Preparing Young Adults for Their First Job – Strategies for Being a Good Employee

Newly hired employee gets training

Once your young adult has landed a job, there are several strategies to use to be a good, reliable employee. Learning how to support the company’s short- and long-term goals while at the same time growing and developing one’s own skills is important to both job success and career satisfaction. Put these tools and practices to work in order to make the employment experience a good one.

Be a reliable employee

There are many ways to put your best foot forward as a new employee, but these employee fundamentals are sure to help your young adult be successful:

  • Be on time. Allow plenty of time to get out the door. It’s better to be early than late, so allocate wiggle room for flat tires or unexpected road construction or traffic. Get in the practice of bringing a book to read during any extra time before the shift begins.
  • Be professional. While it’s fine to be friendly and upbeat, be sure to stay focused on roles and responsibilities. Always speak to co-workers, customers and managers with respect. Before leaving for the day, ask if there are any important tasks that need to be done.
  • Learn how to do your job well. Understand what is asked. Be clear on expectations and understand due dates and deliverables.
  • Work hard. Be fully present. Leave the phone and social media for after work hours.

Learn how to balance work with school responsibilities

Students who juggle work in addition to school obligations have to work harder to strike a balance between commitments. It’s important to set priorities and put healthy practices into place. Employ these practices to maintain a work-school-life balance:

  • Be clear about your availability. When possible, be up front about your work availability prior to beginning your job. If additional or unexpected school or personal commitments are going to impact your work availability, have the conversation with your manager or scheduler as soon as possible.
  • Manage your time. Plan your daily and weekly schedules and prioritize your work. Be honest about time snatchers – scrolling through social media feeds, binging TV shows, playing video games or splitting your focus by multitasking – and consider how you can put that time to better use. Reward yourself for using that recovered time in more productive ways.
  • Avoid schedule overload and the stress associated with over commitment. Be clear what you can handle and make sure your employer understands that as well.
  • Get adequate sleep. Your work and school performance will suffer if you don’t give your body – and your brain – proper rest and recovery.

Ask for help

It’s hard to ask for help. We want to give the impression that we are self-reliant and fear that we will appear incompetent or unknowledgeable. But a reluctance to ask for help at work is limiting or even destructive to careers and personal well-being. Understanding that we can be more effective and efficient if we ask for input or help from a more experienced employee early on is a great way to avoid larger problems down the road. Here are four times when you should absolutely ask for help:

  • You don’t know what you’re doing. Even the most experienced employees face instances when they are unclear as to what is being asked. It’s OK to ask.
  • You have too much on your plate. Assignments and tasks are projected to take a certain amount of time. Sometimes those time estimations are wrong or other needs come up that are more important. Explain the situation to your manager. Ask for more time and ask for help prioritizing your tasks. Or ask a co-worker to help. Be specific about what you need and what the deadline is.
  • You made a mistake. Own the mistake and let someone know. The goal is to understand what went wrong and how to avoid the same mistake in the future.
  • You need help from a more experienced co-worker. If you don’t know your company’s processes or systems, you’ll need to ask someone who does.

Ask for additional responsibilities or training opportunities at work

Whether you’re hoping for a raise or just wanting to add to the breadth and depth of your skills, asking for additional responsibility can be complicated. Here are a few ways to pick up additional skills and responsibilities:

  • Ask your manager. Before you ask for more things to be added to your workload, make sure you have a handle on your current responsibilities. Help your manager understand the positive impact on the business or department if you acquire additional skills or take on new tasks.
  • Be proactive. Do you see a problem that needs solving? Is something falling through the cracks? If so, let your department know that you could help with those tasks.
  • Offer to help a co-worker. If you see a busy colleague who is juggling too many assignments, offer to assist.

Be open to job performance feedback

Receiving feedback is difficult for everyone. Our brains are wired to protect us, and neuroscientists have determined that criticism is perceived by the brain as a threat to survival. People who effectively process feedback and put it to use to improve their skills and performance have learned to work around this hardwiring of self-protection. Here are some ways to be resilient about performance feedback:

  • Don’t shut down. Be aware of your body language and tone of voice when someone is offering constructive feedback. Whether suggestions are coming from a supervisor or co-worker, be physically and emotionally open to the person’s thoughts and recommendations.
  • Listen.  Let it sink in. Ask how it impacts your team. Some types of feedback can be hard to process in the moment. Take time to consider the feedback and revisit the conversation with your supervisor. Ask how you can do better.

