“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
You’re two months into quarantine and you’ve already binged your way through Netflix (and Hulu, and Amazon). You’re caught up on those books you’ve been meaning to read. You’ve baked loaves of sour dough and banana bread, redecorated, crafted, cleaned, and your dog now rolls his eyes when you grab the leash because he’s sick of going on five walks a day.
This is the perfect time to dream.
“For military spouses, this is a bad time to plan and a great time to dream,” said Jacey Eckhart, a Navy spouse, author and career transition coach. “Right now, plans are made to be canceled. But dreams? This is a great time to dream, especially about your career.”
Eckhart said the key to using this time to grow your dreams (instead of just your waistline and your knowledge of bingeable shows) is to be deliberate and put some thought into your goals.
“Career dreaming is not wishing,” Eckhart said. “Wishing never makes a job happen. Career dreaming is when you start setting things down in some kind of document. List what you like about the work you do now. List what you would want to do in your dream job. List jobs you hear about that sound fun to you. List what you would never want to do in a job. It is amazing what shows up when you start trying to get it all down.”
Step One: Think about your big picture.
What do you want? Not, what can you realistically have between PCSs and deployments, but what do you want?
Think about your values, skills, and passions. What are you bringing to the table? How do you want to use your talents? If you could spend your day working at something you love, what would that day look like? Don’t get hung up on job titles—think about what you want to be doing, not what your business card should say.
Step Two: Set a goal.
You won’t ever get there if you don’t know where there is. You may have heard the term SMART goals before. If not, SMART is an acronym, and we know you’re comfortable with acryonyms.
- What do I want to achieve?
- Why – what are the benefits of accomplishing the goal?
- Who is involved?
- Where – identify a location.
- Which restrictions or limits are important to consider?
- How much or how many?
- How will I know when it is accomplished?
- How can this goal be accomplished?
- Does this seem worthwhile?
- Is this the right time?
- Does this match our other efforts/needs?
- When must I be finished?
- What can I do six months from now?
- What can I do six weeks from now?
- What can I do today?
Step Three: Plot Your Route.
This is the biggest and most time-consuming part of the process, but the good news is you don’t have to go it alone. There are tremendous resources, many of them free and online, available to help military spouses chart an education and/or career plan.
Before you even start mapping how you’ll get where you want to go, your first stop should be Military OneSource’s MySECO portal. MySECO (Spouse Education & Career Opportunities) has information and links to resources that will help you explore a multitude of educational and career options and then point you to what you need to do to get into those programs and get hired for those jobs. There’s assistance available for resume writing and preparing for job interviews, and through MySECO you can use the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search, which connects military spouses with job opportunities from employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers.
But what if you just need a job?
Maybe you’ve heard it said before, your net worth is your network. Or, as the older folks say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But when you’re moving every two-to-three years like most military families, you rarely live somewhere long enough to know many people.
“LinkedIn Premium is free to spouses and veterans and transitioning service members,” Eckhart said. “One of the benefits I like is that it shows you who is looking at your profile. That is one of the best signs of what your profile is saying about you—it might not be the message you intend.
LinkedIn Premium allows you to connect with more people, send messages to people you haven’t connected with yet, see who has viewed your profile, and take advantage of other paid benefits. It’s free for veterans and military spouses for 12 months and if your family is within six months of PCSing or separating from the military, you can get an additional year for free. There are a few steps required to sign up for free LinkedIn Premium, but they’re all things that will make you even more likely to find your dream job.
“The thing about LinkedIn premium is that it works like a gym membership,” Eckhart said. “If you use it, you get buff. If you don’t, it sits on your laptop and shames you.”
The COVID-19 pandemic took us all by surprise, but we can use the extra time in our lives to plan for our futures, so we’re ready for all the surprises life—and especially military life—throw at us.