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As of 2014, the US Department of Defense counted 992,241 military spouses. These military spouses move a lot because their military member does; both geographically and in and out of the workforce. This makes it difficult for many military spouses to find consistent, meaningful work, and to build a chronologically consistent portfolio of work experience.
The quantifiable price tag to the United States citizens because of the military spouse under and unemployment phenomenon was, at last count, close to $1 billion dollars. That figure doesn’t include the qualitative piece either; the self-esteem and quality of life issues faced by the spouse and the household. Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet states “This is a problem for military households. …. We’re hurting the military by not providing them the same opportunities others have. They [military spouses] don’t want a handout — they want to work”.
I believe there is light at the end of this tunnel, and I am convinced it isn’t the headlight of a train! It’s the headlight of opportunity! The opportunity of a career as a project manager.
I believe this because from my experience as a Veteran, through my work with thousands of transitioning military Members, Veterans, and Retirees (“Veterans”), and as a seasoned, successful project management professional and hiring manager. I know: 1. many military spouses could qualify as project managers; 2. many of them could develop themselves into commercially viable project managers; and 3. many military spouses could leverage their existing experience, skills, and talents into a transportable, durable, meaningful, lucrative career in project management.
This article describes how.
Project managers need many skills and talents, but a few key ones are:
Technical: the ability to plan and manage a budget, schedule, and scope, i.e. a project’s objectives;
Soft: the ability to manage conflict, especially over resources and objectives, communicate, motivate, and exert subtle influence are all key to a project manager’s success;
Strategic Management: Execute team activities and goals to meet organizational needs.
Project managers apply these fundamental skills to manage projects, which the “how to” manual of project management defines as any “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result” (PMBOK® Guide, 5th Ed., p. 553). Extending this definition, we see projects are undertaken in response to new or emerging customer, market, compliance, social, legal, or technological needs experienced by an organization.
Organizations can be the family unit, the member’s unit, the PTA, a church, the local MWR, or organizations outside the home at which the military spouse has or does work for; and projects can range from planning and executing:
A PCS (permanent change of station; probably many!) move;
Researching and planning integration into the new locale on the other end of that PCS move;
Fundraising events for one’s church;
A child dependent’s school, PTA, or Boy/Girl Scout Troop event;
Events, Research and Development, Marketing Research, Social Media campaigns, and business process improvement;
Or events at the local Project Management Institute. At last count, there were 277 of these throughout the world.
See what I mean? Many a military spouse has these skills and talents, and probably a significant amount of project work experience, not to mention healthy doses of resiliency, optimism, and tenacity to augment them.
The trick then is figuring out how to quantify and leverage this existing experience, skills, and talents many military spouses have into careers they can take with them when they move, engage in rather quickly when the get to the next duty station, and maintain throughout the service of their military member.
Here are the four steps along the professional development path that I advocate:
Step 1: Assess the quality and quantity of the military spouse’s project management experience;
Step 2: Train them to use proven good and emerging project management practices and tools and develop their knowledge, experience, talents, and skills;
Step 3: Qualify this training by obtaining globally-recognized professional project management credentials;
Step 4: Plug them into opportunities to do so in their local communities so their experience, talents, and skills mature and sharpen while their experience pool broadens and deepens. Churches, non-profit organizations, MWR and base activities, schools, and local small to mid-sized community businesses and PMI chapters are in desperate need of talented, experienced, credentialed project managers.
In a recent press conference, Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Georgia, said “For military families and for our nation, we must do more to support our military spouses in the work force. It’s how the country takes care of troops and their families that will determine how the military force will be sustained in the future “. I believe training and developing military spouses as effective, talented, credentialed project management professionals, is one sustainable, meaningful, impactful way to do this. But talk without action is simply that, talk.
That’s why Vets2PM supplies the plan of action as well:
Step 1: Contact Vets2PM at firstname.lastname@example.org to have your project experience identified, quantified, and qualified by our Veteran PMP®s;
Step 2: Attend one of our live, 35-hour, instructor-led quarterly military spouse-only PMP®/CAPM® Exam Boot Camps;
Step 3: Complete a 2-page Executive resume and 4-hour Interview Skills Workshop with our industry-expert coaches during your week long virtual PMP®/CAPM® Exam Boot Camp;
Step 4: Enjoy lifetime project management job coaching and placement assistance.
Eric is a decorated two-Service, two-Era US Military Veteran; Serial Founder; experienced, credentialed project manager and PMI Chapter-recognized mentor; and an entertaining instructor/public speaker on project management, deep learning and the military transition, PMI’s PMP®, CAPM® and ACP® exams, Vetrepreneurship; and project manager development. He helps Military Veterans change their lives profoundly through project management, entrepreneurship, and AI through inspiration, translation, training, and placement. For more information, please visit https://www.vets2pm.com, www.militaryvetstone.com, and www.linkedin.com/in/docwright2012.
PMBOK Guide, PMP, and CAPM are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.