Performance feedback is about skill and execution of a task, not about you as a person. Good managers develop those who work for them. Feedback, given openly and constructively, is a gift for your development. If you have regular conversations with your manager, ask for feedback on a regular basis. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Do you have one or two suggestions for how I can improve my work?
  • How could I handle my projects more effectively?
  • Is there anything I can do to make your job easier?
  • Do you have any suggestions for improving how I prioritize or complete my tasks?

Be willing to address issues at work

Even the best work environments have misunderstandings, projects that miss the target or interactions that don’t go as planned. Keep these three things in mind when addressing issues at work:

  • Assume positive intent. Most misunderstandings are just that – a misinterpretation of facts or the situation. Before addressing the issue, go into the discussion assuming the person had good intentions.
  • Talk directly to the person involved. While you can seek advice from a manager or mentor for how to handle a situation, it is always better to deal directly with the person involved to gain an understanding for how you arrived at a place of misunderstanding or frustration.
  • Consult a manager or mentor if the situation remains unresolved. Ask for advice on how to proceed constructively to resolve the issue.

Your military community makes it easier for you to help your young adult prepare to be a strong employee. Reach out to Military OneSource with questions or for additional assistance. Call 800-342-9647 or set up a live chat today. OCONUS/international? Viewr calling options.

Youth Employment – The Essentials

Student receives training at his summer job on a military installation

A first job is an important milestone in a student’s life. Taking the first steps toward financial independence, as well as making a commitment to an employer, is both exciting and nerve-wracking. With the addition of geographic moves, military youth have their own unique experiences and challenges when it comes to securing employment. Military OneSource provides plenty of resources to help military families assist their teens as they tackle their first job search. Use the resources and strategies below to help your teen take the first steps toward employment success.

Filling out a job application

Your teen can find available jobs on most company websites or by inquiring at the place of business. Teens can also get assistance with their job searches through local teen or youth programs and Military and Family Support Center, which offer knowledgeable staff, classes and computer access. Teaching your teen the basics of completing job applications will help alleviate confusion and anxiety about job searching. Whether your teen will be completing an application at the place of business or a fillable form online, here is the general information requested on applications:

  • Basic information. This information includes name, address and contact information.
  • Available start date. If your teen is heavily involved in extracurricular activities such as basketball or skiing, starting a job in November might not be the right time to put the best foot forward with the employer. Help your teen figure out the optimum time to begin earning extra cash.
  • Hours available to work each week. Before applying for a job, your teen should determine how many hours he or she can work each week and still meet obligations of school work and demands of extracurricular activities and meetings. Help your teen lay out his or her average weekly schedule and determine the work time available within that schedule.
  • Desired salary. This is often minimum wage for entry-level positions.
  • Skills relevant to the job or to being a reliable worker.
  • Resume or cover letter. These items, especially the cover letter, should be customized for each employer and personalized with the hiring manager’s name whenever possible. Even if the application asks for work history, these documents are often requested to be uploaded for online applications.
  • Work history. This information includes company name and phone number, the position held, responsibilities and dates of employment.
  • Education history. Be sure to include school name and type, such as high school or college.
  • References. These can be personal and/or work-related, depending on your teen’s work history. References should always be asked ahead of time if they are comfortable serving as a reference; they should also be alerted to which employers your teen has applied so they are prepared when an employer reaches out for a job reference. In addition to your teen’s relationship to the references, you will need to provide contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses. Your teen should always thank references once a job is obtained.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity and veteran status, as well as self-identification of any disability.

Relevant Articles:

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Getting the resume ready.

Make sure your son or daughter has a good resume ready to go. You never know when an employment opportunity will arise and a solid resume allows your child to be ready when opportunities occur. Use Military OneSource and the Department of Labor’s Career OneStop tools to draft the resume, compare formats and styles and explore resume guidelines, tips and samples to ensure your child’s resume looks professional. Teens can also get assistance with resume development or review through local teen or youth programs and Military and Family Support Center.

