Military Spouses Speak Up: We Don't Just Want Any Job, We Want the Right Job

military spouses speak up
A military spouse working on a computer at a Hiring Our Heroes event. (Jessica Cleland/U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

It's a truth often repeated in military spouse circles: The career goals of milspouses, we say, are as varied as the population. We don't all want the same jobs, we don't all want government jobs, and we don't even all want jobs that we can do from home.

Now, thanks to a recent survey of military spouses done through a trio of spouse career support programs, that fact could make its way to policymakers' desks.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes survey, done in collaboration with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University and Starbucks, leveraged the experience of more 3,300 military spouses to gather insights about their employment and well-being.

Conducted between June 22 and July 10, 2020, participants were married to an active-duty service member, reservist, National Guard member, or a retired or recently separated (within the last three years) veteran. And thanks to its timing, it took into account experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey was meant to capture whether spouse well-being and mental health are directly related to gaining and keeping meaningful employment. It also looked at the impact of chronic military spouse unemployment and underemployment, now coupled with pandemic hardships.

"The intent of this research was to identify how employment, unemployment and underemployment impact military spouses' mental health and wellbeing, and provide actionable recommendations for community providers and nonprofits, employers and government to best support spouse employment and wellbeing outcomes," Hisako Sonethavilay, a senior adviser with the Military Spouse Program at Hiring Our Heroes, said in an email to

Survey participants captured a broad sample of the spouse community. About 45% were married to an enlisted service member between the ranks of E-5 and E-9, while 28% were spouses of those in the ranks of O-4 to O-6; 88% were active duty. 

Hiring Our Heroes Feb 4 event
Hiring Our Heroes is hosting a virtual event on Feb. 4 to reveal the full results of their survey. (Courtesy photo)

"My career has been one of the most stabilizing forces in our military family's journey. Without question, it has positively impacted my own well-being and mental health. It's allowed me to maintain a sense of purpose and has often served as a much-needed lifeline, providing a sense of normalcy and familiarity with every curveball military life throws at us," said one Marine Corps spouse participant.

Surveys and reports capturing data on issues, problems or military life experiences broadly recognized in the military community are important as advocates attempt to drive policy changes.

To learn more of the key findings of the 2020 Military Spouse Employment and Wellbeing Survey, tune into the live "Reclaiming a Sense of Self Through Employment" event at 1 p.m. ET on Feb. 4. Featured speakers and subject-matter experts will discuss the relevance of the research and the recommendations they're suggesting to help support the employment and well-being of military spouses.

Register for the event here.

--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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