them realize their own potential, and find their own mental, physical, and emotional strength. After all as military spouses we have to be able to handle just about anything.

What do you have for other military spouses interested in this field? For those looking to become certified, I would say do your research on certifications, talk to gyms to see what they are looking for. Then make a plan and go for it! It's a very rewarding field to work in.
 

Rates Matter! How Much of a Mortgage Can You Afford?

By Amanda Rebmann

I’ve written several articles about the VA Mortgage, an area I have a good knowledge base in from having worked in the mortgage industry for almost 15 years.  I’ve originated mortgages and serviced them, which gives me a comprehensive appreciation for what will be for most people, their biggest monetary investment.  However, I’ve never been on the other side- the one getting the loan- until now.

For my husband and me, it just never made sense to actually purchase a home.  Before he went active duty, we were pretty young and our income wasn’t stable.  Since then, we moved around so much, we decided it was best to keep renting.  And, after the housing bubble collapsed, I was always worried we would take a loss on any purchase.

But now, with a daughter and a more permanent home base, it was finally time to take that step.  I wondered how it would feel on the other side of the equation.  I figured with my experience, I’d be all set.

A little lesson brought me back down to earth.

We’re looking for a single family house in a very competitive market- seriously, ridiculous purchase prices for tiny homes built in the 50’s.  We decided early on to limit the mortgage payment to no higher than his basic allowance for housing (BAH) so that we would never have to rely on my income to make the mortgage payment.  This is a good idea for us for family planning purposes.  It also gave us a very definitive ceiling amount.

For simplicity sake- let’s say we determined we wanted to pay no higher than $2000 a month for the loan payment.  This amount will also include taxes and insurance as VA loans will require an escrow account for these items.  I jumped online, pulled up a random VA loan calculator, and determined how large the loan amount would be to stay at or below that amount.  With that figure in mind, we met with our realtor and started hunting.

It wasn’t until the end that the realtor mentioned shopping the loan around a bit, to ensure we would receive the best rate possible.  When I plugged current rates into the loan calculator- I was amazed at the difference.  I had forgotten just how much of a lower rate could allow you to mortgage. 

It’s important to also remember there are ways to get that rate lower, to further lower your monthly payment.  Points may be paid at closing to receive a lower rate.  The good news is that your deal may be structured to have the seller pay for some or all of those points.  VA loans allow up the seller to pay for up to 4% of the purchase price of the loan in seller-paid closing costs.  For example, on a $200,000 loan, the seller can credit you up to $8000 to be used for many of the costs associated with closing a real estate deal.  In other words, the seller paid closing costs can help you lower your rate.

Shop around when looking for a mortgage.  In a transaction this large, a little competition can save you thousands of dollars, and may get you closer to moving into a house you love.

Snow Day at School? Don’t Expect it at Work

Lauren Gaughan, 32, spent a frigid winter very pregnant in Maine, while her husband worked in the Navy shipyard there.

She worked in a pharmacy, with lots of steady and overtime hours to keep herself busy at the end of her pregnancy.

The native Arizonian, who had previously lived in sunny San Diego before Maine, was not so accustomed to the snow, sleet and blustery temperatures.

Getting to the pharmacy before it opened to a line of waiting clients had a learning curve, for sure, Gaughan said.

“I just threw on a lot of layers and headed out super early,” she said.

It was the only way to guarantee she could get to work on time, she added.

And that’s exactly what you have to do, said Ann Marie Sabath, president of At Ease, Inc., a firm specializing in domestic and international business etiquette programs.

“The bottom line is, losers make excuses; winners find solutions, even in inclement weather,” Sabath said.

Sabath recommends that before the winter hits, you have a “plan of attack” in place, in case a storm is brewing.

If you have children, make sure you have at least two on-call babysitters lined up in case schools and daycares are closed.

“If you’re sick, you take a sick day.  Otherwise, plan ahead because it’s unfair to your employer for you to make excuses,” she said.

Make sure you know what the weather forecast says, she added.  You will likely need to leave for work early, very early.  She recommends a several-hour cushion, accounting for the fact that snow and sleet can affect private and public transit.

In your planner, Sabath recommends you “write down the time you have to leave, not the time you have to be there.”

Pack your lunches and your children’s lunches the night before.  Lay out everyone’s clothes.  Teach your children to get up and make their own beds promptly and get dressed.

“Be an effective delegator” in your home, she added.

Unless your manager previously announced the offices will be closed, expect to go to work, even if you’re leaving three hours early, she said.

“There are people behind you in line for your job, she said.

Know what your employer expects, said Matthew Randall, the executive director of the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania.

Have the conversation before a storm hits.  What does he or she expect when schools cancel?  When certain roads are closed?  Know, don’t guess, Randall said.

Sabath said at a certain company she worked with, she watched two young professionals compete for a promotion.  One was incompetent and inefficient but showed up on time every day. The other was always a little late, but superb at their job.  The former, less competent employee got the promotion.

“If you can’t manage your time, you can’t manage your money,” Sabath said.

You should “always be kept waiting; never keep others waiting,” she said.

If you manager gets to work at 8 a.m., then you do, too, if not before.

“You’re not working for your health,” Sabath said. “You want to compete with others at your level.”

Some companies do have a “work from home” policy during certain kinds of inclement weather, Randall said.

If that’s the case, you want to make sure you send off an e-mail in the morning to your boss, telling them you’re checking in and bullet-pointing what you’ll be working on during the day.  Check in frequently, and make sure they know the best way to reach you.  Keep them updated on how your goals for the day are going.

And be aware that this “isn’t always a possibility with every job,” Randall said.

Sabath agrees.  Blizzard or not, you have to continue to do your job and keep in touch with those above you.

