Military spouses face a higher rate of unemployment and underemployment than their civilian peers because of frequent relocations.
Hiring Our Heroes established the Military Spouse Professional Network to address this challenge. With more than 70 networks across 27 states, Washington, D.C., and 11 countries, MSPN connects thousands of military spouses with career development and networking opportunities in their local communities. As a result, more than 65,000 military spouses were members of MSPN in 2022.
This month, Hiring Our Heroes shares how the MSPN helped military spouse Brenna Van Stone finetune her networking and training skills. Van Stone explains her plan for purposeful volunteerism to support her career trajectory while stationed outside the United States.
Name: Brenna Van Stone
Status: U.S. Air Force military spouse
Location: Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
Job Title: Director of cohort operations
Employer: 7 Eagle Group
Tell us about yourself. I help people who are leaving the military realize their dreams in the world of technology.
What has been your biggest challenge as a military spouse in the workforce?
Employment is only difficult if you’re in the mindset of it being difficult.
If you’re in the mindset of “I’m constantly moving forward,” then every duty station is going to be the best duty station. [For example] the Air Force paid for my resiliency training certificate and master resiliency training. I trained more than 400 people on how to use those resiliency skills. I directly use those skills in my current job.
So, I didn’t get paid while I was in South Korea, but at the same time, I didn’t pay for the training. You have to look at the trade-offs.
Related: ‘Thanks to the Network, I Have Financial Stability and a Career I Enjoy:’ Meet Patty Mulkeen Remoy
How did MSPN help you land your current role?
I have always been heavily involved in helping my community, going all the way back to high school. When my husband joined [the military], I got my first job working for the base, but I always continued to volunteer.
Once we got to South Korea, I found my niche with MSPN.
Through MSPN, I honed the craft of purposeful volunteerism. I looked to fill roles that, on a resume, wouldn’t look like a volunteer position. I did traditional volunteering with Girl Scouts, the squadron, and the base. My purposeful volunteerism with MSPN to make sure I was developing skills that would look like typical career growth.
[For example] I learned recruiting and I learned professional development. I learned how to network. I had already worked in the government sector and for civilian companies. So, I had this unique skill set in being able to speak all those different languages — corporate, military, and nonprofit. Through MSPN, I got to meld all those experiences together.
April is National Volunteer Month. This month, MSPN will present the President’s Volunteer Service Award to 49 volunteers for their dedication and impact in 2022. Are you ready to make a positive impact in your military community? Sign up to be an MSPN volunteer today!
I was co-lead for South Korea MSPN. Then when we moved stateside, I connected with people in the veteran employment space. Through the MSPN here in Georgia, I was introduced to my current boss. Through a conversation, I landed my current job.
I am one of those 85% who got their job through networking.
Why do you volunteer with the Military Spouse Professional Network?
I volunteer to provide people with the opportunity the MSPN team provided for me.
What has been your favorite MSPN event?
South Korea MSPN held a Zoom meeting with base legal focused on the different types of work permits and visas.
There are always so many questions regarding SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement] and employment. We tried to get to the root of it. With help from the base, we helped facilitate those discussions and clarify the guidance.
What one piece of advice would you give to a military spouse who isn’t familiar with the MSPN?
From day one, you need to start making connections and growing those connections because it’s such a supportive and fluid community. The people you meet now you will run into again. Those connections are going to come back again.
“Employment is only difficult if you’re in the mindset of it being difficult.”Brenna Van Stone, Air Force military spouse and director of cohort operations at 7 Eagle Group
Where do you think you would be right now without the Military Spouse Professional Network?
That’s hard to say. I have a strong network of people I can bounce ideas off. It’s great to be a part of that military community of like-minded people.