By Courtney Griffin
The familiar hallmarks of military life – isolated military installations, prolonged separations, and frequent relocations – disrupt personal and professional support networks. In particular, for military spouses with professional careers, isolated (or overseas) military installations deprive the spouse of important social networking and relationships with like-minded professionals. For example, my husband is stationed at a base in a small town completely surrounded by agricultural land. The legal community in the area is small, and the professional community is not much larger. While each of the squadrons my husband has been attached included a robust, supportive spouses’ network, the traditional means for professional support and development – local professional organizations, bar associations, etc. – is unavailable. The reality is that military spouses with professional careers face a unique set of stressors, which may be very acerbated by isolated stations. Here are some strategies for military spouses in these situations to build the support needed to foster your professional life.
- ORGANIZATIONS FOR MILITARY SPOUSES
MSJDN is an incredible resource, and there are other organizations that seek to serve military spouses with professional careers. Although these organizations do not cater to those of us in the legal profession, it is uplifting to have the support of other military spouses who understand the unique set of stressors we face. Follow these networks and do not be shy to take advantage of them – they are there to provide us invaluable resources.
- NATIONAL AND STATEWIDE PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
Beyond the networking and support available through MSJDN, I have sought out like-minded attorneys, which, as a military spouse and attorney at a particularly rural, isolated, base, this strategy takes serious thought and follow through. For example, I am interested in post-conviction issues and prison reform. I spent a significant amount of time researching statewide and national organizations working in these areas. Once I located organizations and group that worked in areas of interest, I reached out to the groups in order determine their need for volunteers. In this way, I have been able to work on projects outside of work that keep me in contact with other like-minded attorneys while providing myself with some serious intellectual challenges.
- VOLUNTEERING IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
Although outside the realm of professional networking, I have found that committing to my small town while I live here has provided me with an opportunity to meet incredible people completely removed from my usual social circle. Shortly after arriving at our current location three years ago, I began mentoring a child from the area. Through this experience, she has become an extended member of our family. Further, volunteering for local projects has allowed me to meet several individuals who, while not in the military, offer personal and professional support.
- CAREER-DRIVEN MILITARY SPOUSES
Researchers estimate that the unemployment rate of military spouses is three times above the national average. Despite this distressing statistics, I have had the honor of meeting spouses who are excited and passionate about their careers, including doctors, nurses, athletic trainers, realtors, yoga instructors, who can commiserate about the difficult balance, provide much needed support, and challenge me to work harder. I fully intend to utilize the incredible flexibility, tenacity, and creativity I learned from these individuals to maintain careers despite difficult moves and deployments during our next PCS.