“It’s all perception,” she said. “Your job is valuable. You should treat it with the same 24-carat gold care that you do your family.”

 

Your Job Is What You Make it

I need to take a moment to brag about my longtime friend, and fellow military spouse, Bonnie.

When her husband left the Marines more than five years ago, he was welcomed into the civilian world with repeated "no's" at interviews and job prospects that could never pay the bills for their young family of six.

They struggled. They missed payments. They chose between things like food, clothes and electricity each month. The amount they owned quickly grew into a mountain and the amount they had, no matter how hard Bonnie and her husband worked, seemed to never be able to overcome.

Eventually, he was forced to leave his family and work overseas for two years for little more than he would have made at the fast food restaurant up the street that refused to hire him. Bonnie found work too. In an office, making minimal money, doing minimal stuff.

But instead of doing only what she had to, and getting out the door to go home and handle the couple's four children and manage the household with her husband overseas, Bonnie stayed longer hours. Worked harder.

She began looking at her job with the question, "What can I do to make this company better?"

When the branch in Texas began having problems Bonnie was asked to fly out there and see what the problem was.

She spent one week in that office. It was a business trip, away from the pressures of daily life at home, with her meals paid for  and a hotel all to herself.

But she spent little time in the hotel and ate most of her meals at her desk, if she ate at all. She was too busy re-organizing the highly dysfunctional branch. She was interviewing employees and putting together a comprehensive report of what needed to change to bring the operation there up to speed. She did everything from forge new relationships with customers to clean the bathrooms which had never once been cleaned.

In that one week that Bonnie took control, that branch, which had consistently lost money over a two-year period, made $200,000.

When she returned home, she put together a power point presentation for her boss and his associates. She called a meeting. He expected a quick run-down with little detail. She gave him a comprehensive report that gave him, in detail, the needs, cost and outcome that was possible with that office.

And when she was done speaking, the CEO said, "So basically, what we need there, is you."

When Bonnie told me this story, I had goose bumps. My friend, who took this job she really didn't like out of desperation to feed her family, was able to look around, figure out what need she could fill for this company and work her tail off to fill it.

And when she did it, the company took notice.

They promoted her.

They moved her and her family across country. Unlike military moves, they paid for every meal, no questions asked. They paid for her gas, they paid a company to move her 6-person household with no weight limits. They gave them 30 days in a hotel and they can stay even after their new house is set up, you know, just so they have time to really unpack.

They gave her a raise.

They gave her a giant budget, and said, do your magic, make this office profitable.

This my friends is what the actual American dream looks like.

It was a tough road. It was a road filled with heartache and hungry stomachs and long hours. It was a road that left this couple separated for years as they desperately attempted to make enough money to pay down their bills and live together again.

Bonnie just didn't work at a job, she worked to better herself and do a better job. She worked not just to be noticed but because the job needed done, desperately.

And when it was all over, the company did take notice and gave my dear friend the promotion, the raise and the workload that she deserved.  And from here, she can only keep moving upward.

This can be you. This can be all of us.

But first, you have to understand that your job, is more than just the place you go from 9 to 5. Put passion into your work, find a way to be the best at what you do, to fill a need for your company. Be the solution and management will take notice.

My heart is bursting with pride for my sweet friend Bonnie and her family. After years of struggle and long hours they are breaking through the muck, thriving, growing and finally receiving the kudos they deserve.

Bonnie told me as they stopped for a break at our house during the cross-country journey to her new office that it was weird for everything to be on her. As a military spouse, and the daughter of a retired Marine, she was used to every move, every job, every family decision coming from the military, and ultimately, the man of the house.

Now, it was all on Bonnie. It was all civilian-based and she was in control. On Monday, she would be heading in to work while her husband unpacked the dishes. The flip in roles was different and a little unnerving, she said.

But Bonnie, you got this. And for military spouses everywhere, so do you. Keep moving forward. It can only get better.

Stay! Go? Stop! Move? That’s the Military Life!

The last few months I have struggled with my topics to blog about. Our life felt a little boring. A little, dare I say, normal!

We were busy, but we had a routine. We knew what to expect with my husband’s job and the boys and I had our routine and looked forward to our weekends with Dad around. I felt a little guilty writing about military life because I had the guilt that my husband was training Marines to deploy but wasn’t the one doing that.  With our latest news, our life is about to get flipped upside down.

Believe it or not but we have new orders! Luckily, we are staying at the same duty station. My husband is just changing units as his current billet is a 2-year commitment and is coming to an end.

I was not ready to move again so getting the news that we get to stay put for two more years was exciting. Now, I can finish decorating my house since we moved in almost two years ago. Considering we have moved twice in three years, a part of me was not convinced we would stay longer than two years so I stopped decorating.

So back to projects I go! Now that we have the official paperwork, we can start planning. My husband and I looked at the calendar and his new schedule. I thought two more years in the same house and same duty station meant no changing or disruption in our lives but I am learning that even though my feet stay planted, nothing else might.

The more we look forward, the more changes coming our way. For my husband, that means three months away at school and then a long workup in and out to sea then and a possible deployment. Yuck. That is a big change for us. The last 4 years have been a resident school and then random one month trainings and late nights.

Although my boys will get to stay in their routine, I did not account for the fact that their dad would miss much of it. And, most of our friends are on 3-year orders and will be leaving this summer or next, leaving us behind. I know that’s what we do as military families, we move and start over, but I have always been the friend to leave first. I am not sure how I feel being left behind.

As soon as I wrap my brain about these new orders, my husband comes home and says there may be a new billet/orders available so we can move this summer if we want to.

And just like that, the Marine Corps throws us for a loop. Although I am beginning to think it’s not so much the Marine Corps and more like my husband!!

Stay tuned. A lot happening for our family. You never know where the Marine Corps may take us!

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