Yes or No: Disclose Your Military or Foreign Service Affiliation

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You may have been asked or heard of friends being asked questions in an interview such as "What does your husband/wife do?" or "Why did you move here?" or "How long will you live here?" 

These questions are borderline illegal yet they are asked all the time. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 protects federal civilian employees from discrimination based on marital status. Veterans are protected from discrimination, but military and foreign service spouses are not. However, your spouse's or partner's employment status - particularly when serving the country - should not affect your ability to be hired and you should feel empowered to say so. Many employers are not even aware of the bias they are exercising when refusing to hire a spouse. 

So, when you interview, should you tell an employer that you are a military or foreign service spouse. Yes, yes, yes!

There are several reasons why you shouldn't be afraid to do so. 

1. It speaks to your value. Once you've been affiliated with the military or foreign service for a while it begins to feel like what we do is normal. But it is not normal. What you go through is not normal compared to the average citizen. You've overcome the challenges of living through deployments and in other countries without formal support. You have a diverse perspective from your experiences. You've built relationships from nothing and you know how to ask for help. These soft skills are difficult, if not impossible, to teach. 

2. You should be comfortable and happy where you work. Do you really want to work for an employer who bases a hiring decision on the fact you may move and/or does not appreciate your service? When you interview for a job, you should be doing your due diligence to figure out if it's the right place for you. Would you like to work in a place where your qualifications, background, potential, and service to our country isn't fully valued? 

3. 35% of U.S. workers change jobs within 3 years. We move on average every 3 years. Where's the problem in hiring spouses then? In fact, you may want to stress that you'd like to stay on if possible for the long-term should you perform well and it's mutually agreeable down the road, working from your next post in another office or remotely. This is not something they will automatically get from the average employee. By giving you a bit of trust and flexibility, they will get loyalty from you, and that's priceless.

It's not easy to build awareness of the lifestyle we lead and convince employers of the value we bring to the table. But if we all stand up and give voice to our value, we'll continue to educate and change minds and create more opportunities for ourselves, our friends, and partners/spouses of the future.