Hiring Our Heroes is dedicated to connecting military spouses with meaningful employment opportunities and career advancement resources. We host comprehensive hiring and networking events as well as employment forums and career intensives, bringing attendees face-to-face with employers committed to hiring. Hiring Our Heroes also coordinates the Military Spouse Professional Network, a program connecting career-oriented military spouses with peers, mentors and employers through its more than 40 local chapters located across the globe.
Each month we highlight military spouses who participate in Hiring Our Heroes events and programs to allow them to share their experiences and success stories. This week we are pleased to introduce Meredith Smith.
What is your military affiliation and tell us about some of your passions.
I am an active duty Air Force military spouse. I am passionate about K-12 education policy, as well as policies at the state, national, and installation level that help military spouses more fully participate in the workforce. I feel very fortunate that my job as policy director for an education policy nonprofit, as well as my roles as chapter lead for the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network and as a Key Spouse for my husband’s squadron, allow me the opportunity to participate meaningful work that I love.
What interested you in participating in the Military Spouse Professional Network program through Hiring Our Heroes?
Like many military spouses, I have struggled at times to see how I was going to be able to maintain a career in my chosen field of public policy. That being said, so far I have been able to carry on my career more often than not. I have had so many professional advocates and friends who have helped facilitate introductions and make recommendations for me. I personally understand the power of referrals and how true the statistic it is that 80% of jobs come from word of mouth recommendations and relationships. The Military Spouse Professional Network helps facilitate the kind of professional network and support we all know is critical to maintaining a career, and it does so in a way that is accessible to more military spouses even amidst a sometimes-unpredictable life.
What is your favorite highlight or event from the Military Spouse Professional Network?
Every meeting is a favorite moment of mine. That may sound silly, but I look forward to our next monthly chapter meeting from the moment we end our meetings each month. Every month, I am humbled and amazed at the breadth of human talent we have among our chapter participants and the level of support, encouragement, and sound professional advice and insight we share with one another.
That being said, I definitely think some of the best “highlights” in the last six months were a LinkedIn workshop and the Chapter Lead Training in Seattle. For the LinkedIn Workshop we were able, through the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s relationship, to bring in LinkedIn’s Head of Military & Veterans Program to our monthly meeting. His expertise with the platform, coupled with his experience and perspective on military life, made for an incredibly dynamic meeting. Additionally, our annual Chapter Lead Training was incredible. Getting to spend time with so many career-minded military spouses and hear how they are approaching their installation’s needs through the Military Spouse Professional Network was exciting, thought provoking, and truly made me feel like I was part of one of the best culture shifts in military-related programming.
How have you engaged your local and/or military community?
I have engaged the military and civilian communities locally in an effort to bridge the civilian-military divide as it relates specifically to spouse employment. I frequently attend the Civilian-Military Affairs Council meetings at our largest local Chamber of Commerce. I also speak at newcomer orientations and quarterly Key Spouse Continuing Education Briefings. Military Spouse Professional Network Nevada has partnered with our local spouses club to host an event and combine efforts to reach spouses who are professionally focused or will be professionally focused at some point. The Airman and Family Readiness Centers in the local area have been helpful and supportive in getting our message out and referring interested people to our chapter. I have also engaged our local university Office of Veteran and Military Affairs as well as our local PBS affiliate. Vegas PBS offers an array of professional certificate programs and awarded two of our chapter participants grants for ongoing professional certification programs.
One of the projects I am incredibly excited to be starting is the development of a local area survey for military spouses. The base public affairs office has committed to disseminate this survey once it is developed. Right now, we don’t have any way to know things like: average education level, industry sector experience/expertise, years of experience, interests, etc. of local military spouses. I see this an impediment to connecting the military spouse community with appropriate resources. Additionally, this study would provide data that I could then take the local business community, other than anecdotal evidence or national level information about the pool of human talent among local military spouses that I currently use. I believe this project will be a way to tangibly show why it is truly good business to hire military spouses.
What is a humorous military spouse moment you’re willing to share?
My favorite personal funny moment happened after I had been a new military spouse for approximately two months. My husband and I arrived at Sheppard AFB in mid-December and were promptly invited to the base Christmas party. I had kept two cocktail dresses out of the moving boxes for a possible event like this. When the invitation came, the attire said “Christmas Casual.” I asked my husband to find out what the definition of casual meant, to which he said “Santa Suits, obviously.” I didn’t believe him, but I had also been married for just about 5 months and was still learning. I wore the cutest skinny jeans, a fun dressy top, and knee high boots to that party. We arrived and women were in evening gowns! That’s right, they were wearing evening gowns. My husband’s plan was to sit in the back with the other lieutenants (who were coincidentally, also dressed in Santa hats). There should have been no way for anyone to see me in my under-dressed state, except that my raffle ticket was called to compete against the base commander in a game of dizzy bat. I ended up winning that game and a great prize package with a weekend stay at a nice hotel in Dallas, all possibly because I wasn’t wearing an evening dress. Now I know not to ask my husband for his interpretation of the attire for an invitation. We laugh about this every year during holiday parties.