Last week, I helped pack up a friend moving to Nebraska. After finding her “forever for now” home as a military spouse, she thought she’d be there the rest of her life, but family and other obligations drew her and her Veteran closer to family, and she found herself packing up for the first time in 20 years.
As we wrapped glasses in paper and laughed at finding old PCS stickers on some of her items, even after two decades of retired life, we reflected on the challenges that military life brings and how each military spouse finds a way to overcome and thrive.
One of my biggest challenges has always been employment. I know now that my ability to stay employed was a unicorn opportunity among military spouses. I was fortunate to have a Fortune 500 employer that hired me as a remote worker in 2006, well before remote work was a full-time option for most. When my family moved overseas to a location that did not allow me to continue employment, the company put me on an extended leave of absence.
But, despite my unicorn status, there were still setbacks that affected my professional growth. It frustrated me that I had two to three-year gaps in my resume, and I disliked that our move schedule often forced me to leave contracts before they were completed. To maintain my employment, I often had to accept part-time or flex-schedule contracts until a full-time opportunity was offered. And, I never knew what type of contact I would be assigned until we returned to the United States.
While my job title and position were secure, my work history was still as varied as that of many of the military spouses I’ve met over the past 20+ years.
Traditional careers never seem to be the calling for a military spouse. How can they be with frequent relocations, long deployments, and all the things that go along with military life? When I was approached in 2018 by another military spouse to start my own business and work with her on a pro-bono contract for a local non-profit to try out entrepreneurship, I was hesitant. Being my own boss felt like a lot of work. I wasn’t sure I had the capital available to start a business. And, there was no guarantee that a paycheck would be coming anytime soon.
Despite my hesitations, I jumped into the unknown and discovered that entrepreneurship is an ideal career option for military spouses who are looking to thrive professionally no matter what is happening in their military life.
Why Become an Entrepreneur?
There are many reasons people choose entrepreneurship, but let me share a few reasons why I think this career opportunity allows a military spouse to thrive.
Flexibility and Portability
Last year I cleared my calendar schedule so that I was free on Monday mornings to homeschool my children in history and geography. I also created limited meeting opportunities on Friday when I needed time to close down my office for the week. And, when our school co-op starts again, I will clear a half-day every Wednesday to teach. One of the greatest advantages of being an entrepreneur is the ability to set your schedule and work from anywhere. Whether it’s an online business, consulting service, or a home-based venture, the portability of entrepreneurship allows military spouses to maintain continuity in their careers despite changing locations.
Self-Reliance and Empowerment
I’m on LinkedIn almost daily. I see the hours my military spouse colleagues spend trying to find that perfect position in a competitive and volatile job market. Being an entrepreneur empowers us to be in control of our professional life. We create opportunities based on the unique parameters of our individual military lifestyle. We become even more independent and self-reliant through entrepreneurship and there are no gaps in our employment history to explain away.
Your Network Is Vast
I love my military community. Even as a retired military spouse, I have a network that supports me as a professional and it includes fellow spouses, servicemembers, and Veterans. This is where I find opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and invaluable insights into niche markets. As you build your network, it becomes the strong foundation for your business and is key to helping you gain a competitive edge in your industry.
One of my favorite communities is the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE). Not only do they provide tools and resources to start, scale, grow and maintain your business, but you can find funding opportunities, professional development, and advocacy efforts to improve entrepreneurship for all military spouses.
Work-life balance was ultimately the reason I stopped working for that Fortune 500 company and decided to strike out on my own. I knew what I wanted from my life required me to be my own boss and have the flexibility to set my own schedule and priorities. I have been able to thrive in my profession and participate in my children’s lives, support my spouse when he deployed or was gone for long hours, travel when the mood strikes while taking my work with me, and find harmony in my personal and professional goals.
I have found my professional happy place as a business owner and entrepreneur. Consider your career options, take a leap of faith, embrace the entrepreneurial spirit, and unlock the incredible potential that being your own boss offers you.
Check out this #replay of Anna Larson With CEO and Founder of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs, Moni Jefferson as they discuss Choosing Entrepreneurship.
About Anna Larson
Anna is a copywriter and digital marketing strategist, and owner of NomadAbout, a digital marketing strategies company that helps entrepreneurs and other business owners showcase their organizations through social media, websites, and marketing campaigns what they are passionate about and how they do it better than anyone else. She is active in the military community, co-hosting a weekly business-oriented livestream and co-leading the Fort Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood) Cha Chapter of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs.
Europe, Africa, and the United States, her family made the leap into military retirement. Anna is also a SpouseLink Ambassador with two kids and two dogs. She’s a long-time homeschool mom that loves dance parties, popcorn, camping, and snorkeling in the ocean. In her spare time, you’ll find her traveling the world with her family, relaxing around a fire pit, or on a long walk with her pups.