Are You Recruiting Military Spouses Yet?
Wednesdays with Woodward webinar
March 17, 2021
In this installment of the Wednesdays with Woodward series, the Travelers Institute convened speakers from leading military support organizations to explore why employers should consider expanding their recruitment efforts to include military spouses. Joining the conversation was Col. Matthew F. Amidon, USMCR, Director of the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute; Colleen Deere, Executive Director of American Corporate Partners and Jim McMahon, Lead for Military & Veteran Outreach at Travelers.
Military Spouses and the Workplace
Speakers shared a wealth of information about military spouses as potential hires. McMahon, who leads military outreach and hiring at Travelers, cited Syracuse University’s Institute for Veteran and Military Families on the business case for hiring military spouses, which says military spouses are:
- Resilient – They manage challenges including family separations and frequent relocation.
- Entrepreneurial – Many have been self-employed or have operated their own businesses.
- Resourceful – They use the resources available to them to create innovative solutions.
- Diverse – They represent a larger proportion of ethnic/racial minorities than civilian populations.
- Adaptable – They live with constant uncertainty.
- Educated – Many have some college education or higher.
- Team Oriented – They often rely on each other for social support.
- Civically Engaged – They have high levels of volunteerism.
- Socially Aware – They often interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Colonel Amidon of the Bush Institute revealed that despite these positive qualities, the unemployment rate for military spouses is typically three times that of the standard national average. This dynamic is driven by a range of barriers, such as frequent relocations, cross-state licensing hurdles and limited job portability, all of which can result in employment gaps or untraditional career paths. Almost 50% of active duty military members have discussed leaving service altogether because of limited career opportunities for their spouses, he said.
Deere, who leads American Corporate Partners (ACP) and works to help ease the transition from military to civilian life, described her own experience with underemployment as a military spouse. After getting married and leaving her publishing job in New York City, she moved with her husband to Fort Riley, Kansas.
“I didn’t know a single person, and I had to reinvent myself,” she said, sharing that she started out working three part-time jobs and making $7 an hour, even though she had a master’s degree. “There was definitely a mismatch between my career goals and what was available in that local area.”
Colonel Amidon underscored how important it is for the nation to prioritize and support military spouse employment. “It is the family that serves, bears the hardship of deployment and faces the challenge of transition together,” he said. “The old axiom being, ‘We recruit the service member, but we retain the family.’”
The panel offered practical advice for employers hiring military spouses and for spouses seeking employment:
- Join the U.S. Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). Deere recommended that employers and military spouses use the DoD’s MSEP program, which connects military spouses with hundreds of employers committed to recruiting, hiring, promoting and retaining military spouses. “We always recommend that companies and job seekers start here,” she said.
- Reach out to local military installations. Deere encouraged employers to reach out to military installations within 30 miles of their headquarters. “There will be spouses there who are looking to make those connections,” she said. McMahon also suggested posting opportunities in local military family Facebook groups, noting recent hires who discovered opportunities this way.
- Offer job portability. The panel agreed that the increase in remote work during the pandemic has helped level the playing field for military spouses. “We're hearing from spouses that remote work has helped them retain jobs they otherwise would have lost,” said Deere. McMahon shared that Travelers recently hired a military spouse in South Korea. “Remote positions absolutely increase the applicant pool and give us a competitive advantage,” he said.
- Become a mentor or mentee. ACP provides yearlong programs for veterans and military spouses and matches them with mentors from more than 100 Fortune 500 companies. Mentors provide real-time advice and insights about industries and career paths.
- View ACP’s list of member companies. Deere encouraged military spouses who are seeking employment to check ACP’s member companies, listed on their website. These are organizations “that have already raised their hand and said, ‘We're looking for veterans and military spouses,’” she added.
- Consider a career in insurance. McMahon noted that a career in insurance might not be something military families have considered before. “I always tell people, ‘Don't think of us as an insurance company; think of us as a risk management company,’” he said. “In the military, everyone is trained to recognize, avoid and mitigate risk – it's just a natural connection.”
- Be open-minded. Panelists discussed how easy it is for hiring managers to see untraditional career paths and quickly dismiss a resume. McMahon advised employers to keep an open mind when evaluating candidates: “Get beyond the myths, figure out why to say yes to military spouses and you are going to be pleasantly surprised.”
To learn more about military hiring at Travelers, visit Careers.Travelers.com/Military/.
Presented by the Travelers Institute, American Corporate Partners, the George W. Bush Institute and the Institute for Veterans & Military Families
Col. Matthew F. Amidon, USMCR, Director, Military Service Initiative, George W. Bush Institute
Colleen Deere, Executive Director, American Corporate Partners
Jim McMahon, Lead, Military & Veteran Outreach, Travelers
Joan Woodward, President, Travelers Institute; Executive Vice President, Public Policy, Travelers