The Gift of Exposure
About the Author

Michelle Aikman is a military spouse and career management expert.

 “We have a water fountain over there.”   

I look around and notice it is the only water fountain in the entire gym. The gym’s decision for only a single station, and its placement, are perplexing. It wouldn’t cost much to provide a better experience for their clients.   

I realize this is another one of those moments … a moment when I see a situation that could easily be improved, but maybe I’m the only one to notice the lost opportunity? I call this my “gift of exposure.”  

Military spouses tend to have very robust gifts of exposure as a direct result of moving around and being a part of many different communities and workplaces. This adds unique value to our work. 

Two military spouses shared examples of when their gifts of exposure enabled them to apply best practices from past situations, which contributed to improvements.  

“When I worked at GE, I was tasked with improving a design calculation method that had been done the same way for 40-plus years. I conducted a lean workout with my team, and we developed an improvement plan to automate the system, which resulted in the allocation of funding and resources to implement the plan. My experience with lean workouts from other jobs enabled me to help the team find a solution for this team. I am now at another company and recently used this again for another project.”  

“My children attended a small private school. The parents’ group had recurring problems with the president taking on all of the activity burden and decision-making leaving the other officers and parents unengaged and not contributing. When I assumed the role of the president, I pulled from my experiences in other small nonprofit groups and restructured the leadership roles from the traditional hierarchy structure in place since it started many years ago to three equal roles each focused on a different aspect of the mission. The new structure drastically improved engagement, contributions, and work towars the mission.”    

If you are a military spouse, consider how your gifts of exposure help you see opportunities and solutions to make the world around you a better place. What might seem to you like an obvious solution might be considered out-of-the-box thinking for others. Don’t hold back if you are contemplating sharing your ideas; your diverse background equips you to solve problems and make improvements. If you are interested in communicating your value in a workplace, don’t forget to include this value-adding skill set and perspective in your professional portfolio.  

If you're an employer, be sure to ask military spouses for examples of how they contributed to improvements by applying best practices from past experiences. You likely will find military spouses have exceptional experiences and talents that make them high-value talent for your workplace. 

 
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