Entrepreneurship & Self-Employment

Phase 1: Taking It All In

Service members change jobs or relocate as frequently as every 2 to 3 years. As a military spouse, you may wonder how you can start, grow within, or maintain your own career as you move with your service member. Your education, skills, training, and experience are valuable assets, and you don’t want to marginalize or waste them – the good news is, you don’t have to! The first step in building and maintaining a successful career is taking stock of your goals and the resources and opportunities available to you.

Phase 1: Taking It All In


Milestone 1: Assess the Options

Maybe you knew what to expect. Maybe you didn’t. Regardless of your expectations, you are resilient and willing to grow wherever you’re planted. That isn’t easy when the only thing predictable about military life seems to be its unpredictability. You do not need to sideline your career aspirations, but you do need to know when to call in reinforcements. There are organizations and programs nationwide that understand the difficulties you may have starting and maintaining a career and want to support you in identifying the available resources that can help you. Utilizing their tools and knowledge while leveraging their networks will give you a strong support system while you explore your options.

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Understand the estimated length of time stationed in this location

You know that you may have to relocate at any time, so before you can focus on any specific area of career development or pursue a particular career, try to evaluate the length of time you will likely live in your current location and how frequent moves may impact your earning potential and chosen career path. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but ask yourself baseline questions that will help you set long-term career goals as much as possible. For instance, will you be in any one location long enough to complete a course of training, or would you be better served to seek and secure gainful employment that adds to your professional experience? To set your personal strategy, take a little time to consider the return on investment of your time, money, and energy. In doing so, you can embark on career-related endeavors that help you now and later.

Real Life Snapshot

Real Life Snapshot

One military spouse shares the questions she considers employment each time she moves: “How long can I expect to be in this location? Is it worth it to try to maintain my career path – in terms of time, effort, and money? Is it worth it to apply for the teaching license, to seek the engineering certification, to pass the bar, when I might have to move before I can put it to use?”

All Set with Your personal Strategy?

Evaluate possible employment opportunities

Finding meaningful work in any location can take a great deal of time and effort. You may have taken the lead on all of the household and family logistics related to your latest move, and now you’re ready to attack your job search with the same determination. Don’t skip your research phase! As you’re considering all of the available opportunities, gain a clear understanding of the local job market, salary ranges, top industries, and the resources available to assist you. Other considerations such as your service member’s work schedule and possible deployment schedule; child care; commute times; and cost of living for your area may also influence your career decisions. You can even start your research before you move, so you can hit the ground running once you’re settled in your new home.

2019 Survey: Key Finding

Military spouses think it’s common to put their careers on the backburner, not apply for jobs because they feel they don’t have the right skills, and find themselves overwhelmed on how to get started looking for work.

Common Employment Challenges Military Spouses Face
Put your career on the backburner because
of the challenges of being in a military family
Put your career on hold because it is too
much effort to re-credential in a different state
Take a job that is uninteresting,
low paying, or below your skill level
Feel there’s no point in pursuing a job
because your length of stay is so uncertain
Find yourself overwhelmed on how to get
started looking for work or training opportunities
Learn a new skill set to make it easier to
find jobs when moving a lot
Start a business or do freelance/contract work
because traditional employment opportunities
are unavailable
Avoid applying for a job because you
didn’t think you had the right skills
Common Among Military Spouses7876767672696963
Has Happened to Me7837705568584068
People working on a whiteboard

Each time I look for a job I feel very underqualified or overqualified and it’s really disheartening.

2019 Military Spouse Survey Respondent

Done Evaluating Job Opportunities?

Consider entrepreneurship and self-employment

Your can-do attitude has you thinking about how you can put your skills to good use from anywhere. Whether it’s shorter-term roles to bridge a gap while prioritizing home and family, or a long-term career goal, you’ll need a plan and a network to help you implement it. If you have an idea for a business or want to work for yourself, there are resources to help you determine if entrepreneurship is the right choice for you. You can also explore other self-employment options, such as becoming a consultant, contractor, or freelancer.

Have You Thought About Self-Employment?

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Next Milestone

Up Next: Milestone 2: Plug into the virtual and/or local community