Just a few weeks ago I had the privilege of traveling to Washington, D.C. for the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) New Partner Induction Ceremony. I met up with our VP of Operations, Tim Richardson and our VP of Administration, Lori Mitchum for an early morning flight. I was groggy but excited to have been included in an event like this. Our induction into this partnership is owed greatly to the love and labor of our National Director of Sales Recruitment and Training, Hannah Wells. Hannah is the daughter of a retired four-star general; she definitely came up as a self-identified military brat. The Gainful Employment for Military Spouses program (GEMS), is our internal military spouse focused hiring initiative and employee program dreamt up and designed by Hannah out of her desire to give back to this hardworking, talented, and undervalued community.
Our military spouses are stuck right now – they are experiencing their own demographic economic depression with an unemployment rate of almost 30%. In many cases they are over-educated, highly skilled, and all too often under or unemployed. They face challenges like frequent moves and employment gaps that many times cause potential employers to turn up their noses. I knew the facts going into the event, and I even knew about the character of this population ahead of time…but I was deeply humbled by the few days we spent in DC attending the MSEP Partnership Induction Ceremony.
Our first stop was to the Pentagon. After a somber viewing of the Pentagon Memorial commemorating those lost during 9/11, we were lead on a guided tour of a portion of the building, including the 9/11 memorial chapel inside. It was beautiful. Our tour guides were two very knowledgeable service members, both semi-recently enlisted – they knew the history of the building forward and backward – and I mean that literally, as they lead the tour with a guide walking backwards at the head of the group.
The ceremony itself was practical and knowledge-driven, but had the type of classic pomp and circumstance dripping in historical significance that could make your hair stand on end for just a moment. I’d never seen anything like the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps – and judging by the mood in the room, it was a special moment for many attendees. I reflected from my seat in the audience on the countless sacrifices made each day for centuries now by our armed forces to keep us safe and free.
The MSEP organizers were well prepared for the event, and we enjoyed comfortable accommodations. Some of the other 2019 inductees into MSEP included representatives from Google, LinkedIn, and Johnson and Johnson…among others.
All of these made for a truly memorable event…but nothing was more humbling than bearing witness to the experiences of the military spouse community in attendance and hearing their stories as they try to make it in today’s job market and, in many cases, also succeed as homemakers. All of them somehow stayed positive while outlining challenge after challenge, past rejections, and uncertain futures – and though these were addressed, everyone there stayed absolutely invested and passionately entrenched in working together to find solutions to help this community gain meaningful employment.
I was somewhat of an outsider at the event, never having been a service member or married to one…each time I would share this with a military spouse in attendance at the event, the immediate response was jumping in to help me understand terminology, find the best resources to expand my knowledge, and to welcome me and thank me for our efforts at IST Management to be a successful MSEP Partner. I felt extremely silly being thanked by the spouses of service members and veterans, but not at all surprised based on the experience I’ve had since helping Hannah to build up this program.
My experience at the new partner induction ceremony absolutely solidified for me what we already know here at IST – the military spouse community is rich with talent. They are an underemployed group of absolutely stellar individuals who are often just looking for a chance. They are bright, resilient, eager….I could go on but I think I’d go well over my character limit for this article if I attempted to encompass it all.
We’ve worked to train our recruiting team and operations team to recognize talent in this community, seek it out, and to hopefully help them overcome on-paper resume traits that may bump them out of consideration for roles at other organizations. The most important thing is for us to continue to learn from this community and work to expand our presence as a desirable and reliable employer who wants to work with them. We’ve been truly honored to be inducted into the MSEP partnership and we continue to be honored each time we’re able to employee any member of our military community. I hope we can make a positive difference in the lives of these individuals that’s even half as much as they’re bringing to the table for us.
If you know any military community job seekers, please reach out to Hannah Wells and myself. We would love to hear their stories.