Adapting, Adapting, Adapting
People do not typically include “lawyer” in the list of military spouse friendly professions. With licensure headaches and the variety of law specialties, finding positions that look cohesive on a resume can feel impossible. Instead of dwelling on the challenges, Air Force spouse Nadia Anac kept an open mind, explored new pathways and reminded herself that the hardships of each duty station were only temporary.
Balancing Career with Family
Nadia’s career expectation was to get her law degree, settle into her home state of Florida and work as a lawyer until retirement. But that expectation was flipped upside down when her now-husband decided to join the Navy. The weekend after their wedding, they moved to Washington, D.C. where Nadia took a temporary job doing document review at a law firm. Not only was the work exhausting and tedious, but Nadia’s employer was not understanding of Nadia’s role as a military spouse, a story heard too often in our community.
Her husband soon deployed, and when he returned they decided to leave the Navy and pursue the original vision of living in Miami, Florida. For awhile, life was “normal” for Nadia and her husband. She settled into a position with Subway’s international headquarters while he finished his MBA.
But after finishing his degree, Nadia’s husband decided to join the Air Force, a decision Nadia supported but knew would bring back the old challenges and prejudices she faced while in Washington, D.C. They packed their bags for Texas, and Nadia worked out a plan to continue working for Subway remotely. By the time they were settled in their new home, however, the job had suddenly disappeared, forcing Nadia to start from square one. She eventually took a job at a small legal firm as a paralegal. Luckily, because the firm worked on federal cases, she was not required to take the bar exam in Texas. After working for a few months, she was verbally offered a job as an attorney, but the offer was rescinded after she informed her boss that she was pregnant.
“It was never in writing, but it was a job that required a lot of travel, so he said ‘your husband won’t let you travel while pregnant,’” Nadia recounted.
Nadia continued to work throughout her pregnancy, but decided not to return after her six weeks of maternity leave due to childcare problems. She focused on her new son and spending time with him as a stay at home mom. Before his first birthday, her husband came home with the news that they would be soon be moving to Hawaii.
Upon arriving in Hawaii, Nadia began the job search and landed a temporary position with the law department of the local gas station. The head of her department soon offered her to stay on full time. Nadia mulled the offer over, weighing the professional benefits with the hardships she faced.
“It was an hour and a half commute,” she reflected. And to top things off, the daycare down the street from the office was closing, meaning she would have to hunt for a reliable sitter or daycare that was convenient enough for her to comfortably maintain a full time position. Like countless other military spouses, Nadia did not have backup childcare from family in the area or from her husband who often had an unpredictable schedule.
Nadia went with what was best for her family. She quit the legal position, took a breath, and decided she needed to do something for herself.
Discovering New Career Paths
While in Hawaii, Nadia joined a mom’s group and started bringing her camera to their meet ups for fun and to practice different photography techniques. Slowly, by word of mouth, she built a successful photography business that gave her extra income and a creative outlet.
Orders soon came for Nadia and her family to move back to the states. Pregnant with her second son, Nadia settled into Virginia and found herself at a career crossroads yet again. Because she did not have the same network she had in Hawaii, she ruled out photography as her main source of income. She brainstormed and realized that she wanted to pursue real estate.
Just like she did with her photography business, Nadia dedicated herself to real estate and built her new business from the ground up. She focused on the large military population in Virginia and worked hard to start a referral system. Today, Nadia is still in real estate with the goals of eventually becoming a broker and owning a business that hires veterans and military spouses.
To support her in her goals, Nadia relied on a peer group she found in the MilSpo project. Spouses in the project hold each other accountable, offer advice and are there when Nadia needs to voice new ideas or vent about the challenges of building a business.
Nadia’s story is full of twists and turns. Moves across the ocean, less than understanding bosses and positions that she never would have pursued outside of military life all create a beautiful example of adaptability. Nadia’s secret? Staying calm and remembering that each duty station is only temporary.
“If it’s not meant to be, it won’t be,” Nadia said. “I’ll work hard for whatever I’m doing. When my employers had some issues with keeping jobs open, then I focused on my kids. I tried to do different things that I liked, tried to stay in the field I studied in, and pursue the things I wanted to pursue. It’s only temporary, I’ll probably be in a different city, a different base next time. So may as well give it a try.”
Knowing she is only in a location for a short period time pushes Nadia to go harder and faster so she can get in as much work as she can at a new location.
Nadia advises other spouses to try out a variety of positions and fields until they find something they truly love.
“Start somewhere, even if it’s not your dream job. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom,” she advised, while reiterating the peace of mind she kept through it all, “It’s not forever. You will be moving.”