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Military spouses struggle to find employment

Wednesday - 4/25/2012, 3:05pm  ET

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Military spouses looked for jobs and advice at MOAA's military job fair. (WTOP/Darci Marchese)

Darci Marchese, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The effort to hire military men and women after their service is completed can overshadow the challenges military spouses face with finding employment of their own.

"I'm trying to figure out what to do," says Lena Smith, whose husband has served in the U.S. Army for 15 years while she's tried to balance her career in law with following him around the country.

Smith was working as a prosecutor in Seattle, Wash. when her husband was transferred to Fort Dix in New Jersey. His assignment is only two years and Smith says it's not worth it to re-take the bar exam in a new state.

"By the time you get the bar, it's time to go again," Smith says.

However, with expensive school loans, not working isn't an option either.

"So this is a real pressure to be able to work because the debt is so huge," she says.

On top of switching careers, Smith has endured her husband's three deployments to Iraq.

Smith traveled to D.C. in order to attend a job fair held by the Military Officers Association of America. The fair held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Tuesday is D.C.'s largest specifically for military members and their spouses.

One woman, named Susan, said she just moved to Fairfax County after her husband, who serves in the Army, was transferred to the Washington region. She came to the job fair to have her resume critiqued, as well as meet new contacts, peers and job contacts. She worked as a substitute teacher in Missouri and now hopes to find a steady job in education.

Lynn Carroll works with spouses for MOAA and says she not only understands the challenges but has dealt with them herself. Also a military spouse, Carroll started her own virtual business which she has to start and stop again during moves.

"You need to relocate every few years... You're probably not going to develop a single career path," Carroll says.

Carroll encourages spouses to become self-employed and says social media is another tool that helps people meet other spouses in similar situations.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)