Hannah Becker is a Millennial Career and Lifestyle Blogger living on a working ranch outside of Kansas City. My aim is Empowering Millennial professionals to turn their career and lifestyle dreams into reality.
Bentonville, Arkansas is one of the cutest small towns in America.
I’m serious! It’s fifty shades of adorable. Nestled against the gentle Ozarks, Bentonville could be the poster child for Main Street USA. It’s just that cute.
Bentonville is also home to one of America’s largest employers. Do you know which company I’m talking about?
Walmart, of course!
In the 1950’s, Sam and Helen Walton sought out a small community of under 10,000 people that offered access to Sam’s favorite pastime – quail hunting – and Bentonville, Arkansas ended up being the perfect location for their would-become international retail brand.
After a forced sellout from his Ben Franklin venture, Sam Walton relocated his family to Bentonville and opened the Walton’s Five and Dime – a family owned variety store that now serves as the Walmart Museum.
Business nerd or casual consumer – you’re going to want to add the Walmart Museum to your travel bucket list. It’s one of the very best company museums I’ve ever been too, right up there with Hershey and Crayola. #BusinessNerd here – I’ve gone to a lot of corporate museums, plus Warren Buffett’s Omaha home (okay, that one may not constitute your typical Omaha attractions list…but his address is online and it’s like visiting Mecca for stock investees…I drove by approximately fifteen times in hopes that proximity would cause his financial wisdom would float into the atmosphere and into my DIY stock portfolio).
However, I (sort of) picked the wrong morning for a downtown Bentonville trip, as I ended up walking through a modern day KKK rally.
In all fairness, Bentonville hadn’t condoned the KKK rally in any way; the KKK had driven down from Harrison (the hate group’s hometown) with the intent to disrupt a March for Our Lives event organized by Bentonville’s inspiring youth.
We parked our car just in time to see a KKK member who was recklessly brandishing a gun and spewing white supremacists hate at Bentonville’s community-conscious kids being hauled away in handcuffs (thank-you Bentonville Police Department).
Back to Bentonville’s Walmart connection…
Bentonville’s Fascinating Walmart Museum
The Walmart Museum is conveniently located on the Bentonville Square, providing tours and exhibits for visitors of all ages from the historic Walton’s Five and Dime storefront.
Many aspects of the original store have been integrated into the Walmart Museum’s Gift Shop and Soda Fountain (so cute!), providing visitors a perfect introduction to the world in which Walmart started.
Walmart’s organizational mission was proudly displayed in the first part of the museum:
We save people money so they can live better.
Think about that: We save people money so they can live better.
An interesting mission statement from the company that’s often credited with destroying the former lifeblood of American small business – Mom and Pop shops.
That’s what I’d heard all growing up in tiny-town Mississippi – Walmart killed small business. My grandparents and great uncles and aunts credited the opening of Walmart as the main reason their family-owned operations dried up. Many communities around my hometown attempted to ban Walmart and other big box stores from entering.
In business school, I learned that there were a number of other factors driving the death of Mom and Pop shops, with economies of scale, globalization, migration patterns, education trends, and technological advances being five non-Walmart specific influencing variables. While it may be easier to blame the current state of small-time entrepreneurship on one company, it’s hardly an accurate economic assessment.
It’s’ also important to note that Walmart was not the only would-become big box store disrupting the Norman Rockwell version of American life. JCPenny and Sears were rolling full speed ahead before Walmart even incorporated. In many ways, the development of Walmart is the epitome of American opportunity – from family variety store to international company – not the enemy of it.
In many ways, the development of Walmart is the epitome of American opportunity - from family variety store to international company - not the enemy of it. Click To Tweet
The Infamous Walmart Customer Service Pledge
My all-time favorite Sam Walton quote describes his commitment to customer service: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
Walton prioritized customer service within his business model from Day One and rolled out one of the most generous return policies in retail history. A testament to Walmart’s epic customer service commitment can be found in the Walmart Museum’s Wall of Returns.
Some of these had me rolling on the floor laughing (should I have hashtagged that?):
A hand mixer that was “possessed”.
I’ve been sharing my home ownership update with just about anyone that has a pulse – a behavior that my coworkers have informed me has become increasingly annoying.
I’m just so excited about owning a house and turning it into our home. Like many other Millennials experienced, there was a longgggg time of dealing with chronic underemployment and crippling student debt that I feared would permanently prevent us from ever buying a house.
Owning my own home has been a huge part of my American Dream since as far back as I can remember.
I didn’t think I’d ever own anything big or fancy (aka no 4,000+ square foot testaments to the ‘90’s consumerism), I just thought that I would be able to purchase a three bedroom, two bath, energy efficient house within a few years of graduating college, but for a long time, that dream seemed to be yet another casualty of the Great Recession.
Millennials are Buying Houses
Thanks to less-than-ideal market factors like the mortgage crash of 2008, the ongoing student debt crisis, and record-setting unemployment rates, many Millennials (like myself) have had to delay many major life events, such as marriage, home ownership, and children in response to discouraging economic conditions.
The second quarter of 2016 saw the lowest homeownership rate since 1965 – an economic marker that signaled many red flags regarding the still-struggling American economy. Millennials were supposed to start buying their first houses by 2016, but market numbers revealed Generation Y to still be experiencing long-term effects of the previous decade’s financial fallout.
But, things are finally looking up. Millennials in the masses are able to start buying houses. According to the Wall Street Journal, the largest increase in homeownership among age groups in 2017 was observed in the under-35 sector. The most populous generation in American history – the Millennials – are (finally) able to start buying houses, and consequently, the residential real estate market is pretty intense right now.
I’m serious, the market for under 2,000 square foot houses that will pass a home inspection is HAWT! Prepare for a bidding war.
Our Millennial House Buying Experience
My husband and I have been on the house hunt for almost a year.
We changed realtors four times, we expanded our search region twice and modified our must-haves list what seemed like fifty-freakin’ times.
Our housing search was further complicated by the 1,000-mile distance between where we were living and where we wanted to live. I can’t tell you how many house listings looked great online, but absolutely horrible in-person (seriously, I think some of the listing agents were using photoshop).