Relevant Articles:

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Completing employment documentation

Employment documentation is confusing for adults, let alone someone facing these documents for the first time. Your child will be asked to complete the following forms in the first day(s) of employment. All of the required documentation should be treated as sensitive information. To avoid identity theft, your child should never email or leave this information with anyone but the hiring manager.

  • Work permit
    • Work permits vary by state, but typically teens between the ages of 14 and 17 will need to acquire work permits. Have your teen consult the high school guidance or counseling office or contact the superintendent’s office.
  • W-4, or Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate
    • This form sets up your child’s federal income tax withholding.
    • The W-4 requires your child’s social security number.
  • I-9, or Employment Eligibility Verification
    • The I-9 requires both proof of identity and authorization to work.
    • This form also requires your child’s social security number.
    • There are many acceptable combinations for employment eligibility verification, but the most common documents used for verification are:
      • Passport only
      • Both a valid driver’s license and birth certificate
    • Your child can find a complete list of acceptable I-9 documentation at USCIS.gov.

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Setting up direct deposit for paychecks

Most employers pay via direct deposit into a savings or checking account. If your child hasn’t already done so, visit your local bank branch to set up an account. Direct deposits are handled through the Automated Clearing House network, and your child can expect pay deposits to show up on his or her monthly bank statements coded with the acronym ACH. The following information is required to set up direct deposit:

  • Bank account number
  • Bank routing number (ask your bank for its specific nine-digit code)
  • Account type (savings or checking)
  • Bank name and address (any branch will do)
  • Name(s) of all account holders on the account

Exploring internships.

Interning is a great way to get your teen’s foot in the door. Your teen can learn a lot about the company while making valuable connections. Ask around your installation, community centers and local businesses about internship opportunities. Job websites, such as Indeed, also list internships opportunities for both high school and college students, and you can search MilitaryINSTALLATIONS for opportunities at your installation. The Department of Defense offers internship opportunities through its STEM program, available to both high school and college students.

Relevant Resources:

Finding and connecting with a mentor

The military community is full of role models who your youth can learn about their job experience. A strong network is key, and a mentor can unlock educational and professional connections. Better yet, mentors can provide the support, guidance and coaching that will help your son or daughter figure out the right path. Start by asking a future mentor for a 15-20 minute conversation. Have your son or daughter explore your community arsenal for someone who can help:

  • Neighbor, relative or family friend
  • Trusted employer or manager
  • Counselor, coach or teacher
  • Camp counselor or youth group leader
  • Religious leader

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Building skills through volunteering.

You are part of a community committed to serving, and there are plenty of volunteer opportunities in and around your installation. It’s a great way for your youth to build resume skills, make connections and stay busy during their job search. Your installation youth center or military family readiness center can connect your youth to a volunteer coordinator who can provide a list of volunteer openings.

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Relevant Resources:

Air Force Special Forces: Applying to Become a Combat Controller, Pararescueman, or Special Operations Weatherman

service member and helicopter

Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has its own elite forces, including the Air Force’s Special Tactics teams. The pararescue specialists, combat controllers and special operations weathermen in these teams are some of the most highly trained service members in the force.

If you’re a currently enlisted airman thinking about Air Force Special Operations, talk to a career counselor about transferring. You can apply and participate in the special ops selection process while enlisted and can return to your old assignment if you don’t make the cut.

Here’s a look into what it takes to join these elite teams for your future military career.

Air Force pararescue specialists: Duties, qualifications and training

The primary mission for Air Force Special Operations pararescue specialists – also known as “PJs” for “para-jumpers” – is personnel recovery. They save service members from hostile or hard-to-reach locations.

Since 9/11, PJs have successfully run over 12,000 combat rescue missions. That doesn’t include the more than 5,000 civilians rescued from natural disasters.

Anyone who wants to become a pararescue specialist must be:

  • Between 17 and 39 years old
  • A basic training graduate
  • Able to get a secret security clearance
  • Financially responsible
  • EMT-certified
  • Physically fit enough to jump from an airplane and SCUBA dive
  • Intelligent, with high general ASVAB scores

If you’re selected for transfer, expect about 70 weeks of training before your first mission. This training covers diving, parajumping and emergency medical treatment.

