Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What is one of DoD’s most successful programs for military families? It has to be the Military Spouse Employment Partnership program, which helps match job-seeking spouses with more than 300 companies across the country. To date, MSEP has helped 95,000 individuals find meaningful employment opportunities with some of the top names in business today.

That was just one of the exciting tidbits I learned recently at the Military Spouse Coffee Connect sponsored by MSEP, which brought together representatives from partner nongovernmental organizations, MSEP employment specialists and military spouses at a Northern Virginia Starbucks. Only fitting since the coffee purveyor is also a dedicated MSEP partner company.

Eddy Mentzer, an associate director in DoD’s Office of Family Readiness Policy, Military Community and Family Policy overseeing MSEP, got the coffee hour off to a rousing start with the announcement of the new employment number and the promise to see it go even higher. To reach that goal, MSEP is hard at work vetting more companies to join the partnership.

Mentzer’s co-host for the event was Herrick Ross, a Marine veteran and now a military talent recruiter for Starbucks Coffee Company Ross said Starbucks made a commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and spouses back in 2013 and to date has hired more than 6,000. Ross said the positions range from baristas to shift supervisors to store managers. There are also employment opportunities available at regional offices and the national headquarters. Starbucks was an easy fit as an MSEP partner due to its national footprint and Ross said the company even changed its job-transfer policy to be friendlier to military spouse employees.

I met Army spouse Vanessa Muniz, who just happened to be on duty that morning as shift supervisor. She was able to take advantage of the transfer policy when she and her husband landed at Fort Belvoir. Muniz highly recommends working at Starbucks, not only because of the employee benefits but because of how military-affiliated employees are treated. “It’s amazing to have a network of support here at work, which is just like the support we form in our units,” she said.

Ross explained that Starbucks created an Armed Forces Network within the company designed to support veteran and military spouse employees. “We match them with mentors to help their career growth and offer transition assistance,” he said. Mentzer said that is typical of the on-the-job support MSEP partners provide to military spouse employees. The company partners are also eager to help job-seekers with advice on entering the workforce, resume writing and career direction during MSEP’s monthly Facebook video chats.

Some more great job search tips shared over cups of dark roast:

• Take advantage of the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) counseling services, especially to assist with your resume. They can help you translate your military life and volunteer experience into an effective and impressive resume.

• Want to avoid employment breaks caused by PCS moves? Focus your employment search on national companies that have already expressed an interest in hiring military-affiliated people and offer transition opportunities. Creating a profile with MSEP is a good first step.

• Interested in part-time work? You might want to try a job-search site like www.flexjobs.com, which focuses on telecommuting, freelance and other part-time opportunities.

• Join professional associations in your career field to develop networks and identify career paths. You may even be able to connect with someone willing to be a mentor.

• Take advantage of all the employment assistance resources available to you, whether through SECO, MSEP, Military Officer’s Association of America, the Association of the U.S. Army, National Military Family Association, Hiring our Heroes or any of the other nonprofit organizations out there. And don’t forget the free employment counseling services available through SECO for more personalized help.