Here are a few of our most memorable house shopping experiences:
One bank-owned house that we drove 18+ hours to see had no driveway (not kidding – there literally was no driveway – you had to park on the road and hike a quarter mile up to a now-abandoned “new” construction).
An online-charming horse farm with a New England-inspired barn that prompted us to catch the red-eye flight for a house hunting turn-and-burn, ended up having three-feet of standing water in its very-moldy basement (conveniently left that off the house listing).
Another listing that used up the very last bit of my vacation time had an amazing kitchen; however, the realtor informed us upon touring the house that the previous owners had been murdered right there in the dining room. “But don’t worry,” she said, “the cops are done with their crime scene investigation so the buyers can move in whenever.”
After eight months of finding absolutely nothing that met our criteria and would pass a VA home inspection, we started looking at other housing options, including building a house and living in a tiny house full-time (my least favorite idea).
I began to wonder if we were ever going to find a house, have an offer accepted, and enjoy a rent-hiking-landlord-free life.
Finally Found Our Dream House
For eleven months, we waded through one bad listing after another but eventually found a house that checked all the boxes and ended up being below budget (win-win!). The house negotiations were intense and the inspections were nail-biting, but after all the hoops were jumped through and a thousand papers were signed, the closing date for our dream home was set.
After searching through a long list of won’t-work properties, we are going to move into a house that fit all our present needs and I’m still bouncing off the walls with Moving Day excitement.
Prior to this recent house search, I was pretty unfamiliar with the process of buying a house. I didn’t understand what all was involved, how much money it cost, and how much stress can come along with buying a house in a super hot real estate market.
Here are a few things I learned on my millennial house buying journey:Make a (short) list of must-haves.
House shopping can be really, really stressful. After the umpteenth so-not-going-to-work house that you tour, you’re going to want to scream, scream again, scream again, and possibly lose sight of your housing criteria. Making a relatively short list of your absolute housing must-haves prior to the house search can be a great way to maintain perspective as you wander through multiple “has potential” listings.
For my family, we wanted an eco-friendly home, within 30-minutes from a quality military medical center, in a safe neighborhood, that had enough room for our beloved ponies. While we had preferences regarding the number of bedrooms, architectural style, square footage, we agreed that all those things could be updated in time, and weren’t necessarily the deal breakers our top four must-haves were. This list helped us stay objective house after house after house.
What you’re approved for shouldn’t necessarily be your budget.
Getting the approval letter from our mortgage lender was an exciting event, as we were actually approved for more than what we’d anticipated. My first thought was to increase our housing budget to the maximum approved amount; however, just because on paper I could afford something, doesn’t mean that assuming such a debt load would serve my long-term financial goals.
When assessing your housing budget, remember that home ownership expenses extend beyond the monthly mortgage payment – there’s maintenance, grounds upkeep, property taxes, home insurance, and a TON of other fees that have a way to creeping into your budget outflow. Just because the bank will approve you for X-amount, doesn’t mean you should set your housing budget there. Figure out what you’re comfortable spending and don’t fall into the trap of maxing out your lending potential.
Research eligible mortgage product options.
Good news for first time home buyers – there’s actually a unique mortgage product option created just for! The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) partners with mortgage lenders to provide a zero-down mortgage product for first time home buyers in approved regions with their USDA Home Loans. Don’t let the agency name fool you – the USDA provides many services beyond the scope of farm loans.
The FHA loan is another government-insured mortgage product offering low down payments for qualifying buyers and properties that are worth looking into, especially if your dream home option is going to need a little TLC before passing a home inspection.
If you’re a veteran or married to one, be sure to explore options with a VA home loan – another zero down financing option. While historically it’s been a challenge to purchase a fixer-upper with a traditional VA home loan, there’s now a VA Home Renovation Loan that can be utilized by qualifying home buyers.
Know how much buying a house costs.
Buying a house is one of the things that tend to cost a good bit more than the sticker price. House buyers will need to budget for additional costs, such as inspection fees, earnest money, and closing costs before they are able to get the keys.
Depending on your housing budget, it’s a good idea to have a couple thousand ($5,000 is a good ballpark) in addition to your emergency fund, down payment, and moving budget. You don’t want to go through all the trouble to getting approved for a mortgage and finding your dream house, only to realize that you don’t have the funds necessary to make it your home. A little pre-house search financial planning can go a long way towards minimizing your house buying stress.
First Days in the New House
We moved into our new house a couple of days ago and I’m beyond excited.
It’s currently a maze of cardboard boxes and packing paper, that I’m slowly organizing in between working (why does business always pick up right when I have a move/surgery/leave planned?). I’ll be posting pics of the new-to-us house over on Instagram as I get the moving stuff cleared out.
I absolutely love our new neighborhood. The majority of our neighbors are other military families and the area has a number of running trails in close proximity to the new house. I’m currently busy building a hurricane-proof barn for the ponies and shopping for coastal-inspired furniture steals over on LetGo. While it always takes a while to get used to a new place, we met a few neighbors, discovered a few great local restaurants, and are starting to feel like Floridians.
Buying a house feels like a big milestone in our transitioning-from-the-military life. While the house buying process was stressful (and expensive!), it’s so nice to have our very own piece of real estate to finally call “home”.
Are you a millennial house hunter or recent homeowner?Share your house hunting tips in the comments below!
Did you know that you can use social media to find and land your dream job?
Yes, you read that right – you can totally find a job by scrolling on social media apps!
A 2014 study revealed that 93 percent of recruiters currently use or are planning on using social media to connect with potential job candidates. They post job opportunities on social media platforms, screen potential candidates through social media profiles, and utilize social media connections to identify possible hires from within their network.
Looking good (aka professional) online can be a great way for job seekers to stand out in a sea of qualified candidates. Likewise, having a not-so-professional social media presence can be a quick and easy way to lose consideration or miss out on promising career opportunities.
The job market can be a tough place – don’t be one of those professionals that lets lack of an effective social media strategy keep you from landing your next position!
Here are three ways you can use social media to find your dream job:Build a Professional Personal Brand on Social Media
Take some time to develop a professional online brand on several social media profiles. Make sure all your content says “THIS YOUNG PROFESSIONAL WOULD BE AN AWESOME HIRE!”.
