My ringtone sounded, right on time. A burning ache gnawed at my stomach. I took a deep breath and swiped to answer.
“Oh, uh, hi! Lisa?”
“Yes. Hi, how are you, Ted?”
“Great! Great, great … so good to hear from you! Uh, well, I mean, good to talk to you,” Ted chuckled nervously. “How long has it been since you …”
“Three weeks and four days,” I interrupted, wanting to get to the reason for the call.
“Did I get the job or not?” I thought, letting Ted ramble for another minute to cure his jitters. Even though I had been the leading candidate throughout the interview process, I was bracing myself for rejection. Judging by Ted’s nerves, it wasn’t look-ing good.
Finally, Ted elaborately sighed and said, “Well, Lisa, I hate making these calls. I want you to know that we had another can-didate come in late to the process … she had experience that we just couldn’t pass up. And, well, we made her an offer.”
I was silent, but not surprised.
Ted filled the awkward silence with painful prattle, which made me feel worse for him than for me.
“You know, I, uh, we all really loved you here, so this is a hard one, but we’re really hoping that something else will come up in the future. I, we have to look at the way we do work around here, and make some changes.... There may be something in six months, three months down the road, we’re not quite sure. But we all really felt your passion, and would like to see you here one day.”
“I appreciate you letting me know, Ted. Thank you.” I mercifully allowed him to escape the miserable call.
A week later, a friend sent me a listing for a light, part-time job, for which I was educationally overqualified. “I know it’s not what you’re looking for,” she told me, “but it’s a great job.” “Maybe this is a way to prove myself,” I thought, and fired off my résumé.
Two weeks after my interview, I got the rejection call, with an explanation that another candidate came forward who had consistent experience and needed no training.
It was the third rejection in two months of interviewing for jobs as a new empty nester. After each rejection call, I sent emails asking for “any feedback you might have as I continue my job search.” Each time, the employers offered no criticism of my interviews or résumé whatsoever. One even said my interview was “perfect.” However, each employer responded that the winning candidate simply had more experience.
Story of my life.
As a Navy wife who moved many times in 23 years while my husband was active duty, making the fragmented bits of my in-terrupted work history and volunteer experience look like a “career” takes the kind of creativity that I obviously do not possess. Despite the fact that I have advanced educational degrees that took me seven years and more than $100,000 to acquire, and licenses to practice law in two states, I can’t seem to get a job.
I am not alone. Military spouses all over America find it challenging to land good jobs. According to a 2018 study of Military Spouses in the Labor Market by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, military spouses attend college more than their civilian peers, but face double the unemployment rates, earn an average of $12,000 less annually, are underemployed relative to their educations and skills, and are disproportionately affected by occupational licensing requirements.
The Council concluded that “frequent moves, unpredictable hours, rural base assignments and deployments all take a toll on the labor market outcomes of military spouses [who are] subject to the geographic and temporal constraints imposed by their active-duty spouse.”
Although new initiatives to hire military spouses were announced earlier this year, the issue soon disappeared from the headlines. National unemployment rates have reached record lows, but the problem for military spouses persists.
When all is said and done, military spouses don’t want lip service. What we really need is a chance.