By: Terri Moon Cronk
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2013 – The Defense Department has broadened its reach to military spouses looking for jobs through its new Spouse Ambassador Network, an arm of the department’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program, the program’s director said here yesterday.
In its quest to educate, empower and mentor military spouses to encourage their pursuit of careers, the network is a collaboration of SECO’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership and various military support organizations, Meg O’Grady told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
O’Grady called the ambassador effort “a network of networks,” noting that the partnership comprises 200 businesses that pledged to hire military spouses, and that participating organizations include the Military Officers Association of America, the National Military Family Association, Blue Star Families and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“All of the organizations have chapters and members in communities where military spouses live,” she said. “We’ve brought together the organizations to expand their commitment to military spouses through the partnership.”
O’Grady said network members will meet with the employing partners every three months to discuss ways to further reach out to help guide military spouses in their job searches.
The network was created for military spouses by military spouses, O’Grady said. When it was being developed, she explained, a group of military spouses who were “well-networked” within their communities were brought together and asked what career information and resources would be helpful to them.
“Through a series of working groups, the military spouses developed a mission statement and developed what the Spouse Ambassador Network is today — a group of organizations that advocates for military spouse career resources and tools, and provides a voice for [them] within their communities,” she said. At the first Spouse Ambassador Network roundtable in July, a toolkit of education and career resources was developed and made available to military spouses through the network and the SECO program, she added.
The network helps to prepare military spouses for employment by partnership members, and mentoring military spouses for careers is also an important network feature, O’Grady said.
“The organizations that are part of the network have developed tools, resources [and] mentoring programs for military spouses that complement the tools and resources of DOD’s SECO program,” she said. “The organizations offer a series of online networking for military spouses to talk to other military spouses to find out about opportunities, education and entrepreneurial opportunities.”
One such example that complements DOD’s hiring efforts is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored “Hiring Heroes” job fairs for veterans and spouses conducted around the nation, O’Grady said.
The job fairs offer opportunities for military spouses to find jobs and to access skill resources such as interviewing techniques and resume preparation and review.
“In partnering with these organizations that already have resources in the communities, we’ve leveraged the ability to reach a larger military spouse population,” she added.
The SECO program provides a career center that’s accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the Military OneSource website, O’Grady said.
“Military spouses can receive career counseling and advice from master’s-level certified career counselors [for] advice,” she added.
Adding to those resources, the SECO site offers article links, a variety of skill assessments, and access to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment to determine how a person’s traits might apply to certain careers, O’Grady noted. The SECO site also gives military spouses the ability to create profiles of their education and training, and what their career desires are, much like the business-oriented social networking site LinkedIn, which O’Grady said spouses are encouraged to use.
An upcoming feature will allow military spouses to transfer their LinkedIn profiles into the SECO site, she added.
“We’re very excited about that, because it really does meld an industry-leading tool with the tools we’ve provided through DOD,” she said.
“The Spouse Ambassador Network and the Military Spouse Employment Partnership would not work without the employers and the organizations that have come to the table and really stepped up to hire military spouses,” O’Grady said.
SECO recently met its goal of hiring 50,000 military spouses, she said, noting that’s more than a year ahead of the goal set by the Joining Forces initiative championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.
In the fall, SECO will induct 200 more companies and organizations into its Military Spouse Employment Partnership, O’Grady said.
“[The partner companies] recognize the value of military spouses, and that they have the kinds of skills and talent that most employers are looking for in the 21st century,” she added. “They’re resilient, flexible, natural team players, and tend to be very loyal. Our employers have told us that bringing a military spouse into their organization creates a real value for that business.”