My favorite social media platform for all things professional is LinkedIn. Other platforms that are important to scrub as necessary and get looking professional include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (clean up those Friday Night shots!).
Here are a couple key elements of your professional brand:
Connections with industry leaders.
Consistent online activity and engagement.
Easily accessible links to other social profiles (including your LinkedIn profile – that’s a job seeker must).
Keyword-rich bio or summary.
Professional-looking headshot and supporting imagery.
Respectful and encouraging online conversations.
Up-to-date contact information.
Network with Industry Leaders on Social Media
Social media offers job seekers the perfect opportunity to network with industry leaders without ever leaving the comforts of home! Once you’ve developed a professional online presence, connecting with other movers and shakers within your industry is easy – just connect and converse!
Mentioned in the media regarding your recent project participation? Post it.
Sharing your professional accolades and interests online can help align your content with the type of professional persona recruiters are looking for. Many platforms – like Facebook and LinkedIn – offer portfolio-like features that allow users to create a digital showcase of their professional skills and completed projects. Social media is a great place to display your career capabilities and dedication.
Likewise, it can be a good place to destroy it.
Don’t fall into the trap of posting content that doesn’t exactly promote your professional capabilities, like political rants, inappropriate videos, and hurtful negative comments.
If you’re not sure as to what’s okay to post vs. what crosses the line, check out my Millennial’s Guide to Social Sharing. It’s got some helpful examples of not-so-good social media posts that can cost you your professionals reputation. Having a set of posting guidelines can be helpful as you start developing your personal brand via social media.
What are some ways you’ve used social media to help find a new job?Share your job search tips in the comments below!
I’ve traveled through the Florida Panhandle many times, visiting Destin, Pensacola Beach, and the National Naval Aviation Museum, but somehow, Pensacola Lighthouse always ended up not making the itinerary, until this week.
This week, my family and I had a morning scheduled over at NAS Pensacola (the military base where Pensacola Lighthouse is located) and decided to swing by the historic lighthouse during the lunch hour.
I was finally going to get to climb the 177 stairs up to the top of Pensacola Lighthouse!
Pensacola Lighthouse History
Pensacola Lighthouse’s current tower was built in 1859 and spent over a hundred years guiding ships along the strategically located bay. It changed hands from the Union to the Confederate and back to the Union during the Civil War and was actually damaged in an artillery duel in 1861.
Today, the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum are open to visitors for daily tours, courtesy of the nonprofit staff and volunteer support from the Pensacola Lighthouse Association. Visitors can climb to the top of the 150-foot lighthouse tower, take awesome selfies, and scuttle their way down the decorative lighthouse stairs.
Climbing the Pensacola Lighthouse
Climbing the Pensacola Lighthouse has been on the top of my list of Pensacola must-dos for a long while, so I was pretty pumped about scaling the historic icon; however, about 40-feet up, my fear of heights kicked in full-gear.
The idea of climbing the lighthouse went from oh-so-cool to -oh-my-god-we’re-going-to-die in about five seconds. Look at those stairs – you can see right through them!
I didn’t make it to the top, but my husband did, and he provided these amazing from-the-top pictures:
Another lighthouse visitor fainted near the top of the tower and had to be assisted down. I now understand why “climb at your own risk” signs were posted all around Pensacola Lighthouse.
Pensacola Lighthouse Museum
The lighthouse museum does a great job of showcasing the many people who devoted years of their lives to caring for Pensacola Lighthouse.
One of the lighthouse keepers who’s bio piqued my interest was a female lightkeeper who’d graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Ottawa University – a small Midwestern university that I landed my first collegiate teaching position at. Small world!
Before visiting the lighthouse, I was pretty clueless of all the work lighthouse keepers were required to do to keep the lighthouse functioning. Turns out, lighthouse keepers were required to scale the 150-foot tower every few hours (nights and holidays included!) to check and adjust the beacon. Talk about a leg workout!
Planning your visit to the Pensacola Lighthouse:
If you’re ever in Pensacola, Florida you’re going to want to swing by the historic Pensacola Lighthouse.
A couple tips for planning your Pensacola trip:
The lighthouse is located on an active military base, which means you’ll need to drive through an ID-checkpoint. Make sure you have government-issued forms of ID for everyone in the vehicle ready to show the gate guard. NAS Pensacola’s West Gate provides the easiest access to the Pensacola Lighthouse (you’ll see signs).
Pensacola Lighthouse is located just down the road from the National Naval Aviation Museum and you’re going to want to spend a few hours there. The National Naval Aviation Museum currently has over 150 aircraft and spacecraft on display – it’s amazing.
Fort Barrancas is a historic military fort located on NAS Pensacola and maintained by the National Park Service. Visitors can take a self-guided tour on Thursdays through Mondays. If you’re a military history buff, you’re going to want to explore Fort Barrancas.
Have you visited Pensacola Lighthouse?Share your Pensacola travel tips in the comments below!
I was a woman in a male-dominated industry, trying to land a postgrad job where there simply weren’t any.
Seasoned professionals on the cusp of retirement were going toe-to-toe with my fresh-out-of-college resume, and despite my expansive professional development investments, strategic network connections, and impeccable recommendations, I simply wasn’t making it into the job hunt’s final round.
In summary: it sucked.
My professors and mentors didn’t have much advice to give, besides “wait till the job market gets better”.
If there weren’t any jobs available, I had to create my own job, and that’s what I did. I threw caution to the wind and maxed out my last credit card to start Becker Marketing & PR.
While the job market was bad, the gig economy was a little better. A couple months after hanging my shingle, I’d landed two decent-sized clients on the west coast and had received my first consulting payment. I was thrilled. I drove over to Piggly Wiggly, bought a hundred dollars worth of groceries, a $10 bottle of wine, and felt as though I’d really hit it big.
Granted, I didn’t know where the next grocery money was going to come from, but I’d been able to turn an arduous unemployment journey into $110 worth of food and alcohol. To a naive recent college grad, that’s pretty freakin’ sweet; however, as my entrepreneurial endeavors progressed, I realized that self-employment isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all solution to all situations.