Air Force combat controllers: Duties, qualifications and training

The support provided by an Air Force Special Operations combat controller is second to none. After all, they have all the duties of a civilian air traffic controller – only in foreign territories made dangerous by extreme weather or enemy fire. They need to be able to safely get to foreign air strips while supporting air crews from all service branches.

Those interested in becoming a combat controller must be:

  • Between 17 and 39 years old
  • A basic training graduate
  • Physically fit enough to dive, jump from airplanes and serve on air strips
  • Financially responsible
  • Skilled as a mechanic

Combat controller training involves learning how to drive a snowmobile, SCUBA dive and parachute. In all, technical training will take more than 94 weeks to complete.

Air Force Special Operations weathermen: Duties, qualifications and training

If you’re fascinated by weather and new technology, becoming an Air Force Special Operations weatherman might be a great career choice for you. These military meteorologists deploy with other Special Forces units from both the Army and Marine Corps to provide mission-critical weather reports. Special Forces may be able to take down the enemy, but no one can stop flash floods, looming storms or sudden brushfire – all of which the Air Force weathermen can see coming and is a vital piece of mission planning.

Service members interested in joining a special operations weather team must be:

  • Between 17 and 39 years old
  • A basic training graduate
  • Physically fit and able to parachute
  • Financially responsible
  • State licensed to drive
  • Qualified to bear firearms
  • Good with electronics

Advanced training to become a special ops weatherman takes more than 138 weeks to complete. During those two-and-a-half years, you’ll learn how to report on environmental and weather conditions, use sensitive instruments and join special operations tactics.

Learn about other branches’ elite units as well as other military careers to pursue. Discover all the ways Military OneSource is your connection to information, answers and support to help you overcome challenges, reach your goals and thrive.

About the National Guard Employment Support Program

Service member working on a plane

The Joint National Guard Employment Support Program is vital in supporting our National Guard service members in finding meaningful careers and job opportunities as they face the challenges of military life, whether mobilized or in a steady state posture. Having this “joint” program in the Joint Force Headquarters-State since 2004 underscores this as the Adjutant General’s program, which is critical for success.

A strong Employment Support network has been organized in each state and territory with a Program Support Specialist, and reinforced by partnerships with other government agencies, private partnerships and a synergistic relationship with National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. This Army and Air partnership and coordination ensures that all units and states can readily communicate with each other, and helps resolve issues with employers.

At the state level, the JFHQ houses the Employment Support Program. Additional resources and programs leveraged by Employment Support are often co-located at the JFHQ-State or tied into it in some way. Many of these partners are able to reach across service cultures and touch our National Guard families within their states.

In addition, the 55 Program Support Specialists are the primary resource in providing employment support/opportunities/options to commanders, soldiers, airmen, and families. They can serve as the TAG’s representative on employment issues within the state. They identify, plan, and deliver briefings for mobilization and deployment.

The Employment Support Program has expanded responsibilities recently to include employment facilitation. Program Support Specialists have been recently trained to utilize the CASY-MSCCN case management system for consideration and implementation in their respective states.

Mission and strategy

Mission statement
NGB Employment Support customer focus: Provide employment opportunities and options to develop career-ready service members, prepared/resilient family members, and successfully transitioned members integrated with their community.

Vision statement
Supporting the warfighter, the homeland and developing partnerships by shaping legislation and policy, and affecting outcomes that support the strategic integration of the National Guard in supporting the National Military Strategy through force readiness.

Job Opportunities in Your Local Community

US flag formation of people

Find workforce development career center websites and veterans representatives by state and territory.

Job Opportunities

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes program assists service members, military spouses and veterans with obtaining meaningful employment.

Workforce Development Career Center Websites and Veterans Representatives by State and Territory

Click on a link below to connect to your local career center and see what services are available to help you land the civilian job that’s right for you.

For volunteer opportunities with the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (Contingency Operations positions that place civilians alongside the U.S. military to provide crucial functions), visit the DOD Expeditionary Civilian Program.

Additional employment resources for military spouses are located at the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Program’s Job Search.

