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5 Tips for Finding a Job as a Trailing Spouse

5 Tips for Finding a Job as a Trailing Spouse

If your spouse is in the military or works for a large company with multiple locations around the globe, you may find yourself becoming an expert mover and packer. You might also become an expert job-seeker, because trailing spouses often need work too, even if you’re in Omaha this year and New Orleans the next.

To get some tips for trailing spouses to find work, we spoke to Bryan A. “Gunny” McGown, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant and president of GunnyRet consulting.

Here are a few options he suggested.

Network Before You Arrive

Don’t wait until you land in your new home to start making connections, McGown says. You can begin looking for professional groups that meet in real life or online well before your arrival.

Any professional organizations you belong to in your current town may also have chapters in the new one. There are likely social media groups for new moms, meetups for young professionals or all-accountant rock bands in your new city. Dive in and meet some people before you arrive. Let them know you’re job hunting.

There may also be other organizations that can help. If you’re a military family, the local chapters of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars or Team Rubicon may have job-hunting or networking assistance available, McGown says.

“You should constantly be expanding your professional and social networks. You never know who can connect you to a new opportunity,” he says.

Ask Your Spouse’s Company for Help

If your spouse’s company requires big transfers and moves routinely, there’s a chance they have support available for trailing spouses. They understand you’re making a sacrifice too, so some larger companies offer job-search guidance or additional training for spouses to earn degrees or certifications, McGown says.

The military offers similar support, having just reached the fifth anniversary of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership. So far 95,000 military spouses have found employment through this program, the Defense Department says.

Seek Remote Work

The great thing about remote work is that you can usually pick up and work from anywhere without having to quit and find a different job each time you relocate. Email, Skype and cloud-based programs like Google Docs and Quickbooks Online make it possible to do many jobs from anywhere in the world.

If this interests you, McGown suggests roles such as online tutoring, virtual assistant, social media management, writing or bookkeeping. McGown says he doesn’t like to refer people to work-at-home positions randomly. “I want them to do due diligence, so they aren’t getting scammed. Some work-from-home things are multi-level or network marketing, so it’s important to vet them,” he says. Even if a program isn’t an outright scam, it can cost a lot of money upfront and require more time and effort to make a profit than you realize. If you go this route, do a lot of research first.

Consider Atypical Work Arrangements

Despite your best efforts, you might not find a full-time job wherever you wind up. It may make sense to consider alternate arrangements like part-time work, temp work or short-term contract assignments, McGown says.

You can search for part-time work to have some income while you’re still looking at other opportunities, or pursue a paid or unpaid internship if you’re in school or looking to try a field where you have little experience, he says. Companies often place ads on job boards for short-term assignments, so becoming a contractor may be your best route. You can test out the company before deciding whether you want to pursue a career there, McGown says.

Another avenue is temporary placement, or temp work. Before visiting an office, McGown recommends contacting them and asking if they have experience working with military spouses or other trailing spouses. “Recruiters with this experience are great about helping people get in the door and explaining gaps on a résumé that a trailing spouse will have,” he says. But he cautions that you should check out the type of placements the agency does. Some do strictly manufacturing labor, while others specialize in nursing or accounting placement. Don’t waste time pursuing an agency that doesn’t cater to your field, he says.


McGown says he has learned many new soft skills and technical skills over the years though his volunteer experience, and that he loves teaching others. “If someone’s between jobs, a great way to network and keep current skills sharp or acquire new skills is through volunteering.”

A volunteer opportunity can lead to a job with that organization, lead you to meet someone with a job opening at their office or even just eliminate some blank space on a résumé. The experience is valuable and shows you have dedication.

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