The feast (finally) makes you feel like starting a business was, indeed, a well-informed career decision, one that will characterize those viral commencement speeches that you’ll certainly be asked to give in just a matter of successful years.
Then the psychotic cycle repeats, over and over.
You get really tired of the feast or famine dance, as it leaves your bank account and mental health so-not-stable. Your social life becomes near non-existent and the startup stress takes a toll on your body, and eventually, your sleep. You start looking for the “Exit” sign, needing an escape from the seemingly never-ending entrepreneurial cycle that has a tendency to make even the most analytic of business professionals a little crazy.
My business rocked through the feast or famine stint for four very, very, very long years.
That translates into 1095 days of questioning whether or not I was wasting my young professional life on a company that just wasn’t going to develop, or if I was making a mature investment into my future.
Who was to say, but time, er, the market, itself?
But, the alternative – closing my business and hitting the still-slumped job market – wasn’t promising, so I kept at the entrepreneurial grind.
Entrepreneurship caused me to rethink employment.
Fast-forward a few years.
The American economy improved.
Jobs weren’t (as) hard to get as they were way back in 2010.
Some of my entrepreneurial colleagues were turning their gig economy experience into somewhat secure employment positions with these amazing things called “benefits” (what the…?).
It was literally a chronically unemployed millennial’s dream come true.
National economic growth meant more than a slight uptick in job opportunities – it also meant more organizations had money to spend on my company’s marketing and public relations service.
Contracts that were once valued at a mere grand or two a year, quadrupled in scope.
My fledgling company was beginning to feel a little less start-up like and a lot more real business.
Increased profits meant increased investments into Becker Marketing & PR. I could afford outsourced admin, I could afford brand advertising, I could afford conference tickets. I could actually PAY MYSELF on a REGULAR BASIS, which (after four long years of sporadic cash flow) felt like something straight from heaven.
It – entrepreneurship, that is – was finally paying off.
Sure, it’d been a couple years of Hail Mary’s, but things were finally looking up. Maybe the entrepreneurial storm was almost over. “If the economy could just not take another 9/11 nose dive, I’d be okay,” I kept telling myself.
This entrepreneur (finally) got a legit job lead.
Right when my company had its best quarter yet, I got a job lead followed by an inside recommendation from my network.
Funny thing was, I’d applied for a much more entry-level position with this hiring company way back in the day when I was a new MBA grad, and they’d sent me a rejection letter 48 hours later. Maybe now, they were serious about recruiting. Or maybe they realized having a marketer that actually knew how to use Instagram was kind of important.
Then I got another job lead, this one from a recruiter I’d shelled out my latest thousand dollars to circa 2012. Apparently, the job market was better, and all those web-based marketing skills I’d honed through entrepreneurship were (now) in high demand. The recruiter said I’d have to work my way up, but hey, it was a chance at a legit job. Wasn’t that what everyone wanted?
More job leads came in – positions demanding 80+ hour work weeks, two-hour commutes, and tons and tons of travel. I smiled at the irony of the situation: five years ago, this would have been my professional dream, today, it was my definition of hell.
There was literally no way I was walking away from a company I’d poured my very hungry and indebted heart and soul into for the past five years for nonexistent work-life balance and (some) employer-sponsored benefits. This late in the post-grad game, I was used to living off Ramen noodles, doing the end of the month cash flow dance, and being turned down for mortgage lending. What was a few more years of the feast or famine when my entrepreneurial journey had already taken me this far?
Self-employment, for Better or Worse
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody.
Sometimes it’s horrible, like when your clients are 120 days late on payment; other times it’s pretty sweet, like when your subcontractor tell you the work she’s landed through your company helped her pay off the last bit of her student loan debt.
Sometimes, I think entrepreneurship isn’t for me – it’s hard, it’s stressful, and it feels as if nothing is stable; but then again, I can’t see myself doing anything else. Entrepreneurship – with all its uncertainty – can be exhilarating, rewarding, and feel like the entire world of opportunity is laid at my feet.
If it hadn’t been for the Great Recession and its tanked job market, I don’t know if entrepreneurship would have been in the stars for Hannah Becker. Corporate America was my original Business School dream. I wanted the Wall Street address, company car, and the ability to pay off my student loans within five years of graduation (that’s not happening). Instead, I own a bootstrapped company that provides jobs for military spouses and veterans and is currently positioning for federal government contracts (the reason I’m going gray before reaching the Dirty Thirty).
My relationship with entrepreneurship is complicated – some days it’s good, other days it’s a freaking nightmare. It’s still not uncommon for me to consider raising capital for my business and interviewing for big ad agency positions all in the same 15 minutes. You’d think after five years of entrepreneurship, I’d have the whole Richard Branson-Elon Musk-Steve Jobs super chill, yet confident, entrepreneurial vibe down, but my entrepreneurial reality is far from it.
Maybe, with time, my relationship with entrepreneurship, like most intimate arrangements, will level out as confidence grows and risk minimizes.
Maybe my business will develop into such a stable entity that I forget about the eventual corner office in a Fortune 500.
Maybe I’ll (eventually) get all my accounts receivable collected within NET30, so I can plan my finances like a sane person.
Maybe, one day, in my not-so-distant entrepreneurial future, I’ll look back at all those rejection letters that gave me my professional start and think, “that was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the very first Military Spouse Appreciation Day as a day of national recognition for the hundreds of thousands of military spouses supporting military families across the United States and overseas.
For centuries, military spouses have provided support on the homefront, enabling their loved ones to serve our country overseas without stressing over the many nuances of life at home. Military spouses raise children alone, forgo holiday celebrations in lieu of deployments, face immense employment discrimination, pick-up and move to new places at the orders of Uncle Sam, and provide round the clock care for our country’s millions of injured servicemembers and disabled veterans.
Yes, it’s a marriage, but it’s also an all-consuming lifestyle requiring day-to-day sacrifices that those who are not military-affiliated have very limited understanding; hence Military Spouse Appreciation Day – an annual proclamation designed to recognize the numerous service-related sacrifices military spouses are required to meet with adaptability and resilience.
