Portable employment may be a key solution to lowering unemployment rates among military spouses, but what happens when the service member receives orders to a location outside the United States? When does portability travel across oceans?
Until recently, when a military spouse packed up to move to a new country, they accepted a period of unemployment. (Have you heard military spouses joke about an employment gap the size of Guam?) But things are changing.
Hiring Our Heroes is highlighting one Army spouse’s persistence to remain employed with her current employer while living in Singapore. Thanks to supportive leadership and a strong network of military spouse colleagues, her employment story can inspire more military spouses to have portable careers beyond borders.
“It Was Not as Easy as Picking Up My Laptop and Logging on From Abroad”
Cassie McConville is an Air Force veteran and Army spouse working as a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting LLP. A year ago, McConville and her husband discussed the possibility of an overseas military assignment. The couple agreed they were interested in the opportunity. But during the preparation process, the question — if and how she could maintain employment with Deloitte while living outside the United States? — nagged McConville.
“I recall thinking, ‘Deloitte has locations all over the world. This shouldn’t be too hard, right?’ While Deloitte does have an office in Singapore, it was not as easy as picking up my laptop and logging on from abroad,” McConville said.
Her search for the answers started with her employer.
“Initiating conversations about my move early with senior Deloitte leaders paid dividends, since there was no clear path or single person with all the answers,” McConville said.
McConville networked with several Deloitte leaders who formed an informal task force supporting her relocation. The task force engaged with relevant stakeholders, both domestically and globally, to overcome barriers and to transition her Deloitte employment to Singapore.
There were several issues to resolve between security and international tax obstacles, foreign work pass requirements, aligning with Deloitte’s Southeast Asia firm and Singapore COVID-19 restrictions.
“Meanwhile, I kept the information close hold from my immediate team. I worried my imminent departure might change our working dynamics, or I would be relieved of tasks, because people would not want to invest in someone who was leaving,” McConville said.
When the time came to share her news, the reaction was the opposite.
“My colleagues were delighted for our family and expressed how I had impacted them – making the goodbyes even harder,” she said. “One thing was clear during these conversations: At all levels within Deloitte, I was encouraged, supported, and even offered travel recommendations for our new life in Singapore!”
A Network of Military Spouse Ambassadors Provide Transfer Support
Deloitte provides audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services to more than 7,000 private companies. The global firm employs 415,000 people in more than 150 countries and territories.
Deloitte Consulting LLP Specialist Executive Rosemary Williams explained that more than 2 million military families move every two to four years, on average. Frequent relocations are a contributing factor to high military spouse unemployment rates. Receiving military orders to move to Asia isn’t unique for military families. But McConville’s current employed status is rare among her peers.
“[Cassie’s story is] unique in the sense that her employer, Deloitte, strongly and enthusiastically supported her efforts to remain employed with the organization and further her career growth, despite the unusual PCS location,” Williams said.
“[Cassie’s story is] unique in the sense that her employer, Deloitte, strongly and enthusiastically supported her efforts to remain employed with the organization and further her career growth, despite the unusual PCS location.”Rosemary Williams, Deloitte Consulting LLP Specialist Executive
Deloitte has a volunteer, peer-led Military Spouse Initiative (MSI) to attract and retain talented military spouse employees. One of MSI’s functions is to support military spouses during Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, helping them remain with Deloitte while relocating with their families.
Within MSI, Deloitte’s Military Spouse Ambassador Program focuses on transfer support and mentorship.
“Military spouse ambassadors ensure military spouses understand the transfer process within Deloitte,” Williams said. “They help military spouses connect with other Deloitte professionals who have made similar moves. The ambassadors also facilitate important conversations between military spouses and key individuals across the firm to ensure seamless transitions.”
Additionally, the ambassadors provide a sounding board throughout the transfer process.
McConville recalled the value of networking during her transfer process.
“As a former Air Force officer, I was accustomed to a hierarchical structure that communicated via the chain of command,” McConville said. “Deloitte’s matrixed organizational culture allowed and encouraged me to directly contact senior leaders – it was opposite to my previous military experiences. In fact, I remember how shocked I was after learning I could just email a partner and request a coffee chat.”
She advised military spouses to be brave and have courage if they find themselves in a similar employment situation.
“Assuming it’s appropriate in your organization, don’t be afraid to ask senior leaders for help. Their advocacy for your case carries a lot of influence, and they may know about options outside your purview,” McConville said.
Deloitte has these resources because of its greater commitment to service members and their families.
“Supporting military spouse employment improves retention rates within our nation’s fighting force and helps mitigate the negative impacts of spouse unemployment,” Williams said.
Also, military spouses bring valuable skills to Deloitte, and the firm wants to retain this top talent.
“Deloitte understands the value military spouses bring to today’s workforce – including, but not limited to, their resilience, tenacity, teamwork, eagerness to upskill and learn, and empathetic leadership at all levels,” Williams said.
“You Can Become a Trailblazer”
McConville’s success story hinged on a tenacious spirit. It took eight months to work through the challenges associated with her desire to continue to work at Deloitte. Throughout this period, her job status in Singapore was in constant flux.
“However, Deloitte never wavered in its commitment to keep me employed and support me and my family. And when I arrived in Singapore, a company laptop was waiting for me,” McConville said.
Military spouses need resiliency when faced with international moves.
“Persistence is key! The first person you contact may not have all the necessary information or authority to make your international transfer happen, but don’t give up,” she said.
McConville credits her success to her “village” of supporters. She recommended that military spouses “surround yourself with advocates and allies who can assist you” in navigating the obstacles associated with transferring employment overseas.
“Persistence is key! The first person you contact may not have all the necessary information or authority to make your international transfer happen, but don’t give up.”Cassie McConville, Army Spouse
Be ready to “call upon” your network when faced with employment barriers. These challenges could include a lack of continuity in a role, loss of a client base, or re-licensure requirements.
“Throughout this journey, you are going to run into roadblocks. No PCS move will be the same or without its challenges, but there are opportunities that come with growing in these transitions,” McConville said. “Ultimately, you can become a trailblazer and an ally for other military spouses who may be in your situation in the future.”