By: Pamela McBride
While working at the Fleet & Family Support Center to help fellow Navy wives job hunt, Sophia Marshall embarked on her own career path.
She decided to learn more about the career services field and resume writing services. Her first order of business was to join the National Resume Writers Association because she knew that professional associations offer military spouses countless benefits when it comes to starting, maintaining and growing their careers.
“I wanted to see what other people in the field were doing and how they got started,” she said. “What I learned was that there are so many paths I could take within my career field.”
For example, NRWA’s members are professional resume writers who work in career centers in the community, private industry, colleges and universities, military transition programs and independent businesses.
Despite frequent moves over 14 years of military life, Marshall built her credentials and gained valuable experience to add to her own resume.
“Professional associations offer workshops, conferences, electronic newsletters, magazines, webinars and online forums from which you can gain technical knowledge and therefore credibility in your field,” she said. “But you have to be involved.”
Military spouses can apply new skills and hone existing ones by volunteering in these associations. Marshall served on the marketing and conference committees in NRWA. She is also a member of the National Career Development Association and the vice-president of public relations in Toastmasters.
Today, she is a California-based freelance writer and career consultant and knows firsthand that she has immediate access to job leads and client referrals through any of these organizations.
Entrepreneurial military spouses can reap the benefits of professional associations by taking a slightly different approach.
Amy Schofield, Navy wife and owner of Schofield Strategies, said, “I aligned myself within my industry and within my demographic as a military spouse by joining the National Military Spouse Network.”
In her second year, her affiliation with NMSN tripled her business.
“It is like having a mastermind group. Our monthly conference calls are small, intimate groups of military spouses who are entrepreneurs. There are photographers, CPAs, lawyers, writers, all kinds of business owners,” she said. “We discuss what we need help with and what we are doing, and we get real solutions to our problems, resources and plenty of referrals from each other. If I hadn’t joined I’d be doing business on my own and definitely would not have grown as much as I have.”
Schofield, who lives in Maryland, is also a member of the International Virtual Assistants Association and the National Resume Writers Association. She offers two suggestions about joining professional associations.
“In most cases, you should limit yourself to two or three memberships so you don’t get too overwhelmed with being active,” she said. “You want to get to know other members, but as a business owner you need to focus on your work too.
And, as easy as it is to just go online and pick one, talk to your colleagues and friends in the field to learn which ones are the best for you based on the group’s mission, cost, benefits, etc.
Marshall offered advice too.
“As military spouses we often feel ungrounded professionally because we move around so much,” she said. “Being a member of a professional association gives us a consistent connection with our industry, its trends and best practices. When an employer sees this on your resume they know you are committed to being your professional best and they value that initiative.”