Since it’s initial induction, Military Spouse Appreciation Day always falls on the Friday before Mother’s Day, with this year’s day of recognition scheduled for May 11th. Military Spouse Appreciation Day is a great opportunity for communities to show support for their military spouse neighbors.
Want to recognize military spouses within your community but aren’t sure how?Here are three things you can do to say “thank-you” to your military spouse neighbors:Hire military spouses.
Military spouses are un- and underemployed at alarming rates (over 90 percent), and (unfortunately) receive very little employment protection in the United States.
The inability to land a job is just another stressor that gets added to the military family’s already taxing load of wartime service. As I shared in The Military Spouse Career Crisis, chronic under- and unemployment has a way to wreaking long-term negative financial effects, along with demoralizing career plateaus, that can cripple military family’s future.
But the military spouse employment crisis doesn’t just affect military families – it’s negative economic effects extend into the American economy to the tune of $1 billion per year.
Want to help military families in your community? Help them find a job that compensates market value for their education and experience (emphasis on market value – I know over a dozen military spouses with PhDs that have been stuck working $10 an hour gigs). Reach out to your professional networks, educate your organization on the highly discriminated against military-affiliated talent pool, and, if given the chance, HIRE military spouses.
Recognize military caregivers and wounded warrior families within your communities.
Unlike the majority of civilian jobs, the implications of military service often extend well beyond the length of the service contract. From career-limiting disabilities to intense (and incredibly expensive) postwar medical journeys, wounded warrior families have to live with the effects of war long after the deployments end. These realities of life after war present a number of very real challenges to military spouses turned caregivers struggling to keep their family afloat through an unexpected military transition.
According to a recent RAND study, there are currently over 5.5 million family caregivers providing supportive services to injured veterans and servicemembers. The vast majority of this caregiver population receives little to no support, a discouraging reality that often forces job loss and financial devastation on to the veteran’s family. This population of selfless military caregivers all too often fly under the radar within war-ignorant civilian-populated communities, a true travesty in a nation that champions love of country and those who defend it as a core value.
Thanks to the passionate advocacy efforts of Senator Elizabeth Dole through her creation of the Hidden Heroes initiative, non-military communities can now easily connect and recognize military caregivers within their communities. Just head over to www.hiddenheroes.org read the Caregiver Stories, join the online community, and consider becoming a Hidden Hero City.
Pretty sure there are no military caregivers in your neighborhood? Chances are, the interactive Hidden Heroes Map will prove you otherwise. Take a look!
Concerned you don’t know enough about the needs of military caregivers to be an effective support within your community? Check out the free online courses over at PsychArmor for more information on the needs of America’s wounded warrior families.
Support military community policy initiatives.
Unlike previous generations who had a large portion of their population serving in the military, the modern day American warrior class is few and far between, with less than one percent serve of the population ever serving.
This increasing minority status creates a widening divide between the military community and the ever-growing non-military population, with the vast majority of voters being totally clueless regarding the challenges and needs of the military community. Consequently, the things military families need to be changed (like the military spouse unemployment crisis) couldn’t be farther from ninety-nine percent of American voters radar, which means it’s really, really hard to rally enough support for much-needed policy change.
While politicians are quick to trot out the “Support the Troops” banter around Election Day, effective policy support is few and far between.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve presented proposed legislative change regarding the needs of military families to Kansas’ elected officials, only to have my testimony brushed off by a non-military staffer’s brusque, “We’ll get back to you.” (They never do.) I’ve written op-eds, spoken at community meetings, and marched the halls of our statehouse championing actionable change the Sunflower State’s large military population needs (like, yesterday). And while the state of Kansas receives large economic influx from its active military community, they repeatedly fail to even acknowledge its presence, because, among other things, most of the active duty population residing in Kansas doesn’t have the capability to cast a vote for next term’s candidate.
In a democracy, there is strength in numbers – meaning, that if it matters to the majority of the voters, it has the potential to matter to the elected officials concerned with securing their political position in the next term. Members of the civilian population can champion the needs of the military community by advocating support (and their votes) towards military-friendly initiatives and candidates that do more for our veterans than simply use the community Veterans Day parade as a well-timed, Yellow Ribbon-themed photo op.
Not sure where to start? Senator Tim Kaine has proposed the Military Spouse Employment Act that would help alleviate some of the employment challenges military families currently face; however, it needs the American public’s support. Call your elected officials, send an email, share bill proposal on social media and help the less than one percent realize much-needed change. It’ll take two minutes of your time, yet will have the potential to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of military spouses.
How is your community recognizing Military Spouse Appreciation Day?
Attending networking events can be a great way to further your career.
You’ll meet new people, connect with recruiters, and build a strategic professional network that can help you down the road. But attending networking events can be kind of scary, especially when you’re going to one for the very first time.
I remember the first networking event I attended and it wasn’t good.
I’d spent three hours picking out just the right business suit and deep breathing to calm my nerves. I drove over to the event center, found a parking spot, ad carefully de-linted my JCPenney clearance rack blazer for the umpteenth time.
I was sooooo nervous – like shivering in my boots kind of nervous-, but the University Career Counselor said these events were a must for finding a decent job.
Totally terrified, and having no idea what to expect, I walked into the networking event, spent approximately five minutes scurrying through the sea of well-dressed business professionals, and promptly walked through the exit doors and right back into the parking lot.
I remember driving back to my soon-to-be-condemned, mold-infested apartment, thinking, “I’m never going back to a networking event ever again!”
Networking Events Don’t Have to be Terrifying
Over the years started learning how to navigate the panic-inducing, business card-waving things we call networking events with a little more comfort (and participation) than my first one.
Once I figured out how to prepare for these events, and understood what to expect, I was able to build valuable professional relationships and connect with career-enhancing opportunities. While it took some…okay, a LOT…of practice, developing a networking event strategy that worked for me has been a total networking gamechanger.
Here are a few tips that can help you prepare for your very first networking event (that doesn’t involve beelining it for the EXIT sign):Do Your Networking Event Homework Beforehand
A lot of the stress of meeting random new people can be minimized by going into a networking event with some sort of strategy regarding a handful of people or organizational representatives that you’d like to meet.
