Here’s how to stay relevant in your field, even if you don’t have a job right now

By J.G. Noll

“I gave up my career for his.”

“She has to work, so I stayed home with the kids.”

“I miss my job, but I just can’t find one every two years.”

Sound familiar? As a group, military spouses are chronically under- and unemployed. It’s documented well across surveys and research: Military life isn’t so great for a military spouse’s career. Whether it’s licensing struggles and obstacles, the prohibitive financial burden of child care, or organizations’ unwillingness to hire someone that will be gone in just a few years’ time, the difficulties military spouses face when it comes to their career is a very real thing.

And the truth is, there’s no silver bullet for it. If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to find a job or stay in your career path, here are a few ways to stay up-to-date:

1. Read professional journals

Every profession and field of study has at least one publication that showcases what the best of the best are doing. Find out what that journal is, subscribe to it, and then make sure you read it habitually. Many are available online so you don’t have to worry about changing your address every time you PCS. Think about joining a professional organization too– many of them include a publication in the cost of your membership.

2. Freelance

First of all, you need to know the laws and ethical rules surrounding your profession to know what you can and can’t do as a freelancer. (And it might not be possible to freelance in every profession.) But once you know that, think creatively how you can use your skills and knowledge to keep practicing them in your field. If you’re a trained music educator but don’t have your teaching license in your current state, think about giving private, one-on-one lessons. If you’re a pastry chef, cater the officer spouses’ club meeting. Graphic designer? Make yourself a website and let know folks you’re open for business.

3. Learn more

There are plenty of low- or no-cost ways to continue your education and to learn something new in your field. Inquire about auditing courses (or taking them for credit) at your local community college or a local university. If you qualify for MyCAA funding or Syracuse’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families’ programming, consider using those resources. Listen to TEDx talks or educational podcasts that discuss topics that pertain to your profession.

4. Connect

Find places where your profession gathers online. Look for websites, message boards, Facebook groups, or blogs that are credible and have lively discussions. You can creep or engage, but if you’re reading and following along, you’ll be staying abreast of what’s going on in your field, even if you can’t practice right now.

5. Write

Start a blog of your own or submit to a journal, magazine, or website in your field. This is a great way of forcing yourself to stay up-to-date with new information and trends and giving yourself new, relevant publication bullet points on your resume. And you never know–it could turn into a freelancing or full-time gig for you. At the very least, you’ll have more in your portfolio for the next time you apply for a job.

6. Use your tools

Update your resume and portfolio as often as possible. If you’re using LinkedIn, maintain a regular presence and keep it updated too. If you don’t have LinkedIn, create a profile. Continue networking both online and offline. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a job in your profession right now–keep making connections and meeting people. You never know when opportunity may come knocking.