Written by Gabriella LoBianco
Graphics by Stephanie De Leon
The Dreaded Question
“Looks like you have moved around a lot. Can you explain why?” This may be a simple question to a lot of job applicants, but to a military spouse facing military spouse discrimination, it can be annoying to hear. It’s the equivalent to a McDonald’s worker constantly having to ask, “Would you like fries with that?” It’s very repetitive to the point where you get more surprised when a question like that doesn’t come up.
How do you explain to someone that your better half is fighting for their right to ask such a question? With an oblivious comment like that, it’s no wonder why military spouse discrimination lives on. The struggle is real and shared amongst a large group. Together, we’ll explore the world of military spouse discrimination and a way to avoid it.
Discrimination Against Military Spouses Moving!
Unfortunately, whenever any group discusses being discriminated against, an opposing group who doesn’t face those same problems may not believe them. It’s time to open up the half-cracked nutshell of problems that Military Spouses are constantly facing. In 2017, The US Chamber of Congress study reported an unemployment rate of 16% for military spouses. That’s four times the national average. They found that 31% of MilSpouses were employed part-time, compared to 19% of the general population.
While hearing a lot of stories about military spouse discrimination, it’s clear that the number one issue with employment among employers is availability. This issue has become a stigma. Sadly, even though asking a person’s marital status is unlawful, employers still find a way around it.
“They legally cannot ask you if you are a military spouse, but it still happens. They find other ways such as asking why you have moved so much or why you have changed jobs so many times. It’s hard feeling like you have to find ways to hide your military affiliation.”- Jessica Bolen, Military Spouse, and Marketing Specialist at Super Purposes™.
How to Respond to Common Questions
There are times that an employer will ask questions that will bring upon military spouse discrimination. Fear not! Here are some suggestions on how you should confront them.
Employer: “Why have you moved so much?”
“I’m a Military Spouse, so due to my (husband, wife, partner) serving in the (name of the military branch), we’ve had to move. Fortunately, because of my adaptable skills, I’m able to contribute to the team. I’m able to work remotely, and have outstanding loyalty to my employer. What concerns do you have about me being a Military Spouse?”
Employer: “Well, I’m concerned that we’ll get you trained and a week later, you’ll quit because you have to move.”
“Actually, my spouse is going to be stationed here for (length of time). You have my commitment that I won’t be quitting soon due to another move.”
Employer: “Well, I’m concerned that you don’t have the kind of stability that we need in this position.”
“What do you need me to demonstrate to show you that isn’t the case? Would you be open to working on a trial assignment before offering me full-time employment? I want this job, and I’m determined to show you that I am a person of my word.”
These are just a few examples. Find your own way to answer these types of questions and practice them. Practicing your answers will help you to stay confident during interviews.
What you can do
The best way to obtain a job is by networking; not filling out online applications. Online applications are missing the personal relationship and “face” factor. However, since moving around is a lifestyle for Military Spouses, networking can be difficult to do. Imagine being on a treadmill with a glass of water in your hand; you really want a drink but you can’t because you’re constantly moving!
Virtforce founder Kimber Hill advocates setting up an informational interview to find out more about a company. Hill thinks the best way to do this by face to face video conference. “Get on a video chat. Get on Facetime” she says. “Tell someone you want to learn about their business. You want to teach them about what it is you can do and snag that informational interview because that’s going to be your stepping stone to getting an employment interview.” Video conferencing also shows that you can be a virtual worker.
Military spouse discrimination is a trend. Majority of employers don’t see themselves as the discriminator because they don’t experience it. Being discriminated against has always been a topic that a person doesn’t fully understand until they’ve endured it. Luckily, there are programs devoted to helping put an end to military spouse discrimination.
Developing resources like the Armed Forces Chamber of Commerce Staffing is a great opportunity to network with like-minded people who appreciate what a Military Spouse experiences and sees their abilities as assets. Organizations that specialize in Military Spouses getting virtual work like VirtForce are a great way to network online if networking physically is not an option.
Military Spouse Discrimination Destroyed!
If you’re a part of the 16% unemployed job applicants facing military spouse discrimination, there’s a program solely devoted to you. In this free webinar by Super Purposes™, you’ll learn how to package your experience, skill, knowledge, and education for a successful career path. You’ll gain the tools to avoid that annoying question and finally get a sip of that glass of water.