Many networking events will provide attendees with a list of other confirmed participants prior to the event. Once you receive this, you can review the list and highlight any names or companies that you really want to connect with – maybe a few inspirational entrepreneurs or recruiting managers from companies you’d like to one day work for.
Make a list of three to six “must-meets” that you work to connect with once at the event. Upon arrival, you can always ask the event organizers if they would help facilitate a face-to-face intro with any of the professionals on your list. Most well-run networking events will include a host willing to help you with this request.
Have Plenty Business Cards Handy
Networking events are all about meeting new professionals and building a network; however, shaking hands with someone isn’t really worth much if there’s no opportunity for follow-up contact. Business cards provide the perfect tool to turn networking handshakes into potential business deals, so make sure you’ve got some type of card ready.
I keep business cards handy (two dozen in my wallet and another hundred in my car’s glove compartment) at all times. My business cards are branded with my company’s information, my title and contact, along with my professional social media channels (LinkedIn).
Business cards aren’t just for business owners and employed professionals. When I was a new grad/ overwhelmed-job-seeker, I spent $20 on Vistaprint and had neutrally branded business cards printed up that included my name, contact information, my degrees, and the title “Marketing Professional”.
Throughout the networking event, make sure you keep your business cards handy and exchange them at the conclusion of every positive interaction.
Set Realistic Goals for Your Networking Event Attendance
Networking events can feel overwhelming to even the most socially extroverted professional, which is why it’s important to set realistic goals for yourself (emphasis on “realistic”).
Chances are, you’re not going to have time to meet everyone at the event, nor are all introductions going to be valuable to you. Plus, the whole people-people-everywhere thing can be pretty exhausting. If you’re like me, meeting a dozen new people in one setting can be a little much.
When I started out on my career journey, I thought a “successful” networking event meant meeting every single person there, being offered three jobs on the spot, and listening to everyone’s life story. Yeah…not very realistic.
Once I realized that a successful networking event for me may just mean connecting with three or four professionals in my industry, or getting leads on a couple new business potentials, I was able to develop a better networking event strategy and have more “successful” event attendance.
When thinking about your first networking event, consider what’s realistic in regards to expectations and develop event goals off that.
Prioritize Timely Networking Event Follow-up
Most people that attend networking events meet a lot of new people, get a lot of business cards, and can’t remember (almost) anyone’s name. That’s normal.
To help alleviate some of the post-networking event fog, attendees can prioritize timely networking event follow-up. What’s considered timely event follow-up?
A quick email within one week of the event. Just a cheerful “Hi” + “Really enjoyed meeting you” + “Here’s my contact info:…” + “Let me know if I can ever be of assist”.
Need an email template? Here you go:
Hi [Contact’s Name],
It was great to meet you at [name of event] on [date]. I had a great time chatting with you about [something you talked about]. If you have time, I’d love to take you to coffee and learn more about [something you’re interested in].
Have a great day,
See? Super easy! You just grew your professional network!
Ready, set, network!
Networking events can be nerve-wracking, but with a personalized strategy in place, you can navigate these necessities of the professional world with relative ease.
Do your pre-event homework, come prepared with plenty of business cards, set realistic goals, and practice timely follow-up with networking event introductions for a successful experience.
My husband loves RVs. He’s been talking about getting one since the first week of our marriage. He thinks RVs make for the perfect all-occasion travel dwelling. He’s convinced that having an RV will be a total game changer for our on-the-go life.
I have my doubts.
Today, we went RV shopping, for the fifteenth time. I’m starting to pick-up on some RV lingo. I had no idea there could be such variation in brands and models. I’m beginning to see why my husband is so smitten with the whole RV thing.
Full disclosure: I just learned how several other military families live beachfront for under $500 a month via an RV.
Now I’m totally sold.
RV shopping is pretty fun. The salesmen are nice. The dealerships have a ton of stuff to look at. The other RVers have some really interesting life stories. And the RV shows are amazing (Seriously, if you haven’t been to one, get an RV show on your calendar. They are awesome).
New to the RV world, I have a lot of questions. It seems like the more we explore an on the road lifestyle, the more questions that arise.
Here are a few of my more recent RV-related questions:Will I lose my mind?
An RV isn’t that big, and I don’t really do well with small spaces. Thanks to insanely high energy levels and a relatively limited attention span, I’m always on the go and am kind of worried that an RV will leave me feeling pretty cramped.
My husband keeps telling me that we’re only going to park the RV in places that have a lot of fun outdoor activities, like on the beach or in the mountains, so I’ll actually have more active things to do than I currently do at home. Hiking, swimming, cycling, kayaking, horseback riding, running in awe-inspiring vacation places right outside our door does sound pretty fun.
What about my office?
Our current living space doubles as both our home and my main office. A home office can be good sometimes (no commute!), but it can also feel a little cramped when working on really long projects. Given that I use my 2,000+ sq foot house as a workspace and it can feel a little cramped, I’m not really sure how spending a couple weeks or months in an RV will work with my work.
A couple other RVers suggested exploring co-working space in the areas that we travel to. I did a little research, and found some really interesting and budget-friendly (under $300/month, utilities and furniture included, plus conference room use!) short-term office space rentals, so that may be a solution.
What about our two insanely large dogs?
My husband and I have two insanely large dogs (100+ lbs each). They love traveling and hate pet sitters, so they will be coming with us on our RV adventures. I worry that the RV space will be too small for them (we bought a couch just for them in our house because they were so big and there was no room for them on ours) and that they will drive us crazy with endless squeaky ball playtime at 2 AM.
I know that many of the military campgrounds we’re interested in staying at are pet friend (two dog limit), so that’s a plus. My RV friends tell me that I’ll get in incredible shape trying to wrangle my two oversized pups in the RV, as we’ll have to hike five miles a day just to keep my German Shepherd’s activity level at the norm (he currently streaks circles in our backyard every hour). An RV with pets should be interesting.
Our Search for the Perfect RV
Our RV search is in full swing. Every Saturday morning, we grab brunch and go RV shopping. It’s evolved into quite the weekly tradition. I think I’m going to miss this when we do finally decide on a home on wheels.
Seasoned RVers recommended purchasing something before the summer holiday, so we could take a few weekend trips before setting out on a seasonal voyage. I think we’ve narrowed it down to a few good options, and expecting the hubs to make our inaugural RV decision soon.
