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Get Your Career Back on Track, Despite All the PCS Moves

There is one big reality check staring me straight in the face as my husband nears retirement after 26 years in the Army: How am I going to get a job?


I worked full-time throughout the first half of his career, from Hawaii to Georgia to North Carolina to Okinawa to Korea. Then we had kids, and coincidentally started moving more frequently. My work in the past 13 years has included freelancing and part-time jobs, with a couple of years of full-time employment here and there.


There are also vast swaths of emptiness on my resume, years at a time where I did very little professionally.


I’m a journalist by trade and have had my work published in close to 50 different newspapers and magazines, ranging from small weekly publications to the Washington Post. I’ve covered major news stories in a dozen different countries.


Back in the day, before kids and two wars and the constant deploy/PCS/deploy/PCS cycle my life became, I was good at what I did. I had a lot of contacts throughout the industry, and jobs offered to me in several locations.


Then I dropped the ball. I didn’t keep in touch with those contacts. I lost interest in writing when I wasn’t getting paid much (or anything at all). I didn’t follow up well with those who did still express an interest in my work.


The last full-time position I had was four years ago, working as a social media specialist for the U.S. Army in Germany.


Now, here I am, staring my husband’s retirement dead in the face and kicking myself for not keeping my contacts, my resume and my job skills current.


I have six months to a year to get back on the horse and get myself set up for something, anything, that might bring in some income. After a lot of internet searching (and pretty deep soul searching), I came up with a plan.


I enrolled in a continuing education course in social media management. I am re-engaging with long-lost friends in the business. I am volunteering with an organization with no military affiliation, to do work in my career field. 


I’m looking at more freelance work, short contracts for special projects, anything I can do to get my name out there.


This would have been a lot easier had I just kept up with my career field over the last decade.


Whether you are in the military with a long a career ahead of you, married to someone who is, or are navigating life in the civilian world, do what you can to keep current in your industry throughout any periods when you aren’t working.


Don’t wait until the last minute.


 Here’s a few tips I’ve learned in trying to jumpstart my working life:


  1. Maintain contacts, and not just on Facebook – This sounds so easy, but when you move constantly and social media is ever-present, it’s easy to forget that one-on-one personal communication trumps random FB posts every time. Reach out to former bosses and colleagues on a regular basis. Ask them if they have any advice for you, freelance or work-from-home opportunities, or if they know anyone in the area where you currently live.
  2. Join professional organizations – Especially if you are in the U.S., nearly every location probably has some sort of professional organization you can join. If there isn’t anything specific to your career field, look for business or networking groups like Toastmaster’s or civic clubs that do community service.
  3. Add volunteer positions to your resume, but only certain ones – Yes, volunteering can be a positive addition to your resume. But only if it relates directly to your career field. Being an FRG leader, for example, is valuable to the unit and might be personally rewarding, but I have yet to find a career field that translates to. Search for specific volunteer positions that match up to a job you would apply for in the real world, and something where you can show tangible results from your work.
  4. Continue your education – There are dozens of ways to continue your education, improve your job skills and keep up with trends in your industry. You can take college courses, attend seminars, read trade publications. Any of those can be done online. Take note of new requirements you see emerging in your career field and do whatever you can to hone your skills in that area.


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