MOAA Spouse Symposium comes to Virginia Beach, May 12
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Spouse Symposium is an awesome event, which occurs annually in the Hampton Roads area. This year, they are expanding the scope and including a career fair. The theme is all about careers – getting one, keeping one, and most importantly, discovering what fulfills you, works with your military life and best uses your talents. Whether you’re looking for a job now, getting ready to PCS, or getting ready to go back to the workforce, there is something for everyone. I spoke with Monique Rizer, MOAA’s Deputy Director for Spouse Programs, and asked her for the down low on what Hampton Roads military spouses could expect at the day-long event.
What was the impetus for the focus on careers?
Through our spouse council, outreach events and particularly with the changes to MyCAA, spouses tell us they want to have a fulfilling, upwardly moving career while they serve alongside their military partner. I’m a working mom and military spouse. Our military family government relations deputy is also a working mom and military spouse, so we know firsthand the challenges out there. But we also know there are a lot of creative solutions to keeping a career on the move. From learning how to market yourself better to advocating for legislative changes that will make a difference for everyone, we want to help spouses get the career and family life balance they are seeking.
What should attendees expect, besides a good lunch?
We wanted spouses to leave feeling empowered. So, the core of the day is a two-hour workshop called, “Finding your Dependable Strengths.” I took this class after a graduating from college, when we are “supposed” to know who we are and our career path, right? Well, I didn’t know any of those things and I know I’m not alone. It took five colleges to finally complete my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and even then, I didn’t really know how to make myself stand out to an employer. This course was illuminating. I learned how to identify my skills and describe them to an employer in a way that sets me apart from my peers. But mostly, I learned where I needed to improve, to put myself out there and take some risks. The class was less about “how to find a job” and more about me getting to know myself and my skills better. Later I learned the course was developed to help returning World War II veterans transition to the civilian workforce and it’s being used to help veterans today as well.
The instructor is a career services director for the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, which is a school the Today Show has described as “the model of success in higher education.” Normally this course costs $200, but we’ve negotiated with the instructor to bring it to our event for basically the cost of lunch. It’s a no-brainer. Take the day off and get a sitter. If you do nothing else for yourself this year, take this workshop.
Of course that’s just one part of the day. In the morning you’ll get to talk to the Department of Defense State Liaison Office chief. This office educates state leaders on issues that must be handled at the state level. One issue this office works that people are probably most familiar with is the military child education compact. Because of our history of success with the State Liaison Office, we wanted to connect them with spouses who could provide insight on the challenges to maintaining a license or certificate from state to state, which is one of the State Liaison Office’s top-ten issues.
And the grand finale to the day is a career fair. Take everything you’ve learned at the workshop and talk to employers, get a free résumé review or the MOAA seminar, “The Dollars and Sense of Working Outside the Home.”
We’re also working on a special feature that will allow attendees to talk one-on-one with employers, either about a job or just to get their perspective on hiring military spouses. Stay tuned for more on that feature.
What employers are participating?
USAA, Sentara and the Exchange are a few. We are working closely with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Heroes initiative to bring employers to the event, so be sure to check the website for updates on the participating employers.
How will this event be different from other career fairs or military spouse conferences?
I think the difference is the dynamics. There are a lot of events where you are sitting listening to people talk to you. We wanted to shift to focus to spouses. So often we find resources or get ideas from chatting with our friends and sharing our stories. At this spouse event you’ll get to do that … and more.
This year’s MOAA Military Spouse Symposium and Career Fair will be held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center from 8:45 a.m. until 4 p.m. on May 12. The cost is $25. Visit MOAA’s website for more information. This military spouse will definitely be there!
Vivian Greentree lives in Chesapeake and is the Research Director for Blue Star Families. This article originally appeared in the Spouse Speak column of The Flagship.