My husband’s very mechanically-minded and doubles as our on-call Mr. Fix-It. I told him to pick out something he’s comfortable working on. I don’t want to be stranded mid-boondocking trip.
I’ve started following some inspiring RVer’s online. Blogs and Instagram are my two favorite #lifeontheroad account hosts. While many of these travelers RV full-time (something that I’ve told my husband over and over is NOT AN OPTION), their field notes and travel tips have served as a wealth of knowledge for my introductory RV experience.
Not yet sure where our first lengthy RV stay is going to be. Currently trying to decide between Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Seasoned travelers tell me the spring snowfall will make that decision for me. Till then…
While adding an RV to our life was initially met by my skepticism, I’m looking forward to several big benefits from having a mobile home away from home:
The RV Community. Just since starting our RV search, we’ve met the most interesting people! From retired admirals to foreign diplomats, mountain guides to international authors, the RV community is home to many unique individuals from fascinating walks of life. I can’t wait to have these inspiring individuals are our temporary neighbors.
Effective pain management. Cold winters wreak havoc on his military-related injuries and after six years of medical care trying everything from nerve blocks to surgeries, we’re kind of at our wits end regarding chronic post-war pain. Having the resources we need (an RV) to economically spend the winter months in a more tropical climate could really improve quality of life for our family.
More travel with more savings. As a family, travel has always been a big priority for us, but sometimes, our travel dreams don’t exactly jive with our conservative budget. After running the numbers on military campgrounds and RV expenses, adding a travel trailer to our life will allow us to scratch the travel itch in a way that won’t break the bank.
Thankfully, my work is currently 100 percent location-independent (a process that’s been four long years in the making), minus a handful of annual in-person meetings with a few clients. I’m shifting all my college teaching online (yay!) and the remainder of my doctoral work is low-residency, so we should be able to plan RV trips with a good bit of autonomy.
The Becker RV Adventure
I guess I’m going to have to learn to back up a fifth wheel and dump the septic.
Every time I think about RV maintenance, Uncle Eddie’s motorhome from the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation comes to mind (where he very-improperly disposes of a very-full RV septic tank in a residential drain and creates quite the “stink” with the neighbors).
My RV friends assure me that camper maintenance isn’t that complicated and I’ll absolutely love the freedom (and savings…can’t forget the savings!) that RVing provides.
So, if you see an RV covered in veteran stickers and sporting Kansas plates on the road this summer, it may very well be us – honk twice!
Have you ever gone on an RV adventure?
Share your RV stories in the comments below!
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 1 Natural Way, a TRICARE breast pump provider. All opinions are entirely my own.
We are a fourth generation military family.
Throughout the years, military service has become somewhat of a Becker a family tradition, with members serving in nearly all US military branches – Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, National Guard, and the Marines. The values of sacrifice and service continue to be passed down through our family from generation to generation.
My husband and I are excited to grow our military family over the next few years. We hope to provide our children with a strong sense of service and opportunities that will equip them to give back to their community. We want to make sure the next generation of Becker’s experiences financial security, has access to quality education, and a variety of different cultures through international travel. All those things require one common thing – smart money moves.
While growing our military family is super exciting (we cannot wait!!!), it can also be kind of expensive, so we’ve been researching military money saving resources that can help us make sure our family has everything it needs while having a little fun, too!
Here are four military family money saving resources that can help as your family grows:Tricare Approved Breast Pump & Supplies from 1 Natural Way
If you’re a military family has a baby on the way, you’re going to want to check out 1 Natural Way – an in-network Tricare breast pump provider with all plans included in coverage, including Reserve and Retirees. 1 Natural Way offers top of the line models like Medela and Spectra, along with extra breastfeeding supplies like compression socks, postpartum care supplies, and pump accessories at no cost to you.
You don’t even have to go pick these supplies up, as 1 Natural Way will ship directly to your house every month!
Here’s the five-step process for securing your 1 Natural Way supplies:
Step 1 – Fill out the 1 Natural Way insurance information form found here. Step 2 – Select your breast pump model (Tricare covers all models 1 Natural Way offers). Step 3 – Enroll in 1 Natural Way’s monthly breastfeeding accessories program (called Resupply). Step 4 – Provide 1 Natural Way with a prescription or your doctor’s information, and they will obtain one for you. Step 5 – Your pump and supplies will ship right to your front door via UPS or USPS!
1 Natural Way knows that military parents don’t have a lot of extra time, and they really go the extra mile to make sure you’re able to get everything you need to grow your family in time (and cost!) efficient ways. Now, onto decorating the nursery, picking out baby names, or writing shower thank-you cards!
Shop on Base Whenever Possible
Another great way for growing military families to save money is to shop on base whenever possible. Even if you don’t live on base, making a special trip to a military installation for your household goods can save you TONS of money in the long run.
While my spouse was recently retired out of the military, we still go to a nearby active duty base several times a month to pick up groceries, dry goods, and to fill up on gas. It’s a great way for us to take advantage of some serious military-only savings!
Shopping at the commissary is a super-saving opportunity for penny-pinching military families looking for discount prices on quality goods. I remember the first time I shopped at the commissary as a new military spouse – I was shocked at how low their prices were!
How does the commissary keep such low prices? They are required to sell things at cost, which means major savings for the military shopper. Additionally, they don’t charge regular tax (yay!) and often offer money saving coupons.
Whenever I head to the commissary, I always make a point to gas up on base and typically save an average of $5 every time I fill up. If I fill up on base four times a month, that’s an extra $20 that can go into my savings or investment accounts.
Automate Your Monthly Savings Plan
We all know saving money on a regular basis is a good idea; but, sometimes it’s easier said than done.
The gold standard for personal finance is to save 10 percent of your monthly income; however, if you wait until the end of the month to see what’s left over in your account and then transfer money into your savings account there’s often nothing left to transfer.
Scheduling a beginning-of-the-month deposit of 10 percent of your income into your savings is a really good idea for military families working towards financial stability. Talk to your bank about automatic transfer options, or just make it a point to transfer a portion of your family’s income into your savings account every payday.
