Using Your Passions in New Ways

As I was looking through Spouse Buzz yesterday, I clicked on “What I Learned About Career From Young Spouses.” I really liked the last point in the article: Learn to use your passions in a new way.

The article talks about Jill,  a military spouse who began her career as a television writer in LA and had to move to DC and give up her television writing career.  According to the article, “Jill has concluded that she needs to use her original passion for writing in a different way” and she became a freelance writer.

Using your passions in new ways is something that I think military spouses need to be good at. This can be hard because it takes creativity and flexibility, but in the end it could allow you to have a job anywhere you move.

The first step is to see your career as less of a job specific function and more as a series of passions. For example, Jill was a television writer, but instead of seeing herself only as working in television, she realized what she loved was writing and adapted that to her lifestyle. As another example, if you are a researcher at a political think tank and have to move from DC to California, you can boil that down to a passion for politics, social impact organizations or researching.

Once you realize what passions  make up your career, you’ll find that anything you do is a lot more portable. For example, if you are the think tank researcher, you could look for work at a nonprofit that does social or advocacy work. If it is politics that you’re passionate about, find a local campaign and get involved.

Overall, remember not to pigeonhole yourself into a specific job. Think of your job as an amalgamation of your passions and think of new ways to translate those anywhere you move.

 

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Send Your Portable Careers

Has anybody ever searched for a list of portable careers? I made the mistake of doing that last night. I clicked on a lot of links from tons of sources, including some that I thought would be really reputable and well researched. Well, I shouldn’t have done that before bed. The results I got really scared me. Yes I got the usual nurse, teacher, and “business”. However, some of the suggested careers I got: quilt maker, maid, housesitter, pet groomer, doll maker.

It made me wonder why more careers aren’t designated as “portable.” With Skype, email or even Google Docs, you would think that there are more careers that could fall under the category of “portable.” I want us to make a new list of “portable careers” that are a little better than “doll maker.” Comment below or send an email through the Contact form to add a portable career to the list.

 

Focusing Your Networking

I am awful at networking. It is so awkward and uncomfortable to build out networks of people just so they can help you one day. But it is important. Forbes has some good tips on networking, which I have summarized and added my own commentary to below:

1. Start Networking Before You Need It: Don’t just start networking when you need something. Set up informational interviews or ask someone to grab coffee with you even if you wouldn’t need their help for another year. Help them get to know you beyond just someone asking for help.

2. Have a Plan and Figure Out How To “Market” Yourself and Your Story: Don’t just go into networking blind. It is important to know what you want and what you are looking for. At the very least, have a little speech about yourself at the ready so you can let people what you are trying to accomplish.

3. Never Dismiss Anyone as Unimportant: There are some people I wish I had stayed in touch with but at the time, I had no idea what type of career I wanted to pursue. I wish I hadn’t decided I should let them go and not stay in touch because I could really use their advice now but it is too awkward after these years to reach out. Make sure you treat everyone as an equal in your networking.

4. Figure Out How You Can Be Useful To Them: Help others and they just might be more likely to help you.

5. Follow Up and Follow Through: I think this is crucial because what is networking if you only meet someone once and keep their business card? The best kind of network is one where you have a bunch of people you know well and who would know your name if it came up in conversation. Don’t be annoying but also don’t let them forget you.

READER Q&A

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QUESTION FROM A MILITARY SIGNIFICANT OTHER:

What do I do when I want to go to grad school but my boyfriend’s military career is going to force him to move cross country next year? I want to start grad school now and I want to do it where we currently live. But I also want to move with him. Help.

ANSWER:

I think this depends on the type of program you want to do. If it is a one year Master’s program, I say no question you should stay where you are and do long distance for a year while you get your degree. It is so important to establish yourself now so you’ll be happier in the future. Plus if you are serious with him, you’ll unfortunately have to deal with long distance in the future and this could be a relationship test to be sure this situation will work for you. I truly believe that it is so much better for you in the long term to get the degree you want now so you will be more satisfied with your life and career later on.

Of course, there are also online degree programs that you could look into. That could help you get the education you want while not having to deal with long distance.

Now if it is an 8 year PhD program? I think you will have to decide which is more important to you: being with your boyfriend on this move or getting this degree. I’m not saying you have to break up with him, especially since as we all know, no move is permanent. However, figure out whether you are more willing to sacrifice living in the same city for that degree, or if you would rather sacrifice that degree (and possibly career) to make this one move. I know it is hard, but you have to remember to focus on the long term consequences and not just the short term ones. In 30 years, you do not want to regret not going for the degree you wanted because you were scared of being away from your boyfriend for a few years.

