Your Biggest Job Hunt Mistake

job hunt

The biggest job hunt mistake military spouses make is that we totally miss the first interview question.   It blows right by us and we are left wondering why such fab folks like us can’t even get an interview.

Confused?  So was Heather.  Heather is a military spouse in her early 40s.  Her kids are squared away and she is ready to go back to work.  Even though she is using her military spouse career tools — on-base career counseling, Military Spouse Employment Partnership, Military Job fairs — Heather isn’t finding a job.

“What kind of job are you looking for?” I asked her.

“I have so many skills.  I could do just about anything,” Heather answered.  “I was coming to a job fair so you all could put me in the right direction.”

Alarms went off inside my head.  Not because Heather isn’t qualified to get a job.  Heather has all kinds of experience.  Alarms went off because Heather missed the first interview question:  What kind of job are you looking for?

That is one of the biggest mistakes military spouses can make on the job hunt:  We sometimes fail to know what we want.  We sometimes fail to recognize that being able to articulate what kind of job we want IS a job skill.  In a job market that is tough on military spouses for a hundred reasons, knowing what you want and being able to explain it to a normal person is a primary job skill.

That is why everyone asks that question once they find out you are looking for job.  Your friends.  Your kid’s teacher.  Your COW.  The guy at the next table at Starbucks.  It is the first interview question,  even though none of those people have a job for you.

We spouses miss how significant the question is because it seems like a normal conversation.  It seems like the right answer should be something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t know.  I’m really organized and I’m a quick learner.  I could do anything.”

We don’t recognize that being able to answer ‘What kind of job are you looking for?’  IS one of the steps of getting a job.  It is every bit as important as pulling together a resume and brushing your teeth before the interview.

Because knowing what you want is the work.  Identifying the things you are good at compared to other people is the work.  Finding out what kind of jobs people with your skills do is the work.  Making the effort to call around and find out what buzz words employers would be looking for on your resumes is the work.

Failing to identify and commit to what kind of job you are looking for means that your social network never kicks in for you.  People want to help you, but they are not so imaginative that they can think up a job for you.  That’s the work you do yourself.  It is hard work. It is soul searching work.  It is work that has to be done by you and only you.

Heather started that work right away on the phone.  “I want to work with military families again,” she said.  “They told me at the career center I should call up and find out the buzz words they want on resumes.  I could do that…”

Yeah, Heather, you can.  We can all do a better job of articulating what we want.  Once we know the question is coming, we can do the work of trying out answers until we find just the right thing.

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at
  • AMS

    Just a thought: Could your choice of words in the Objective section of your resume answer that question for a hiring manager before they call (or toss your resume)? Is that a good section to be bold about what you’re looking for?

    • Kimbopep

      AMS, In my opinion the objective should be simple and answering a couple of simple questions an interviewer might have. The objective should mention the position you are applying to, especially with a company posting several positions. It should also tell them your intentions, like what you hope to accomplish, what skills you would like to utilize,etc. Never have your objective be a whole paragraph or two…you do not want to bore the HR folks. What I tell my clients is just to keep it simple and creative but not typical. A typical example would be: To obtain a position as an Administrative Assistant to utilize my organizational skills. Being organized is an expected attribute, so highlight unique skills or talk about a future plan. If you are in finance you could mention meeting the company’s financial objective. If you’re in a social or community service field mention fostering resiliency, improving readiness etc. Simple but with impact. Then show them “what you got” in your summary of qualifications, and experience section of your resume.

  • Jane

    I have NEVER been asked that question in an interview and I have been through many interviews in the past year.

  • Emily

    Jacey, do you encourage military spouses to highlight that they are military spouses, maybe in their cover letter for jobs? I feel that I have a solid resume and cover letter (tailored to specific jobs as appropriate) but I sometimes feel the short employment terms I’ve had in the past (due to military relocation) have affected my chances at getting an interview for a job I seek. How can I highlight my strengths as a miliary spouse and showcase that as a positive, not a negative, on my resume or cover letter?

  • It makes sense that you approach the job-hunting process with several professions to be the end goal. It doesn’t make any sense to not know what you want to do. Yes, people can become lost and a little indecisive in choosing a job after years of unemployment, but everyone has dreams and has an idea of what type of job they would feel comfortable doing; even if it involved choosing one out of a hat…

  • Your job hunt process is the most important thing when trying to be successful I think.