Two other options for strategic savings include an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). the main difference between these two financial products and a traditional savings account is that money in an IRA or TSP cannot be withdrawn before retirement age without incurring a penalty. Not great for an emergency fund, but can be helpful for long-term financial planning.
Talk it over with your spouse or partner and come up with an automated savings plan that works for your family’s money goals.
Discount Travel Resources for Military Families
Did you know that next year’s summer vacation doesn’t have to break the bank? Military families can take advantage of a variety of travel resources available at little to no cost to them.
Confession: my family really didn’t use these mega-money saving resources until after my spouse’s retirement.
Why? We didn’t know about them. Now that we do, we’re wearing them out!
Our new travel theme is “Have military ID card, will travel!”
Here are a few ways we’ve cut our travel expenses by 90 percent, using military resources:
Space A Travel – free flights all over the world.
Base Lodging – really economical lodging on base for military travelers.
Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) offices – provides discount tickets to area attractions and budget-friendly day trips for the adventure seeker like kayaking, ice climbing, and snow skiing.
Now when we travel, we fly Space A into a military installation, book lodging on base, and check-in with the MWR office for recreation deals. As long as we’ve got some flexibility with our traveling dates, we’re able to travel in a very budget-friendly manner.
All of these perks will be available to our children as our family grows. It’ll be a great way introduce them to cultures all around the world without draining our savings. For what it would normally cost us to have cable for a month, we can travel as a family to the other side of the world, courtesy of Space A!
Also, many non-military affiliated hotels and recreation outfitters offer military discounts – you just have to remember to ask. We received multiple military discounts on lodging and boating during our last trip to Pensacola Beach, Florida.
What are your military family’s favorite money saving resources?
Mentorship can be a great way for millennial professionals to take their career to the next level; however, finding the right mentor can be quite the challenge.
A good mentor can help guide the mentee in their professional path, providing experienced insight and just a fresh perspective on career-related challenges.
As a young entrepreneur, I tended to get “stuck in the trenches” with the day-to-day operations of my business and having a mentor say, “Hey Hannah – have you tried looking at it this way?” was a total gamechanger.
Before I connected with mentors, my career just kind of sat there – I drifted through a couple crappy jobs, had no idea how to handle sexism in a very male-dominated industry, and was really struggling to figure out next-steps with the little business that I had started with $50 on my last credit card. I needed help.
Finding My Career Mentors
Connecting with my first entrepreneur mentor helped me take my business from a 1099 contractor position to a full-fledged marketing and public relations agency with national organizations as clients. While our mentoring sessions simply consisted of a 50-minute phone call once a month, my mentor’s experienced guidance made all the difference. Things that totally had me stumped – like dealing with an underperforming employee or raising operating capital – were a piece of cake for my mentor. In under five minutes, she could help me devise a game plan that turned a frustrating business challenge into an actionable opportunity.
Thanks to this great mentor experience, I started recruiting additional mentors to assist me with other aspects of my career like my doctoral studies, higher education teaching pursuits, nonprofit board positions, and even my little blogging side hustle that you’re reading right now. Having a team of supportive mentors that weigh-in once a month on my work has opened up a ton of doors, and helped me to continue moving forward without getting bogged down in all the not-so-awesome business stuff.
My only regret with the whole mentor-thing is that I didn’t connect with good mentors earlier. I can only imagine how much easier my undergraduate experience would have been if I’d been able to connect with mentors in my desired field, or how much less stress starting a new business would have been if I’d just known another entrepreneur with a little more experience under their belt.
If you’re interested in finding the right career mentor for your professional path, here are three tips:
Search within your industry, organization, or community
Looking within your industry, organization, or community is a good place to start when trying to find a mentor.
Some industry associations will offer mentorship programs for members. If you’re doesn’t, it may be a good idea to contact the association’s director or board members and ask if they have recommendations of industry leaders that may be open to a voluntary mentoring opportunity.
Both educational institutions and employing organizations sometimes offer mentor programs. If you’re still in school or are a recent grad, consider checking with your institution’s Career Center or Alumni Association for mentorship opportunities. If you’re employed, ask organizational leadership (Human Resources is a good place to start) for recommendations on in-house mentorship opportunities with someone more experienced.
Once you’ve connected with a prospective mentor, spend some time chatting about relationships expectations or specifics.
Mentor arrangements seem to work best when there’s some kind of structure in place, like a set time commitment and frequency arrangement. That way, everyone – the mentor and the mentee – are on the same page and the mentorship relationship doesn’t encroach on their other commitments. Even the best mentorship arrangement can go down the tube without well-defined structure.
My best mentorship relationships involved no more than one-hour time commitment (typically a phone call or coffee date) either once a month or once a quarter. Sometimes, the mentor would request an end date upfront; agreeing to mentor me for six months or a year. Some of my mentor relationships are ongoing and have lasted several years.
Once you’ve found a mentor with the industry experience you need, consider what type of time commitment would be best for you and discuss with them their considerations to come up with a structured arrangement that works for both parties.
Focus on a particular career challenge or obstacle
As I mentioned above, I have different mentors for different things – my business, education, etc. This type of approach for mentor relationships helps to match your mentor’s strengths with your present professional challenges, making the experience all the more effective.
When discussing a potential mentorship arrangement with a prospective mentor, I’ll mention one to two challenges I’d like their help on. A few examples would be growing my business to include three more state or national level organizations (business mentor) or gaining acceptance into a well-ranked doctoral program (academic mentor). By being upfront with my own goals, it helps the prospective mentor gauge whether or not they could be of assistance.
Twice, at this point in the conversation, I’ve had prospective mentors tell me they don’t think they are the right person for advising on my particular career challenge and they recommended someone else who was. This type of forthcoming conversation helped ensure I was able to find the right mentor for my particular stage of professional development.
Ready to find a mentor?
Connecting with good mentors can be just the thing you need to take your career to the next level. Check out 5 Mentor Matching Sites for Millennials to start your search and don’t be afraid to reach out to industry and academic organizations for mentor recommendations.
While it may take a while to find the right mentor (my first mentor search took eight months), mentors can make all the difference in your professional journey. Taking the time to find the right mentor relationship will pay dividends in the long-run.