Whilst a posting overseas brings a chance to experience new cultures, climates and way of life, it can seriously impact on the non-serving partner’s employment journey. So what can you do about it?
AFF Policy & Research Director, Michelle Alston, says: “There are many restrictions on spouses working overseas, so understandably, lots of you choose not to. However, you’re then left with gaps in your employment history.”
One way to plug this gap is to volunteer. “Not only is it hugely beneficial to your future employability, but you can gain new skills, meet new people and in some cases, gain accredited qualifications,” adds Michelle.
There are still some restrictions in some locations, though generally not as limiting as those for paid employment.
SSAFA, The Armed Forces Charity, operates in many overseas locations and offers lots of opportunities. Dot Urban, SSAFA’s Volunteer Manager for Overseas explains: “We have new opportunities coming up regularly and some enable volunteers to use their existing skills which helps to keep them current. For example, sometimes we look for volunteer treasurers, so someone with skills and experience of the financial services sector is ideal.”
SSAFA volunteers can also gain accredited qualifications. Dot says: “We understand that our volunteers deserve to have investment made in their continuing professional development. You can gain a level two qualification in community volunteering, which formally recognises the skills that you develop in your work.”
Of course, volunteering can also be a very rewarding experience. “The pandemic has really highlighted different ways to give back to your community,” explains Michelle.
“People have found many ways to volunteer and we have had lots of different overseas opportunities advertised on Forces Families Jobs.”
Heather – SHAPE, Belgium
I run weekly sessions for the under-fives where children can access basic sports, science, music and literacy sessions. I also run a book club which meets once a month, and I have recently become chair of the Parent Staff Association at the British section of the international school.
As well as building my self-confidence and giving me experience of working with young children, volunteering makes me feel like a valued member of the community. It keeps me occupied whilst I take time off to be with my young children. I hope that it also shows that I’m motivated and hardworking when I start to apply for jobs again.
The children get to take part in different activities which support their development whilst their parents have a well-deserved, hot cup of tea! The book club helps adults to meet new people and just enjoy a chat, whilst my role on the PSA helps to raise the profile of the school and additional funds.
Caroline – Alberta, Canada
I started volunteering at my local foodbank preparing hampers for clients. I then worked in various roles which led to me securing a paid job as the intake advisor, where I assess and support clients who use the foodbank.
I began volunteering during the pandemic in 2020. COVID restrictions meant that regular volunteers couldn’t enter the building, so the military community was asked to help out. This worked well for me – I knew it would help me get back into work when we return to the UK.
Due to a prolonged illness, I had to take a break from the social work profession.
Volunteering really helped my physical recovery from surgery and it also developed my self-confidence and skills in working with vulnerable people.
I enjoy being able to give back to my community by supporting those in need.