FourBlock Salesforce Business Analyst Susan Lee shares her experience as a military spouse.
Education: Temple University
Major(s): Secondary Education, Mathematics (Bachelor) & Educational Leadership (Master)
FourBlock Affiliation: FourBlock Staff
Position: Salesforce Business Analyst
Hobbies & Interests: Traveling, eating, reading, cuddling dogs, making bad puns
Susan Lee is FourBlock’s Salesforce Business Analyst and a military spouse, currently based in Germany. In honor of Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 8th, Susan shares how her experience as a military spouse has impacted her, addresses some of the misconceptions & stereotypes about military spouses, and shares her advice for other military spouses and those interested in remote work.
How has your experience as a military spouse impacted you personally and professionally?
I would best describe it as a major life transition, similar to graduating from college and becoming a ‘real adult,’ or becoming a parent. It is a complete upheaval of your identity. You become part of a community that isn’t well understood by those who are outside of it – it makes up only 1% of the American population.
You also live a very transient lifestyle, which can impact your career and your community. You’re constantly moving, so your friends and family are not going to be with you. You’re constantly resetting and having to make new friends and get to know the people around you – even the logistical things, like finding a new school for your kids or knowing where to go get your haircut or get your oil changed. Basically, you need to start over…and keep starting over until your family is out of the military.
What are some of the misconceptions or stereotypes about military spouses that you have encountered?
Most of the stereotypes about military spouses are really negative, and they can be incredibly offensive. Some of those stereotypes include:
- We’re lazy
- We’re uneducated
- We use our spouse’s rank for power
- We sit around at home and goof off
- We don’t want to work
What were some of the challenges or obstacles that you faced as a military spouse, or in your transition out of the military community to the civilian world?
No one wanted to hire me. Once they figured out that I was a military spouse, local organizations and companies didn’t want to hire me because they knew I would leave in a few years. And honestly, I couldn’t blame them. The best I was offered were part-time and contract roles that would not only pay very little, but also set me back to an entry-level role, when I was qualified for at least a managerial position.
These rejections made me despise my situation, and I completely rejected my military spouse identity. I rarely went on [the military] base, I never attended events or took advantage of the resources – I didn’t want to be associated in any way…at first.
Eventually, I realized that being a military spouse doesn’t have to be what the world thinks it is, and that I can create my own identity. I started taking advantage of the available resources and signed up for everything.
I also started talking to more people – I reached out to people I didn’t really know that well. I noticed on Facebook that a woman I went to high school with was a Navy spouse. I didn’t know if she would even remember who I was, but I reached out to her and she was so warm and welcoming. It made me realize that there are other military spouses out there like me who are trying to figure out how their military spouse identity fits in with the rest of their identity, and trying to find a job that’s fulfilling and can contribute to the family.
Through many of those conversations and continuing to look for resources and signing up for different things, I found out about Vetforce, Salesforce’s career readiness program for the military community.
What drove you to become involved with FourBlock?
I was connected to FourBlock by the former Salesforce admin who was a part of my Salesforce military community. FourBlock fulfilled my non-negotiables: it had a social good mission, it was a fully remote role, and it allowed me to break into the salesforce ecosystem. Ultimately, it ended up fulfilling a part of my identity as well, in that it serves the military community.
What would you like employers or civilians to know about the military spouse community?
We’re highly educated; we have more advanced degrees than the average American, but our unemployment rate is six times greater, and our underemployment rate (being in roles that do not match our current professional level) is over 75 percent.
If there’s a crisis, you call a military spouse. We live in a very unique environment and we’ve learned to adapt to situations that most people will never experience. Things can change at the drop of a hat, and we learn to adapt very quickly because we don’t have any other choice.
We are resilient. We are excellent problem solvers and innovators. Many of us start new careers or start our own businesses. During this global pandemic when many of us have been forced to quarantine, we were equipped to handle it. It’s not easy, but we know how to respond to a crisis.
What are some of the resources that you have personally found helpful as a military spouse? Or what other services or resources would you like to see offered to military spouses?
My suggestion is to try everything. Sign up for every resource you can find, especially the ones that offer mentoring. Get your resume tailored. Sharpen your interview skills with Candorful. Take advantage of the free certifications with Google, Salesforce, and many more with Onward to Opportunity.
What is one piece of advice you might give to other military spouses?
You’re not just a military spouse and you’re not alone. The challenges you’re facing, the emotions you’re feeling, the thoughts you’re having – we have all felt that way at some point in time. Also, there are so many types of military spouses, not just the ones you see on Facebook or on reality TV. Reach out to us – we’re here for you!
What is one piece of advice you might give to remote workers, or those seeking remote work?
Sharpen your time management skills and start practicing good habits now. Set strong boundaries, not just with co-workers and family members, but also with yourself. There’s a lot more self-managing and discipline that goes into remote work, and it comes with its own challenges. Talk to people who are doing it and learn from their experiences.