Counselor Cites 'Three C's of Career Success' for Spouses

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2006 - With frequent moves preventing them from moving up the career ladder in a single workplace, military spouses face unique career challenges, a military spouse career counselor told more than 150 spouses attending a recent Military Spouse Career Expo at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Laureen DuPree, an Army Community Services employment readiness counselor and instructor at Fort Belvoir, told the group about what she called "the 3 C's to career success."

Noting that over the past 20 years, the percentage of military people who are married has tripled. "Five years ago 52 percent of the military were married," she noted. "Research shows that the number of marriages among active duty servicemembers is increasing."

More than 1.1 million military spouses provide a lifeline of love, support and encouragement to servicemembers who have a 24-hour-a-day job, DuPree said, and their opinion matters. "A study published in Military Psychology Journal showed that a spouse's opinion about the active duty member's re-enlistment was at least as important, if not more so, than the opinion of the active duty member himself," she noted. Military spouses who are employed, she added, express a higher degree of satisfaction with military life than those who aren't.

But finding a job matching the spouse's talents isn't always easy as the military family moves from place to place. "The numbers indicate that military spouses on the whole make less money than their civilian counterparts even, though they are generally better educated," DuPree noted. "Seventy-five percent have at least some college education."

The unemployment rate for military spouses of active duty personnel is twice the national average for men and three times the national average for women, she said.

"We're also getting older, which represents another career challenge," she said. About 20 percent of active duty personnel are over the age of 35, which makes it likely that their spouses are close to that as well," DuPree said. "Entering and re-entering the job market becomes more difficult as time passes."

Dupree cited her "Three C's of Career Success" as the keys to career building: recognizing one's calling, or niche, in the work world; expanding connections, or networking; and broadening choices by taking advantage of education and training opportunities, volunteer work opportunities and other enrichment opportunities.

DuPree noted that 85 percent of workers are dissatisfied in their jobs. "I believe that the root cause of much job disaffection is because the worker lets the job choose her or him instead of the worker choosing the job," she said. Often, people take jobs that are not a good fit for them and work hard to fit themselves into the job, she explained.

"That's too hard work to do for a lifetime of jobs," she told the audience of military spouses.

"I've spent 30 years trying to help people get in touch with their calling," she said. "I have talked to people who are 16 and people who are 66. It's never too late or too early to look at yourself to find this. For most of us, it's a process. But it should be a mindful process. There are lots of career decision-making tests out there."

She recommended that the spouses reflecting on their teen years early adulthood to determine their calling. "What were you excited about?" she asked. "What could transport you into timelessness?"

DuPree said she didn't know what her niche was until she became a military spouse and was faced with unemployment and underemployment. "I began to make career choices that suited me," she noted. "These then evolved into the career counseling and spouse training positions that I've held for 22 years. My niche is guiding others into possibilities."

She challenged spouses in the audience "to reflect on your childhood passions, ask yourself what have you absolutely loved doing in some of your volunteer jobs, what did you absolutely love doing in some of your jobs. Discover your calling, honor it, find your niche -- keep looking and pursuing it. The joy it will bring is worth the pursuit."

DuPree's second "C" of career success is connecting "steel cable ties" with friends and families as well as building "social capital" with labor unions, community and social clubs, military spouses clubs and other organizations. "All of these are organizations which put people in touch with other people," she noted. "These relationships build a wealth of connections which we call 'social capital.' The more capital or connections you have, the more job opportunities will present themselves. People like to help people with whom they have a connection."

She noted that good jobs always seem to come from somebody who knows somebody. "But you have to work at expanding connections and ties," DuPree said. "Become a joiner, get involved in school, sports, church organizations, professional organizations, whatever your interests are. Talk to people, connect with people, earn that social capital. You can take that to the bank, and you can withdraw it from the bank when you need it later."

DuPree's final "C" is choice. "I believe that we as military spouses often feel like we have no choices," she said. "The military sends our spouses, and we, of course, follow. And we make the best of it. We get rather passive, I think, because of the circumstances of frequent moves. Often we can't find the energy to make active, positive choices, and so we just let things happen."

Military spouses too often take the easiest route to finding a job and don't get involved in activities or groups, DuPree said. "However, the choices we make, whether active or passive, determine the quality of our lives," she added. "We want to make choices that will expand our menu of choices when it comes to employment options. Choose to discover your calling, think about it and dream about it."

Choosing work that leads to expanded skills, DuPree told the audience, is another choice military spouses should make.

"Every job that you choose to take should help to expand your career choices at your next duty station and the next, and so on," she said. "Always ask yourself, 'Will this job bring me in closer touch with my calling?' Make active choices and choose wisely. Our choices determine the quality of our lives."

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