Emily Starbuck Gerson
Moving to a different state or country every two to four years with the military can be rewarding, but these frequent moves can make it difficult for the service members’ spouses to find work. Some programs can help military spouses find portable work but it isn’t always easy, especially for spouses who also juggle child-rearing.
Gig-based jobs can work well for anyone from students to retirees looking for extra cash and their extreme flexibility makes them ideal for military spouses. The fact that they offer no benefits isn’t an issue, since military spouses are covered through the federal government. Here’s more on why gigs are ideal for the partners of service members.
It’s hard to find a city that doesn’t have the presence of Lyft and Uber, a food delivery service like Seamless, a grocery delivery service like Instacart or a fleet of scooters that need charging. Hop on Steady to find plenty of jobs to choose from wherever needed. Stationed somewhere very remote or overseas? Gig options might be limited, but if living anywhere near larger cities, there can be plenty of jobs. If an app like Steady hasn’t launched in the area yet, try a gig service like Thumbtack or Task Rabbit to find nearby specific one-offs.
Not only are there an assortment of gigs in most areas of the United States but by finding a fit, such as shopping for groceries with Shipt, means the ability to pick up the same gig in the new location. “Because you transition so frequently, the ability to just take and move your work with you is so critical,” says Jennifer Dane, an Air Force veteran who has participated in the gig economy. Dane is also the diversity and inclusion policy analyst for American Military Partners Association, an advocacy group for spouses, partners and families of LGBTQ service members.
“Without the gig economy, you lose continuity in any type of work you’re doing. But with it or any type of remote work, it’s a seamless transition from one work to another; you don’t have to worry about retention or new training,” Dane explains. “You’re still doing what you always did, just at another location.”
A typical job, even a part-time one, usually requires a set schedule. The beauty of gig-based jobs is choosing when to start and stop work, and working as much or as little as wanted. When time’s available or more money is needed, put in more hours. If time relaxing or spending with family is important, there’s no pressure to work. “The flexibility, especially for stay-at-home parents, is so essential to the service member, but also to their family,” Dane says. “This flexibility really opens up new worlds of possibilities for the military spouses, and the whole community of military life. Because it’s stressful enough, this makes it a little bit less of a burden.”
Moving to a new location every few years and learning the way around town can be stressful. Taking on gigs requiring driving around town to deliver items or give people rides, means quickly learning the lay of the land and helps the new home become familiar. It may be outside one’s comfort zone, but can help through immersion in the new surroundings.
One of the hardest parts of military moving is making new connections and finding community, crucial for military spouses and service members, Dane says. While the military has its own resources for that, running around town doing gigs can be a wonderful way to meet locals, especially giving rides since there’s time to converse.
“I think every new location you move to, it’s different and you acquire new skills you wouldn’t otherwise have,” Dane says. “Especially driving with Uber, you connect with the community in a much larger way than you would before. It’s just a different way to connect, and I think that’s what makes this gig economy so important — because we crave connection and it creates that connection, and it kind of creates your community again.”
Frequent moves can make it challenging for military spouses to find work, but the ever-growing world of gigs makes it a lot easier. From offering incredible amounts of flexibility to helping find community at a new duty station, gigs are ideal for military spouses — or even service members looking for a side hustle.