Military caregivers are the unsung heroes of our armed forces. When a service member becomes sick or critically injured while serving in the U.S. military, a spouse or family member often steps up to assist as a designated caregiver.
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Suddenly, they may become a full-time caregiver for a wounded veteran while also managing their other family care responsibilities.
This is precisely what happened to Yellow Ribbon Fund (YRF) recipient Caitlin, who has been the military caregiver for her husband since 2014.
She was looking for a job outside of her household and caregiving duties.
After going through a retraining course offered through YRF and the MilSpo Academy Powered by CareerDash, Caitlin went from being a 10-year stay-at-home mom to a successful recruiter.
Here are five tips for military caregivers to help manage or find a new career while caring for loved ones.
1. Set Realistic Goals For Your Job Hunt As A Military Caregiver
Now that you have assumed caregiver responsibilities in addition to all your other roles, you need to think carefully about the kind of job that will work best for you and your family.
It is a good idea to make a list of things that are important to you before you start applying to every opportunity you find online.
For example, do you prefer to work from home? One of the upsides of the pandemic is that many businesses now permit or even prefer that employees work remotely. So if working from home is best for you, you will have more options than ever. Alternatively, if getting out of the house to focus on your job is the best mental health option for you, then keep that in mind.
Many families of injured service members find they must move, often hundreds of miles from extended support systems, to ensure their injured family member receives the best care. If this is your situation, you may need a position that allows you to pick up your kids from school each day.
You may also no longer live close enough to the kinds of organizations that typically employ people with your skill sets, so you may need to plan a transition to a new career path that uses your skills and experience in a new way.
The bottom line is that a little planning will help your resume land in front of the hiring managers in your community, who will appreciate your skills and can offer a job that will fit your needs.
2. Target Employers That Can Meet Your Needs
Do a little research to determine which organizations will likely meet your needs. There are several strategies for identifying your target list of possible employers, including searching online for a list of the best companies to work for in your area, searching job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed for terms that are important to you, such as “flexible” or “manager,” asking friends or former colleagues for ideas on good companies that are hiring now and checking with caregiver groups on social media for ideas.
Once you have compiled a list of employers that might need someone with your skills and that are open to hiring people who may have special needs due to their caregiver roles, you have a good starting place for your job hunt.
3. Update Your Resume And LinkedIn Profile To Show The New Skills You Have Learned As A Military Caregiver
Nowadays, your LinkedIn profile is as important as your resume; perhaps, even more important. If writing is not your strong suit, you might consider working with a LinkedIn or resume consultant to help you put your best foot forward. The federal government offers a wide range of free services to veterans and their families as they transition to civilian life. Look here for a list of 28 free resources: https://www.military.com/veteran-jobs/career-advice/28-valuable-free-resources-veterans-re-entering-workforce.html
Consider the new skills you have acquired as part of your caregiver role. For example, you have learned a lot about where to get help for injured service members, how health insurance works as the wounded veteran is in transition from military to civilian life, how your home or rental property needs to be adapted for various physical needs, how to manage medications and so forth.
While these skills may not seem to translate to most work environments, most can be quite valuable. For example, figuring out where to get help and navigating the military medical system is very similar to the role played by patient advocates or social workers. Knowing how to adapt your physical space might lead to jobs with an interior design company that specializes in adapting spaces for the physically challenged.
Consider whether your time as a military caregiver has enriched your skillset, and adjust your resume and LinkedIn profile accordingly.
4. Prepare For Interviews With Your Military Caregiver Role In Mind
Finally, you have carefully targeted your search to organizations likely to fit your needs, applied for an open position and are preparing for an interview. Congratulations!
It is time to help the hiring manager see you as a critical part of their team. Your job is, to be honest, professional and approachable.
If you have a job gap and need to explain your situation as a military caregiver, be brief and professional and then move on.
If you have developed new skills as a caregiver that you can bring to your job, let them know without belaboring the point.
Understand that you are more than a military caregiver.
If you are nervous, practice with friends, family members or colleagues. It is well worth your time to prepare because you have a real opportunity in front of you.
5. Take Advantage Of Your Caregiver Support System
Being a caregiver is no easy feat. A study by the RAND Corporation showed that caregivers have a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety and burnout than non-caregivers. With caregivers responsible for numerous duties and people, their lives can become increasingly stressful before a job search is added. One way to combat this is to get involved with support systems and caregiver programs. Thankfully, there are numerous resource programs for veteran caregivers.
Many organizations such as Veteran Warriors, Inc., Hope for the Warriors and Yellow Ribbon Fund offer education assistance. Annually, Yellow Ribbon Fund provides 48 scholarships for caregivers to the MilSpo Academy Powered by CareerDash. CareerDash is a career development program that teaches essential skills and knowledge to military spouses launching a career that fits the hectic lifestyle of a military spouse or caregiver. Through Yellow Ribbon Fund’s scholarship program, military caregivers can get financial support to attend helpful classes at the academy. These scholarships help ease the financial burden faced by many caregivers.
The Bottom Line
When you are ready to re-enter the workforce while continuing your duties as a military caregiver, the task of connecting with a potential employer or retraining program can seem daunting. Ultimately, it is possible to successfully manage both a career and caregiving with the right resources, support and training.
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For more information about the Yellow Ribbon Fund Career Development program, visit yellowribbonfund.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.