For national employment opportunities, you can search for jobs by state with the links below.

Start Your Career With Military Kids – Come Grow With Us

Children sing a song in a Child Development Center

The Department of Defense is the nation’s largest employer-sponsored child care system and one of the largest youth development programs in the country. Through the Department of Defense’s career opportunities initiative, Come Grow With Us, you can apply for both entry and management-level positions in many child development programs and youth programs world-wide.

Department of Defense child and youth development careers

Watch this video of the career opportunities available within military child development and youth programs.

Streaming YouTube is currently blocked from DOD networks. To visit the video directly, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbH4k6dvOX4.

As a Department of Defense child development and youth program employee, you’ll enjoy competitive pay and benefits, including:

  • Health and life insurance
  • Paid leave
  • Retirement and 401K benefits
  • Tuition assistance
  • Training, mentoring and professional development
  • Career advancement opportunities

Plus, many of the Department of Defense’s 850+ high-quality child development and youth programs are located on or near military installations worldwide. And, for military spouses seeking employment, spousal preference is offered as well.

If you are interested in a career that offers flexibility and advancement, while providing a vital service to our military families around the world, this employment opportunity is for you.

Some available jobs that may be open in your area include:

  • Child development directors and assistant directors
  • Training and curriculum specialists
  • Before and after school directors
  • Youth program directors
  • Direct care staff

Both entry and career-level positions with Department of Defense programs can be found at:

Ask an Installation Employment Readiness Specialist

Both military spouses and recent college grads from military families can talk to their installation’s employment readiness specialist.

Skills you need to succeed as a child and youth development staff member

If you’re considering a career field in early care and education or youth development, ask yourself these questions to see if you’d fit the qualifications for many entry and management-level positions.

  • Do you have experience with children? Previous experience working with children and youth may give you an advantage when seeking employment. Don’t just count formal student teaching or training, though – an employment history of babysitting or camp counseling will look great to potential employers.
  • Do you have formal early childhood education or youth development training or certifications? Most employers request candidates have at least a GED/high school diploma. Having an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in child development, education, psychology, social work, youth development, or physical education can set your application apart from others. Child care-related certifications like the Child Development Associate, or CDA, or the Child Care Professional, or CCP, credentials may also increase your employability, as do basic first aid and CPR certifications.
  • Are you looking for a rewarding, meaningful career? Few careers offer the chance to directly support military children and youth, offering them the foundation they need to succeed as adults. If you enjoy a challenge and are passionate about working with children and youth, this job opportunity is for you.

For more information

If you have questions about Come Grow With Us opportunities, send us an inquiry form and a program manager will reply.

Career Coaching for Military Spouses

woman smiling on computer

Being a military spouse has great rewards – and a few challenges. Frequent moves are a good example of both. It’s exciting to experience other parts of the country and the world. But it can be hard to sustain a career when you have to pack up and leave every few years.

If your service member’s spouse is struggling to find a job, they may be eligible for free career coaching and other resources to help build a career that will follow them wherever they go.

The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program

The Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program, provided by the Department of Defense, offers career coaching and a wealth of tools and resources to prepare for, and find, a great job. Encourage the military spouse in your life to check out the resources and tools on the MySECO website, including:

  • Self-assessments
  • A resume builder
  • Scholarship finder
  • A free year-long upgrade to LinkedIn Premium
  • Job listings from Military Spouse Employment Partnership employers who are committed to hiring military spouses

SECO also offers a number of personal services, such as on-demand resume and cover letter review, a job search resource that provides spouses with customized job leads with MSEP partners, and more.

