NORFOLK, Va. – For some military spouses, orders to Virginia may mean a job search, but the modern gig economy might mean they get employment more quickly and easily.
A report sponsored by Wells Fargo and conducted online this spring by the Harris Poll shows that military service members, their spouses and partners depend on the gig economy to supplement their household income.
The survey commissioned by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling — a nonprofit dedicated to improving people's financial well-being — indicates that while military life presents a challenge to many when it comes to landing and maintaining private sector employment, the gig economy has helped to make a difference.
Nikki James Zellner
Nikki James Zellner worked a side job before she opened her own business earlier this year.
For Zellner, the creation of her virtual business, Where Content Connects, was a long time coming.
"I had worked almost a 16- to 18-year career in corporate media," said Zellner whose background is in advertising, marketing and editorial development. "I had a very well-established, lucrative career prior to having children."
Her consultancy helps women, solopreneurs and small teams tell their stories and connect with the right people. Zellner credits the Milspo Project, a nonprofit that empowers and educates military spouses, entrepreneurs and leaders, with helping her move from her corporate job to her side gig to business ownership.
Many military families move every two to three years. "You don't know if you're going to be relocated to a state that'll have viable employment for you," Zellner said. "You don't know if you're going to have to change your licensing or go through the licensing process just to stay in a place for a year."
She said remote work is a hot topic among military spouses because it enables them to start a job and then take it with them.
"I think the whole planet, at this point, is moving toward remote work as a viable option," she said.
After a divorce from her first husband, Victoria Jameson became a single mom with two young children.
That's when Jameson, who is now remarried to Davin Jameson, a Navy diver, decided she needed extra income on top of her full-time job.
Employed in the real estate industry in administrative support and as a personal assistant since the age of 19, she decided to create a social media marketing business on the side.
She started Jameson Social and offers services including real estate advice and event planning.
She still works 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for the Real Estate Information Network.
"It can be challenging on top of being a mom and then with my husband's training schedule he deployed last year and he's set to deploy again next year," Jameson said.
As an Army spouse, Erica McMannes moved 11 times in 17 years.
"So, any kind of traditional track of career growth or career path was definitely a challenge," said McMannes who lives in Yorktown with her husband, Matt, a lieutenant colonel, and their two sons.
An 18-month stay in California introduced her to the startup space and Silicon Valley's innovation hub.
Along the way, McMannes, who was working freelance and remotely, said she was asked to do things outside her skill set.
"But, I knew I had this global community of other highly skilled professional military spouses I could reach out to," she said pointing out that the military spouse community has a 26% unemployment rate.
By developing pods of teams for one company, and then a second and a third, McMannes built a full-time career of her own.
She and fellow Army spouse Liza Rodewald started Instant Teams three years ago. Their business creates remote teams — from a pool of military spouses with expertise including marketing, tech and customer service — for companies in just five days.