06 March 2013

Rayna Holley Letterman: The Life of an Overqualified Military Wife

The Ms. Foundation for Women is celebrating Women’s History Month with a blog carnival featuring the voices and profiles of women across the country. This Month of Action is generously supported by our friends in Seattle.

As the wife of a soldier, I might as well wear a big, red scarlet letter on my chest when I go in for an interview because there are actually businesses out there that refuse to hire military wives. Is it unfair? Yes. Am I being labeled for no reason? Absolutely. Are those businesses missing out on some of the most qualified, dedicated, reliable employees out there? You betcha, and here’s why.

There is a stereotype associated with military wives that prevents companies from taking a chance on women like me. Hiring officials automatically assume that as a military wife you’ll be moving in two to three years to a new base or that your personal life will interfere with your work if your husband deploys. Job interviews always seem to take a turn for the worst whenever I’m asked, “So, what brought you to Hawaii-Texas-Washington?”

There are very few military wives who I’ve come across who haven’t attended college or some type of trade school. In fact, a heck of a lot of us have or are working toward getting our master’s degree because our husbands have signed over their GI Bill to us. And, when we’re rejected from job after job after job, we decide if we’re not working, we might as well go to school. In other words, we’re educated.

Military wives are also amazing at multitasking. We can do laundry while finishing up a paper for grad school while cooking dinner with a 3-year-old hanging off our leg while talking to our husband long distance from Afghanistan. You think we can’t handle writing a few press releases? In other words, we get stuff done.

And finally, military wives are the most dedicated employees you’ll ever hire. We’re so used to being rejected because of our husband's career choice that when someone does take a chance on us, we’re extremely grateful and will do whatever we can to stay at that duty station so we can keep that job – which means you never have to worry about us jumping ship or not making a deadline.

When I met my husband, I was working as a news producer in a top-50 market. I gave up my career, my friends and my family to be his wife. It took me five years, two moves across the world, lots of volunteer work to keep my skill set current and thousands of hours spent filling out applications online before someone finally took a chance on me.

I’m happy to report that I’m working full-time again as an editor for a public affairs office near Seattle. I’m excelling in my career, and my boss tells me every day how lucky the office is to have me. My hope is that more corporations and businesses will realize what an untapped resource the military spousal community is. There are thousands and thousands of overqualified military wives out there who are unemployed. They’re just waiting for someone to take a chance on them like my boss did on me.

Rayna Holley Letterman lives in Seattle, Washington.

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