 

How to Prove You Should Work Remotely

This one is something I am going to be struggling with in a few months. You have a great job and you enjoy what you do except you have to move to another city in a few months. How do you gear up to convince your boss you should stay on the team and work remotely? It is tough because you have to prove how indispensable you are. You have to show them that you are too valuable to let go. Instead of just going with the “I can do everything virtually anyway” argument, make sure you prove your value to your bosses. Courtesy of The Muse, here are some good questions to ask yourself, and answer for your bosses, when you are trying to prove and determine your value:

  1. Am I consistent in my attendance, my work, and my results?
  2. Am I improving each year?
  3. Am I moving forward with purpose and not resting on my past accomplishments?
  4. Am I spending most of my time at work with top performers?
  5. Have I recently added to my job description on my own initiative?
  6. Do I set goals for myself beyond the ones my supervisor sets?
  7. Do I regularly ask for feedback on my performance from my boss and my peers?
  8. Does my performance compare favorably with my peers?
  9. Do I collaborate well with others and have good professional relationships?

Use your answers to identify gaps and step up your game if you have to in the run up to having to have “that talk.” You may be more indispensable than you think you are.

For more, see: https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-ways-to-evaluate-just-how-valuable-you-are-at-work

 

 

Navigating Your Early Career as a Military SO

I consider myself to be in the early stages of my career. I graduated from college just a few years ago and am still trying to establish exactly what my niche is in the professional world. It is hard enough to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. It is even harder when you know you don’t have any say on where you will live. Add in the stresses of knowing it will have to be portable because you will constantly be moving around, and you have a lot of messes on top of what is already a scary topic.

I think comparing yourself to others is one of the worst parts about your early career. On Facebook, you see other people you graduated with doing amazing things in their career and you think you have fallen behind. Worst yet is when you start to blame the military for holding you back (not good for your relationship, trust me). When you think about it though, you’re comparing apples to oranges. You have commitments that others may not have early in their careers. They can pick up and move to a new city or a new job while you may not even know what state you are moving to in 6 months. As hard as it is, try to not let those comparisons get to you. Competitive motivation is okay but self-doubt and resentment are not.

If you are like me and still early in your career, trying to figure out exactly how to get your career off the ground or trying to establish yourself in a new industry, it really can be hard to get yourself started when you feel like everything can be pulled out from under you at any moment. To get yourself started, use your network (alumni, family, friends, other spouses who read this blog….) and make a goal. Even if it takes you longer to get there than others, just know you’re getting there.

For more tips on navigating your early career, check out this article from Fast Company: http://www.fastcompany.com/3041247/hit-the-ground-running/how-to-stay-sane-and-hopeful-early-in-your-career

READER Q&A

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QUESTION FROM A MILITARY SPOUSE

I am trying to decide between two career paths. The first is one that I know I enjoy and already have experience in. However, it is not an extremely portable career. The second is a brand new career that I have no experience in, but think I could possibly enjoy. This second option is more portable for a military spouse, but also requires me to attend graduate school.

I find myself trying to decide between having a career I love, but only being able to work when I am stationed in certain areas, or having a career that I am okay with, but always being able to find a job no matter where I go. What do I do?

 ANSWER

This sounds like a question of liking your career versus loving it. Another question to ask is whether you will always regret not picking your first love of a career. Will you resent yourself for not following through with what you knew you wanted? I also wonder if you are selling yourself short. How do you absolutely know you won’t be able to make that career portable? For example, politics is a career that is probably most useful when you live in a capital city and I could see how that would be a hard career to follow if you lived at, say, Camp Lejeune. However, you could set up your own political consulting firm or running a politics blog where you give your opinion on current events (it could help you get noticed and show you can work in politics remotely). Yes it would be tougher and take more work, but it isn’t impossible. And the fact that you are on this site right now tells me you have the ambition and drive to make it happen.

At the same time, there is a lot to be said for not having to stress about finding a job. I think you need to weight job security vs. job satisfaction and decide which matters more to you in your career.

WHAT DO YOU ALL THINK? HAVE YOU BEEN IN THIS SITUATION?

A New Blog for a New Year

I have been absent from the blog for a few weeks, but I have a good excuse. First, I got engaged! Second, I have been applying to graduate programs and jobs. How can I give you career advice if I am not following my own? So I had to take a little time off to focus on my applications.

