Rachel O'Hern Serves on Mission Transition Summit Panel

Last week I was invited to attend and participate in a summit co-sponsored by the Bush Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes program as part of a military spouse and caregiver employment panel. I was honored to share my opinions and experience with the summit attendees, and thought I would post one of the questions here:

We have talked so much today about the skill set a service member can bring to a company. Can you talk to me about the skill set of a military spouse and a caregiver? How can being an advocate and caregiver translate on a resume?

Several things come to mind, and it is worth noting that every milspouse or caregiver is different and brings different gifts and talents. That said, I believe a few are consistent across the board:

1. The ability to work collaboratively as part of a multidisciplinary team. When my husband was injured and we were getting ready to leave the hospital and transition to first a hotel room and eventually on post housing, I worked with his chain of command, VA personnel, his occupational therapist, and a nonprofit or two to ensure that every ‘i’ was dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. Different forms, different offices, and multiple agencies all working to a common goal, and all revolving around my family, managed by yours truly as the caregiver at the time. Sounds like something most corporations could benefit from to me!

2. Creativity. In my home state of Texas, we say anything can be fixed with duct tape and baling wire. In my Army community, it’s 550 cord and 100 mile an hour tape, but the theme is the same: finding creative solutions to every day challenges. I would offer no one does that better than a caregiver or military spouse. Whether you’re accommodating for hypervigilance by avoiding loud crowds or coordinating logistics for 3 sets of summer activities for kiddos, creativity is required skill for military spouses and caregivers.

3. A deep appreciation of the value of time. Many would-be employers have concerns about their return on investment should they hire a milspouse or caregiver. Is a spouse going to be around long enough to be worth the time to train? Is a caregiver going to be frequently late or absent? I understand these hesitations, but would counter that no one knows the value of time like a military spouse or caregiver. They will absolutely hit the ground running and make every minute count. Whether it’s a short tour of duty, where you gotta be on your A game to see and do everything on your list, living in each moment of a short 14 day mid tour leave, or anxiously waiting on a doctor to hear the outcome of the latest surgery, milspouses and caregiver know the value of time and their work ethic reflects that.

My thanks to the Bush Institute and Hiring our Heroes for hosting the event and including a discussion focused on caregivers and milspouses, my co panelists Mary Winnefeld and Amy Bontrager for your insightful contributions and support in this crazy military life, and the Quality of Life Foundation Board of Directors for taking a chance and hiring me even as a currently-serving spouse and occasional caregiver, and giving me a dream opportunity to serve this special population.