Active Duties: How Companies Are Helping Military Spouses

Even as companies hire more military veterans, the spouses of active duty servicemen and women also contribute valuable skills.

By Ann Vezina

In August of 2005, Susan Villafane’s husband was severely wounded in the Iraq war. After a number of surgeries and a lot of time in physical therapy, he retired and the family had to quickly move off base, forcing Susan to look for a job in their new location.

Susan, who is now assistant vice president of Talent Acquisition and Staffing for the Government sector at Xerox, says one of the biggest issues she faced during her job search was getting labeled as a job-hopper. Her frequent moves following her husband in the military never allowed her to keep a position long-term.  Most job applications did not ask if she was a spouse of an active duty service member, so there was no way to explain why she had held a number of positions in a short period of time.

While companies such as Xerox are hiring more military veterans, Susan’s story illustrates key asset in this equation: the spouses of these servicemen and women.

“Employers are starting to benefit from the frequently untapped contributions available from military spouses. “ – Ann Vezina, vice president of Human Resources for Xerox Services

Employers benefit from the military spouses’ previously untapped contributions. Many have the experience and skills that attract recruiters, such as stress management and the ability to adapt quickly to change.

Countless others have stories like Susan’s, and employers are now becoming more aware of the need to support them and make use of their skills.  For example, Xerox has established Heroes@Home, a career portal geared to active military, veterans, and families by highlighting opportunities that would be relevant to them.  Through this program, qualified veterans and military spouses can search for employment opportunities, including work-from-home positions.  Xerox offers a range of positions such as customer care agents, image processors, data analysts, help desk specialists, systems developers, and various leadership positions.

Employers have also widened their hiring reach by participating in virtual and onsite career fairs. There are a number of fairs that focus on veterans — both active and retired — and their spouses. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts hundreds of hiring fairs throughout the country each year through its Hiring Our Heroes program. Some fairs are exclusive to military spouses, and can provide companies the chance to promote job opportunities.

Another valuable resource is The Military Spouse Employment Partnership   (MSEP), an organization that provides community-based and company-based initiatives for partnering businesses. By partnering with MSEP, employers have been able to gain direct access to military spouses seeking employment.  The organization also helps spouses actively seeking work to become more competitive and “job-ready” through career counseling and interview prep. There is also Joining Forces and the Spouse Ambassador Network, which both raise awareness of the needs of military families and offer opportunities and community support.

Companies have also created internal groups so their employees can support military families. Some are dedicated to delivering care packages or writing welcome letters to new military spouse employees. Groups specifically for military spouses allow members to address shared needs, interests, and career development opportunities.

Military spouses still face many challenges, but companies are finding ways to help them find jobs and adjust to their new environment. In return, they are proving to be valuable resources in the workplace.

The above is based upon an article that was published in Real Business,  a website from Xerox that provides ideas and information for decision-makers in business and government.

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