Real Spouse Jobs: Nonprofit Executive Director

Amanda Crowe, executive director of In Gear Career, and her family.

Amanda Crowe is the executive director of one of our favorite military spouse nonprofits, In Gear Career. Her job is to help other spouses find work through chapters that help spouses network in the local community.

We asked Amanda to tell us about how her family balances two careers. Her secret: Her husband prizes her work as much as she does.

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What do you do for a paycheck?

I am the executive director of In Gear Career, a nonprofit organization providing a free forum for professional development, community support, information sharing, and networking to address the unique challenges faced by the career-minded military spouses.

What do you like best about your job?

There are two things I love about this job:

1) The thrill of matching an employer and a great military spouse professional. 

2) Seeing career-minded military spouses meet other career-minded spouses and getting the "I'm not alone" look on their faces.

How did you get your job?

I got my job by telling everyone I met (including board members for In Gear Career) that I wanted to work in a nonprofit that supported military families, and then volunteering for the organization first.

If you went to college, what was your major? Are you using it?

I have a bachelor's in psychology and a master's degree in administrative studies. I use the master's degree in a more traditional way, but don't we all use a bit of psychology every day?

How has being married to a service member impacted your own career? How did you get around that?

Related: The Military Spouse Employment Manual

I married my husband a bit later than some (I was 30), so I haven't had to PCS as many times as a lot of military spouses. After a year of searching for a job and then an eight-month deployment of my own (I was a Navy reservist), I left Washington, D.C., an area rich with jobs in my field, to be with him in Hampton Roads, Va.

I worked for U.S. Joint Forces Command until it was closed and I was laid off ... 14 months before we were set to PCS. When that command closed, not only did my job disappear, but also most of the jobs in my field.

The way I got around it at the time was taking what was available. The company that had to lay me off called with a part-time, work-at-home job.

Sounds great to some I'm sure, but to me it was honestly not at all attractive. I like being social in an office. I wanted full-time work, and the work itself was really just not my favorite. I took it, however, because every little bit helped at that point.

Then I started a game plan for what I would do at the next station. When we moved, I had three months to find a job before even the part-time job went away. I jumped right into networking (with In Gear Career, as it were) and told everyone I knew I was ready to make a change and wanted to work for a nonprofit that supports military families ... and the rest is history.

What one piece of advice would you give to military spouses who want to balance volunteer work and professional work?

I think balancing anything is hard, so I would start there. Know that it's likely going to be difficult to find ways to do everything you'd like to do in a day/week/month.

Look for volunteer opportunities you can do from home (unless you're looking for a job, then get OUT there and meet people while volunteering who may introduce you to your next employer); do you have a particular skill set you can apply online in some way (tutoring, editing, legal advice -- only if you're a lawyer, please)?

How does your service member support your career?

My husband supports my career in a number of ways. One is that he was very understanding when I said I wanted to transition from a defense contracting position to a nonprofit role (hello, pay cut!). 

Now that I'm in the role and he can see the passion, he tells everyone he knows about my job and the services offered by In Gear Career. He's a great cheerleader.

It also happens that he is in a fairly predictable assignment for the first time ... well, ever. With that in mind, he gladly rearranges his schedule when he can to accommodate my evening networking events and travel requirements. I honestly haven't heard even one complaint from him, and I'm grateful.

What is the one strength you use on the job every day?

Communication skills. I find that especially when working remotely, and in today's technological world, the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently is very important. People want to know what they need to know and they want it quickly.

What are your favorite qualities in a co-worker?

The ability to laugh at themselves and to allow me to laugh at my own mistakes. No matter your line of work, things can get really serious at times, but laughter can help defuse tense moments and help you remember that we are all human and things happen.

Have you ever told a prospective employer you are a military spouse during the interview process? Do you think it affected the way you were reviewed as a candidate for the position?

I actually have told employers that I was a military spouse, but in my case, the jobs I have had since becoming a military spouse were in military friendly environments. In one case, I knew the hiring manager was a military spouse herself, and, of course, for In Gear Career being a military spouse was a requirement.

What was the hardest lesson you needed to learn about work?

A lesson I am still working on now is streamlining processes and time management. I love what I do, which makes every aspect of that job important to me. I sometimes struggle with looking like a dog chasing a squirrel.

What keeps you working?

In my current position, the love of seeing military spouses making productive connections keeps me working, but overall, working is just something I've always enjoyed and even needed to feel happy.

What is your favorite quote?

I LOVE quotes so it's hard to choose just one, but I think this is especially great: "I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear." -- Rosa Parks.

What is your version of happily ever after?

My version of happily ever after includes my husband and I both having the ability to pursue our individual career goals while raising a strong, independent child (or children) who understands that mom and dad are equal partners and that their own future partner(s) should be viewed in the same manner.

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