Meet military spouse, Michelle Mehta; entrepreneur, advocate, and author. She is passionate about helping military spouses and we are honored to share her story with you:
- Tell us about yourself and your business: I am a management consultant and executive coach with expertise in organization development, leadership, and working life. I’m also an advocate for military spouse employment and offer coaching services to military spouses trying to integrate career with military life. I use my writing and research on this topic to promote cultural and systemic change within the military community. I’ve been an Air Force spouse for 19 years, and currently live in the Washington, DC area.
- Why did you start your business? I started my business as a solo practitioner in 2004 so that I could maintain my career as a management consultant while moving around with the military. Being self-employed also gave me the flexibility I wanted to have as we were starting a family.
- What challenges did you face that you did not anticipate? I don’t think I realized that I would be constantly reinventing myself, even after I chose the path of self-employment. I did get the flexibility I wanted, but the process of deciding what work to do and how to do it never really ends. For example, when I started my business, I never imagined that I would be coaching military spouses one day.
- You help so many military spouses, what inspired you to do so? When I went back to school for my PhD, I focused my doctoral dissertation on the experiences of military spouses like me who were searching for a way to make a career fit with military life. Doing this research was a real eye-opener to me. I used to think I was special or different for wanting a career, but I realized that the majority of military spouses want some kind of purpose for themselves beyond being the supportive spouse. I felt called to help others like me find a path forward.
- What motivated you to write a book for milspouses? I wanted to share the stories that I gathered in the course of my research. Almost every spouse I spoke with told me that they didn’t know how to share their feelings about the sacrifices they had made, and I wanted other spouses to know that they are not alone if they are feeling helpless or discouraged about their situation. The stories in Silent Sacrifice on the Homefront are anonymous and totally honest about both the good and bad that comes with being a military spouse.
- What is your biggest take away from listening to the experiences of other military spouses? I think my biggest realization was that too many of us are taught to suffer in silence or put on a fake façade of being resilient and strong because that is what is expected of us. My biggest takeaway is that it is okay and perfectly normal to struggle at various times, and it helps the rest of us when we are honest about that struggle.
- How do you juggle running a business and jugging military life? I am very careful with my time, and I’m lucky enough to say no to things that don’t fit my life. I take a break from business every time we PCS, even if that means giving up some income. After 10 moves, I know what it takes to pick up and make that transition each time, so I try to make space for that time and not do too much.
- Best thing you’ve learned so far: You can plan all you want, but things will never turn out exactly as you expected. That has been both a marvelous lesson and a hard one for me. I like to plan projects and control how they turn out. Yet, I’ve learned (and am still learning) that sometimes the best plan is to simply talk to the folks in your network about what you’re thinking about and see where it goes. I’ve had the most unexpected invitations come out of the blue just because I’ve written an article or a blog post that somebody I don’t know shared with someone else. So I’m trying to embrace that lack of control and be open to the possibilities that come when you simply put yourself out there.
- If you had one do-over what would it be? I would definitely hire someone to help me with my social media strategy! I’m a total dinosaur when it comes to technology, but that aspect of my business is such an important way to reach people. I’ve muddled through okay, but in hindsight I could have saved myself a lot of heartache by outsourcing some of that and asking for the help I needed.
- What would you tell a military spouse trying to start a business or find a career? I recommend an approach I call the “3Ms.” That is, whatever path you choose needs to fit the 3Ms in your life – Marriage, Motherhood/Fatherhood, and Military Life. Too often, spouses plan their careers without mindfully considering the other roles in their lives. My research shows that the happiest military spouses are those who find a path that is supported by their partner, fits their parenting needs, and is compatible with military life.
Rapid Response Questions:
A military spouse is: someone who can understand all walks of life
Transition: takes time no matter how resilient you are
Military life is: a mixed blessing
Best tool that I use daily is: stillness
I couldn’t live without: people who see me for who I am
The biggest need for a military spouse is: to have a purpose all her own
I wish I would have: connected with other spouses earlier in my career
Favorite quote or book: “Be who you are and be that well.” – St. Francis De Sales
Website and social media links:
Link to buy your book:
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