Connie Crisler has a sterling resume and glowing references from past employers who call her an “innovative self-starter, who rarely requires supervision.”
But she still counts herself among the roughly one-fourth of military spouses looking for work, in part because she has held six jobs in the six years she’s been married.
It’s an age-old conundrum for military families uprooted every couple of years by new orders. And job searches in a country emerging from a recession – and 12.5 million unemployed as of May 1 – are doubly difficult.
“I get into these great organizations, and I have a great job while at the duty station,” Crisler said. “But then I have to leave, and it’s a letdown not just to my employer, but I have to build bonds again.”
Statistics show that Crisler is one of 1.2 million military spouses, of whom 750,000 are active duty. Of those, 26 percent are unemployed, according to ourmilitary.mil.
The stress of dealing with a job search, coupled with months as a single mom during deployments, is a challenge, experts say.
“Military spouses know about resiliency ... and how to persevere when faced with difficult situations,” said Stacy Swearengen, the founder of Military Spouse Portable Career Planning and the wife of an active-duty soldier. “They just have to use that same mentality with jobs.”
Crisler met her husband online, and the couple married in 2006. It was a quick ceremony officiated by a justice of the peace over a lunch break. Crisler’s husband, Staff Sgt. Lincoln Crisler, was two weeks away from deploying to Afghanistan from Fort Drum, N.Y.
They later had an elaborate wedding during his brief return stateside for rest and relaxation.
“We really have two anniversaries,” Crisler said.
Crisler was well aware of what she was getting into when she married an active-duty soldier. She grew up traveling the world as the daughter of an Air Force colonel, and she sees the same attachment issues she developed as a child in her own children.
“It brings with it a lot of issues,” she said.
To regain some control, Crisler works hard before another move to spread her resume out among potential employers in the area. Networking online, particularly on Web sites such as LinkedIn, is a great way to build those connections to potential employers, Swearengen said.
“They have to know how to reach out,” Swearengen said.
Military spouses have several government-sponsored programs available to them to aid in their job searches.
Crisler most recently tried to get a job with the Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion at Eisenhower Army Medical Center under Executive Order 13473.
The order makes some government jobs eligible to qualified candidates for a two-year window that starts when spouses receive their permanent change-of-station orders.
Crisler said there was a two-month gap between the time her husband received his orders and when he was required to report to Fort Gordon, which cost her the opportunity for the most recent job. She’s petitioning the White House and other government sources to reform that gap so other spouses don’t face a similar predicament.
“It disrupted my life, and now I’m out of work,” Crisler said.