Since I am now a military fiancee, not a military girlfriend, and will soon become a military wife, I decided to make the title of the blog more inclusive. Rather than changing from Ambitious Military Girlfriend to Ambitious Military Fiancee to Ambitious Military Wife, I thought just one all encompassing change was easiest. From now on, this blog is called The Ambition Mission. 

I hope that The Ambition Mission will become more of a network of military girlfriends, fiancees and spouses. I love getting emails from readers telling me their stories and asking me questions. If you want to ask a question, share your story or even write a post for The Ambition Mission, send an email to information@theambitionmission.com!

Stay tuned for some changes to make the blog more interactive and more of a networking tool.

P.S. The Twitter is now @AmbitiousMilSO

Anna Chlumsky is an Ambitious Military Girlfriend Role Model

If you get Glamour magazine, open it immediately. If you don’t, go to CVS and buy a copy. This month’s issue features an article written by actress Anna Chlumsky entitled “The Actress and the Soldier”. It is a must read for any military significant other struggling with the military lifestyle, making a risky career move or connecting with “civilian” friends about your experience. Anna Chlumsky currently stars in the (hilarious) show Veep and also starred in the movie My Girl. In her article, Anna discusses her experiences as a military girlfriend, fiancée and wife. I want to talk about why this is important but first, here is some background on her situation.

Anna Chlumsky's Glamour magazine article

Anna Chlumsky’s Glamour magazine article

Anna met her now husband, Shaun So, at the University of Chicago. Shaun enlisted in the Army Reserve after graduating from college. Of his decision to join the military, leaving Anna as a military girlfriend, she writes “scared as I was, our relationship had been built on support for each other. I would never hold him back from anything he wanted to pursue, and I expected he’d do the same for me.” At the same time, Anna decided to re-enter show business after a multiyear break working more “traditional” 9-5 jobs. They both took relationship and career risks at the same time.

Anna writes that visiting Shaun during his training was fun as they mastered long distance and enjoyed exploring where he was stationed. However, she writes, Shaun eventually began to deploy. “If long distance dating is a sport,” she writes, “deployment is the X Games.”

Anna Chlumsky and Shaun So

I find Anna’s reaction to her new military situation to be the most pertinent of all for military significant others who find themselves in an ambitious, privileged, hard-working world. She emailed her friends asking for support. She writes, “Most young people in a city like New York have no idea what to do with an email like that. My friends helped the best way they knew how: supporting my newly reawakened career as an actress and making sure I socialized with plenty of bar nights, coffees and dancing.”

Anna Chlumsky and Julia Louis Dreyfuss in Veep

My favorite excerpt from her article touches further on the divide between civilian and military life: “But the concept of war was so foreign in our cosmopolitan world. Either people didn’t pay attention at all, or they read too much. I’d meet strangers who, upon discovering my boyfriend was in the Army, would look at me like I was living out some eighties romantic comedy, dating a guy from the wrong side of the tracks…There was a wide misconception that joining the military as only an alternative to jail—that anyone who chose to die for his country was strong-armed into it by a tyrannical and manipulative government. I’d explain that no one signs his or her name to something at gunpoint. That the military is a diverse community of individuals from all types of backgrounds. That soldiers have brains.

Anna Chlumsky promoting Veep

Yes, yes and more yes. Where did this conception of military members and their families having no brains or having no other alternatives come from? My boyfriend in the military was valedictorian of his high school class, top 10% of his college class and an Ivy League graduate school student. I too graduated at the top of my high school class and hold an Ivy League degree.  I applaud Anna Chlumsky for calling attention to some civilian mischaracterization and misunderstanding of our service members and their families. All too often in magazines, books and popular culture, we are portrayed as desperate rebels or mentally traumatized. The image of a competent, ambitious member of the military and an equally competent and ambitious significant other is one that is often hard to come by. By including this story of ambition, love and the military in their magazine, Glamour is helping not just military significant others but also civilians understand our role within the military as well as the country as a whole. To quote Ms. Chlumsky, “the military is a diverse community of individuals from all types of backgrounds” and I believe it’s time that we start propagating that image as much as possible.

P.S. Anna Chlumsky also includes an unlikely source of inspiration in her article: The Odyssey. Yes, that epic by Homer you read in high school. The faith and perseverance of Odysseus’ wife Penelope inspired her so much that she named her daughter after her. Love that scholarly military spouse advice!

Quote of the Week: September 29

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Quotes like this are what get me over the humps of feeling like my career is totally out of my hands. If you want to make a change, do it. Successful people are made. They take matters into their own hands. Things won’t necessarily just fall on your lap. It is in your hands.