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Connors says be persistent in career choices

Financial advisor Maggie Connors outside her office in DuPont. Photo credit: Susan Melnyk

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Maggie Connors, a financial advisor at Edward Jones in DuPont and an Army spouse, has spent the last 12 years married to the military and building her career. She acknowledges that the two are not always compatible.

"Our first duty station was Germany, and it took a lot of time to find a position because most of the federal positions were filled by internal applicants," Connors explained.  

She was eventually able to find a part-time position with Community Bank on base, and worked with them for the rest of her time overseas.

When Maggie and her husband moved to Fort Campbell, Tennessee, she was surprised to find that the local job market was not as supportive of military spouses as she'd expected.

"It was like pulling teeth to get hired anywhere," she said. "Even though I had my bachelor's degree in accounting and three years of teller experience, I just kept being told I wasn't qualified."

Like many military spouses, Connors found that the issue of her being married to the military would inevitably come up during interviews, at which point the tone of the interview would change.

"Employers are not allowed to ask those kinds of questions (about someone's marital status or relationship to the military,) but they would come up in some way, such as ‘what brings you to Clarksville?' or ‘how long will you be here?' or ‘what were you doing in Germany?'" Connors said.

"I had plenty of experience and the right education, but it didn't seem to matter. It's like a switch went off during the interview process.  Things would be going great, then we'd get toward the end, and those questions would come up and it was suddenly very cold.  I'd hear ‘okay, we'll get back in touch with you.' It's frustrating."

Recent research by Blue Star Families, an organization that advocates for military spouses and families, shows that approximately 85 to 90 percent of military spouses are either unemployed or underemployed in their current fields.

Connors knows the pressure that military spouses feel to take any position that is offered to them, but urges spouses to press on.  

"I shouldn't be forced to downgrade my position into something that does not even come close to aligning to what my ambitions are, just to have a job," she said. "When we moved to JBLM (in 2014), I went back to school and got my MBA.  Halfway through the MBA program, I became tired of being treated as a lesser person by my employer. I was told a number of times that I was replaceable because there were enough other military spouses in the area that could just come in and fill my shoes."

So, "I reached out to Edward Jones (in DuPont), was hired on and have never been happier in my life with the position," she said.

"Working as a financial advisor, my job is to help grow, protect and transfer my client's wealth, and what I love about that is the money side. I love stocks, but it's the relationship side that means the most.  I've built connections with my clients that are lifetime connections.  I know what their biggest financial goals and worries are," she continued. "I help them achieve those goals and ensure that those worries don't rear their ugly head as much as I can.  I've been invited to clients' weddings and retirement parties.  It's really cool to be able to have an impactful difference in people's lives, and at the same time, it's my job."

Connors wants fellow spouses to know that their dream career is not unreachable.  "It took me months to find a job out here despite my experience and education," she said. "Don't let them discourage you from continuing the search.  If anything, it made me more fueled to find that good position and not let them turn me away."

Connors recommends using the tools available on base through Armed Forces Community Services (AFCS), such as resumé building classes, as well as looking to employers that are sensitive to the military community.

"Don't be afraid to really show yourself and be proud of the military spouse aspect of you because it does define a lot of who we are and what we've overcome, and there is a lot of merit there that you can bring to an employer." 

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