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Six Powerful Career Secrets of a Successful Military Spouse

military spouse

(Article originally posted on BestCompaniesTexas)

Brian Bowen, Branch Manager for the Biltmore branch of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., exudes enthusiasm and positivity. The kind of brand ambassador companies covet, Brian has immense pride in his company, a passion for lifelong learning, and the values associated with being a military veteran. Except that Brian has never himself been in the military.

As a military spouse, Brian is a rarity. Only seven percent of all military spouses are male, and fewer yet are able to maintain a progressive, successful private sector career. With his own drive and the help of Schwab, a top military-friendly company, Brian has prospered. Here is his extraordinary story.

As a young college grad, Brian was dedicated to the idea of doing something to change the world, and was met with skepticism from friends and college peers; “Bri, you’re never going to be able to support a family”. Charles Schwab’s mission and values-driven approach to financial services impressed Brian. With ethics and accessibility at the core of the company, Brian was happy to start at an entry level, answering phones.

Charles Schwab believed in Brian, too, helping him further his education at ASU. When Brian married Captain Lora Bowen, USAF, he fully expected her military career to disrupt his work experience.

This is a sacrifice many military couples make. “Being a military spouse has its own set of stresses”, explains Brian. “There was always a dark cloud that I wanted to bring my own set of successes to the relationship, and had concerns that I wouldn’t be able to do that.”

That concern was alleviated by the extraordinary level of support Brian received from Charles Schwab. When Lora received orders to Boston, he planned to resign from Charles Schwab to go with her. Instead, Brian was allowed to transfer, and used that opportunity to gain new experience. When she was deployed to Iraq, Brian’s former boss at Charles Schwab invited him to return to Texas. Lora’s career took her to San Diego, where Brian was able to join her – still as part of the Charles Schwab team. During this time Brian was expanding his skill set, and was promoted. Brian and Lora eventually settled back in Texas, in Brian’s childhood neighborhood – with Brian’s career at Charles Schwab well established.

Brian’s story contains powerful lessons for veteran and military spouse job seekers. Here are six of Brian’s secrets:

Create a stellar personal brand for yourself.

Brian’s personal pride drove him to be the best. He ensured that others could count on him, and that he was an “idea person” who could be counted on to contribute.

Find adaptable employers.

“Every few years I knew there would be a great change in our lives,” he says. “I didn’t expect it to be so easy, but I worked with a company that is so adaptable.” While Brian didn’t plan for his employer to accommodate his many moves, in this case Charles Schwab was able to do so. As a military spouse, seek out companies with a wide national presence, geographic flexibility, and a military-friendly culture.

Focus on your value as much as your path.

Brian couldn’t have the specific career path conversations most employees count on, since he didn’t know where Lora’s commitments would take him. As a go-getter, Brian didn’t let the uncertainty slow his own development. “I found that if I kept working hard, opportunities arose and I was able to take them.”

Sharpen your skills.

Study up on the latest and greatest in your field, and you’ll have more to offer. Brian advises, “Education, public speaking skills, understanding the latest trends – companies want to be on the cutting edge.”

Leverage your resources.

Take advantage of every type of assistance that’s available to you as a military spouse or veteran, and remember that people want to support former and current military and their families.

Make no apologies.

Brian is an exception; many military spouses will experience some career disruption, and their resumes will reflect that. “As a spouse, if your career path took a hiccup, don’t be shy about that. It’s not an excuse, it’s a valid reason”, says Brian.

At times military spouses may be overlooked. Brian notes, “I had to worry about my wife every second when she was in Iraq. People often thank veterans for serving, but I also thank the spouses for their support of service.”

Being a military spouse adds complexity to a life and career. People like Brian Bowen and companies like Charles Schwab provide inspiration.

Schwab has been the recipient of numerous awards for its military-friendly workplace and culture. For more information on careers at Schwab, visit their BestCompaniesTexas profile.

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