Career coaching tailored to military spouses

Both new and seasoned military spouses might feel alone in their efforts to establish a career. A number of our SECO career coaches are veterans or military family members themselves and have personal experience with finding ways to overcome those hurdles. They can help military spouses identify education and career goals and tap into resources to meet them. A SECO career coach can also help military spouses:

  • Find education or training programs that fit their mobile life
  • Research ways to pay for education and training
  • Maximize their search for jobs
  • Build networks and self-market
  • Conduct video mock interviews
  • Pursue entrepreneurship

Career coaching packages for all situations

SECO career coaches offer specialty consultations for military spouses who are interested in a specific career path. Industry-specific coaching packages include:

  • Intelligence and cybersecurity
  • Science, technology, engineering and math
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health care
  • K-12 education
  • Federal employment
  • Information technology
  • Freelancing

SECO also provides career transition coaching packages to help military spouses navigate life changes. Career transition coaching package topics include:

  • New spouse
  • Career readiness
  • Career pathways
  • Re-entering the workforce
  • Permanent change of station
  • Working remotely

The military spouse you care about can take advantage of the free resources to strengthen their skills and meet their goals. Connecting with a SECO career coach can open the door to a meaningful and enriching career for the military spouse in your life.

Military spouses can contact a SECO career coach at 800-342-9647 or through the Live Chat feature in the header of the MySECO website.

Career Coaching for Military Spouses

Deciding on a career or finding a job isn’t easy when your family moves every few years. The military spouse in your life can get help through free career coaching from the Department of Defense.

Freelancing in the Gig Economy: An Overview for the Military Community

Service member is painting.

For military spouses and service members, the growing gig economy provides an opportunity to earn extra income. Gig work also offers flexibility and independence that you may not find in some traditional or part-time jobs. And whether you walk dogs or drive for a ride-sharing service, your alternate business may move with you when you PCS.

As with any employment, there are pros and cons to working in the gig economy. Also, the military has specific rules for service members working off duty and for spouses operating a business on a military installation. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether a gig economy job can work for you.

What gig work is – freelancer, temp jobs and contract jobs

Gig work is a job or money-making venture that is not your typical long-term, paid position. It’s temporary work, a short-term contract or a freelance job that brings in additional money or is an outlet for a passion. You could start a business such as catering, offer services or goods through an online sales platform, or sell old items on an auction website.

As a freelancer, you are your own boss. You set your own hours, decide what kind of assignments you want to take, collect your own fees and pay your own taxes. If you freelance for a company, your role is independent contractor, not employee.

Gig work has many advantages for service members and spouses. Many people find a creative outlet in gig jobs. You can make good money, and you have more flexibility, working the days and hours that suit your schedule. You have greater independence, and when you PCS to a new place, a gig economy job is more transferable.

On the downside, gig work usually offers no benefits, such as sick leave, paid time off or worker’s compensation. You don’t have the guarantee of a steady income since you earn only when you work. Plus you risk losing any money you invest in your business if it doesn’t pan out. Also, you must pay estimated federal, state and Social Security taxes four times per year. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of a gig job when considering whether it makes sense for you.

Department of Defense rules for side work

Active-duty service members who want to work gig jobs must follow rules established by the Department of Defense. You may want to see if your service branch has its own rules governing gig work. There are also requirements for spouses who want to operate a business while living on an installation.

Service members:

  • Start by consulting the Outside Activities section of the Ethics Counselor’s Deskbook. This gives you the DOD’s basic rules for off-duty employment.
  • Get permission from your command. Start with your supervisor. You will also need your commander’s approval, and you may need your local legal office or ethics office to sign off. They will evaluate your request to make sure your side job does not:
    • Interfere with your military duties, since the military could potentially call you to work at any time.
    • Impact your safety or the safety of those in the military community. For example, you shouldn’t do a job that makes you miss out on sleep.
    • Violate the military’s ethical standards. For example, you can’t work for another federal agency while you are on active duty.

Military spouses:

Spouses who want to operate a business while living on an installation must meet certain requirements:

  • Register your business with the installation housing office and receive a permit to operate.
  • Get state and local business licenses if required in your location. If you plan to offer in-home child care, you may need to become a certified family child care provider.
  • Register with your state as a business entity, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or LLC, if required.
  • Learn about the policies on advertising your home business on your installation. You may not use the military postal system for commercial purposes.
  • Follow the Status of Forces Agreement rules between the U.S. and your host country if you are OCONUS. Some countries place strict limitations on the type of business you may operate.

Resources to help you get organized

For military spouses and service members, the growing gig economy provides an opportunity to earn extra income. Gig work also offers flexibility and independence that you may not find in some traditional or part-time jobs. And whether you walk dogs or drive for a ride-sharing service, your alternate business may move with you when you PCS.