For many military spouses, frequent moves are a way of life. A portable career – using in-demand skills across a variety of fields – can be a potential solution for spouses faced with the challenges of a life in constant motion.
Unemployment and underemployment are significant obstacles for military spouses, according to a study from Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation:
- 90% of respondents moved 50 miles or more at least once during their spouse’s military career; more than half moved three or more times.
- 49% of respondents respondents said they had less than three months to prepare to relocate; 11% received less than a month’s notice.
Some moves are further complicated by the locations of military bases. The study found many bases are 50-plus miles from major urban areas, which can limit traditional work opportunities.
Ready to Tackle a Portable Career?
Taking your career on the road requires some planning.
If you are already employed, you can seek a flexible or remote work arrangement with your current employer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 38% of workers in management, business and financial operations occupations, and 35% of workers in professional and related occupations did some or all their work from home in 2015.
These numbers are expected to climb as companies reap the benefits of an increasing number of remote workers, including higher morale, reduced turnover, and the ability to recruit and maintain the best employees from all over the world. Analyze your work responsibilities and develop a plan for continuing those responsibilities entirely from home or with a flexible schedule.
If maintaining your current employment isn’t an option, consider becoming your own boss. As an independent contractor, you can set your own hours and work from anywhere. Some businesses that work well for home-based independent contractors include accounting, creative services, web design, grant writing, consulting, customer service/support, public relations, sales, transcription, IT and marketing.
Developing skills that can go with you anywhere is a valuable investment in yourself that should with portable skills are the least vulnerable when they switch firms,” Harvard Business School professor Boris Groysberg said.
If you don’t have a degree, you may want to pursue one in a field that may allow you to develop a portable business or start a portable career. According to the BLS, people with degrees are more likely to work from home: 43% of workers age 25 and older did some work from home, versus 12% of workers with a high school diploma.
Flexibility, creativity and communication are three keys to building a portable career, according to FlexJobs.com. The job site recommends focusing on the skills you possess rather than on a job title; sell your skill set, not your previous positions.
Demonstrate your ability to solve a potential client or employer’s problem. And when a position isn’t open that matches your skill set, consider volunteering your talents to a nonprofit organization. The connections you make can open doors to new clients and employers you may never find otherwise.