I grew up an “Army Brat,” and I hated the frequent moves and military life. That’s why it’s a pretty funny coincidence that, after graduating high school with no plans for college, I joined the U.S. Army Reserves. Joining the Reserves gave me the opportunity to go to college, graduate debt free and meet my husband, Christian, who was a respiratory therapist and an active duty U.S. Army Soldier. Since then, we’ve had three girls, now ages 15, 8 and 2. The girls have moved their entire life, and although there are ups and downs to moving with children, the girls have developed their own unique coping skills with moving and building relationships.
As an Army family, we have moved four times, to three different states and one different country, in the past 12 years, and although it hasn’t always been easy, I have been able develop versatile skills and land working-mom friendly jobs in every city. You could say I’m a pro at adapting to new environments.
If your family frequently moves but you want to keep your career, here’s my advice:
1. Choose a career that travels well.
I began my career in clinical research after graduating from college in 2008 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry. I fell in love with research and the balance of being a working mom. Clinical research is a unique niche of professionals who enjoy organization, autonomy, flexibility and attention to detail. Selecting, or falling into, a career that can travel with you, is a win-win all around, as there seems to be vacancies no matter where the next move will be. Look and train for opportunities in high demand fields that may be transferable to different locations or, even ones that give you the ability to work from home.
2. Keep your CV/resume updated—you never know when you may need to hand it out.
Updating a CV/resume is sometimes a daunting task. As unique as your job field may be, you never know who you will come in contact with or run across. Therefore, it is helpful to keep an updated CV/resume handy in case you to happen to run into a prospective employer looking to fill an opening.
3. Make friends and contacts everywhere—you never know when you may need to reach out to them.
Before I leave previous employers, I always collect contact information and let the individuals know I may be reaching out to them when I start looking for my next job. Whether it be as a reference or a prospect for a future opportunity, it’s great to keep connections; sometimes it’s not only what you know, but who you know as well. I work in an industry that has contacts all around the world. So, when I’ve chosen to start looking for work (after the household is set up and the kids are settled) I always start with my connections to inquire about open positions and new opportunities. It hasn’t always worked out, but you have nothing to lose with getting your name and resume on the job market.
4. Learn to be your own best advocate.
The best advocate for yourself is YOU. Potential employers do not want to hear how much you made in a different city, let alone a different state! Therefore, do your research, look up salaries in the area and use online tools to help set a baseline and hold yourself to it. Identify your strengths and present those to prospective employers. I, personally, like to acknowledge the fact that I can work with a diverse background of individuals and personalities, as the military is a melting pot for diversity. I am flexible, adaptable, a quick learner and a multitasker (as is everyone who balances a family and work!). I always mention why those skills make me the most qualified candidate for the job. Present your strengths, and don’t allow the frequent moving to get in the way.
5. Be patient: your time will come.
There have been several times I landed a job, at our new duty station, that I didn’t feel like the right “fit.” And sometimes, just when I’ve figured out if I like the job, just not the people I work with, or vice versa, I have to begin my job search … again. More often than not, it takes time to land the “right” job, but when you find it, you know you will be happy for the time being. Be open-minded and understanding. Maintaining a professional career is not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it to find ways to keep your career going, as I have, despite the challenge of frequent moves.