Continuing Professional Development
There’s no doubt about it – military families have no choice but to be resilient and adaptable. While the service member is underway, dependents continue to function and face numerous challenges at home, at school and in their workplace. From daycare and carpool to handling sudden family issues and pursuing a career, spouses and families are, in their own right, true warriors.
One of the greatest challenges spouses face during an overseas assignment is the ability to continue her/his professional career path. Many spouses cannot simply follow their spouse to any location and walk into another career opportunity.
Like most overseas locations, Guam is geographically distant – very distant - from career opportunities that may have been assumed as being secure or assured in a “past life” on the mainland before deployment. This distance and change of employment venue can be the cause frustration and even a professional “pause.” But it doesn’t have to. With a bit of effort, exploration and networking, you’ll find that Guam is an excellent place to pursue your career ambitions. Here are four ideas to get underway:
Give to your community. Connect with your host community while learning about its people and culture. Naval Base Guam, Joint Region Marianas, CSS-15 and many other military groups sponsor frequent volunteer efforts for both local and military communities – get involved! Start with your Ombudsman and your spouse’s command. Are they hosting any volunteer efforts? Can they recommend any local ones? You’ll meet new people, establish a healthy routine (maybe you enjoy volunteering from 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays) and will likely find a project you’re passionate about. Remember, you can share your volunteer work on your resume – especially if it’s relevant to your career field. If it’s not relevant, your involvement still exercises your commitment to the potential employer. Get started with a few hours a week and learn how investing a little time can make a lot of difference.
Ever heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? It’s true, and it’s worth remembering. Education and skill are important, but good relationships go a long way too. It’s a small world and an even smaller Navy. The constant influx of families to and from makes Guam a rich environment to build lasting relationships and grow your professional network with people you’ll probably cross paths with in the future. You’ll likely make wonderful friends in Guam – stay in touch with them and step up when you spot an opportunity to support them. Maybe all you can offer is a word of encouragement, or maybe you have a connection that unlocks a professional opportunity for them. You never know who you’ll run into on base in the future, how you can lend a hand, or even benefit from another connection. Opportunity comes when we least expect it. Be ready.
Not sure where to network or how to get started? Follow Naval Base Guam, Joint Region Marianas and MWR on social media (provide handles below and link to their pages/back to our ‘resources’ tab), and stay in close contact with your spouse’s Command, ombudsman and FRG. Events, networking opportunities and even job openings are often publicized through these channels – be on the lookout! If you haven’t seen an opportunity in a while, reach out and ask where and when the next one will take place. Take control of your professional development and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Familiarize yourself with local resources available to military families via the Guam Chamber of Commerce, the Navy League and the USO (links to their pages). Each of these provides valuable information and host events in support of military families in Guam. For example, the Chamber of Commerce hosts regular forums and seminars designed to support women in business. These are all open to you, so please use them!
3. Utilize education opportunities
An excellent resource for information on education opportunities is the Navy College Office on Naval Base Guam (671-339-8291). Find out which programs are offered online, on base, or about any special tuition rates available with schools on island.
As a military spouse, you have many financial aid resources available to you to pursue or continue your education. Explore federal grants and loans – particularly those that are only available to the military community. This should lessen the number of applicants and provide a better shot at receiving financial aid.
If your sponsor is eligible for the Post 9-11/GI Bill, you may consider transferring those benefits to yourself. There are criteria that must be met in order to transfer, so ensure you qualify, and that this option is best for your family.
Explore the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship (MyCAA). It is designed for spouses and provides up to $4,000 in financial assistance to eligible applicants. For more information, visit https://aiportal.acc.af.mil/mycaa/default.aspx
4. Be patient
Opportunities may take time to appear, and when one does, it may be outside your desired field. Before dismissing it, consider exploring a new specialty. It may not be your first choice, but it will expand your professional horizons and open you up to more possibilities in the future. Be patient, open-minded and willing to learn. When it comes to job searching overseas, these traits can only help you.
Carry your resiliency and adaptability into your career search. Be willing to look outside the box with patience and an open mind. Whether you land your dream job in Guam, or use your time on island to prepare for opportunities elsewhere, you’ll overcome one of the great challenges of being a military spouse.