Persisting in the midst of challenges, Helene is the ultimate example of the strength of military spouses

The principal aim of RFS is to provide opportunity for military spouses to fulfil professional potential in the world of work that operates without bias. And Helene is the ultimate example of this in action. From a vital member of our liquid workforce, Helene has worked, focused and pushed herself beyond her comfort zones.

What is your career background?

I have used my bachelor’s degree in German & Business Studies from Warwick University across a variety of industries, roles, countries, and languages. Through frequent relocations alongside my husband’s military assignments, I gained skills in adapting quickly and integrating effectively into teams, often with little or no face-to-face contact with my colleagues.

What is your current role? What is a typical day for you?

My current role is the Recruitment, Welfare and Progression Officer for our Centre in Coalville and the Employment Engagement Officer for the Midlands and North of England. My responsibilities vary, including meeting with learners in our Construction/Property Maintenance course, managing the course implementation, networking with employers, and fundraising for Building Heroes, so no day is exactly the same, but the variety keeps the work interesting. There is always a new challenge and a greater goal.

How did you find out about the role and what was the application process?

This role was advertised on Forces Families Jobs, and although the position had already been filled, Building Heroes informed me they would be advertising a new role a few days later. This new posting met nearly all of my needs, so I quickly applied. After a Zoom interview with the COO, a written exercise, and a follow-up interview, I was offered the position, and I happily accepted.

How does your job fit within military life?

This position’s workflow tends to be heavier during term-time and lighter over the holidays, which enables me to take full advantage of my current childcare services. Also, because Building Heroes allows me to work my hours flexibly across the week and manage my own diary, I can more easily accommodate my family’s needs and schedule.

What type of personality traits do you need to do your job?

This position requires a compassionate yet highly-determined individual, capable of adapting and persisting in the midst of challenges to negotiate among multiple stakeholders. This position also requires highly efficient time management skills to accommodate consistent networking.

What is so good about working for this employer?

Building Heroes understands and supports employees with military experience and connections. As a military spouse myself and knowing the unique challenges many military personnel face, it means so much to work for an employer who actively advocates for military populations and accepts them in its own workforce.

As a military spouse, what has been your biggest obstacle when trying to balance work/kids/your spouses’ military commitments?

My greatest challenges were navigating the frequent home moves, often settling in remote locations, far from most career opportunities in my industry. Although COVID-19 has created many challenges, I believe it has also created opportunities to demonstrate just how productive employees can be, if not more so, by working from home. I hope this will contribute to more remote and flexible working conditions in the future, both for those within and outside the military.

What advice would you give fellow Military spouses who want to get back into work, retrain for a new career or start their own business?

In my experience, a commitment to embracing change, persisting through rejection, diversifying your career path, and knowing your value, will eventually lead you to the right employer and position.

Due to the adverse effect of Covid-19 on the oil industry, I was furloughed from my recruitment job in March 2020. I used this time to reassess my career path, realising my options were to: persist in securing another recruitment role, pivot to a similar role and/or industry, or retrain to enter an entirely different field. Knowing the responsibilities and environments that energised me in previous roles, I felt strongly that a continued career in recruitment or a change to a career in sales would provide me the work I most enjoy and offer the necessary flexibility to diversify and advance in the future.

In the midst of seeking permanent positions and fielding responses from over 60+ applications, I took a temporary customer service role at Mondelez. Although this role was not in recruitment or sales, I knew it would strengthen several skill sets and increase my marketability. By utilizing my German language skills in the workplace and building my knowledge and expertise in software I previously used, I would then be able to position myself to apply for a role as a German Account manager for this software or other IT software or possibly a recruitment role at Mondelez at a later date.

My experience with Recruit for Spouses demonstrated that employers who valued my skill set would adapt to meet my strongest needs: flexible hours, remote working, and an appropriate salary. Therefore, while interviewing for roles in recruitment and sales, rather than say yes to the first opportunities, I felt confident to negotiate for parameters that would enable me to thrive both in the workplace and my personal life. This led me to happily accept my position with Building Heroes.