So here goes. I'd be lying if said I wasn't nervous about starting this SPO Voice, but, this apprehension is overshadowed by a huge sense of determination and belief that I know that something has to, and importantly, can change.
This change will benefit every corner of society, now that sounds impressive, and yes the nerves are trying to creep back even as I write this, but that's good; I am passionate, I am driven, I want to ensure no other SPO ends up feeling the way I, and countless other amazing SPOs I've met over the last year, have come to feel.
And why have I only met SPOs in the last year? Well, I live off base, and it's taken me 6 years of marriage to work out that I was drowning; my career was nose-diving, my skills were under-utilised, I was being taken advantage of, my sense of identity was becoming eroded.
The SPO voice is about collaboration first and foremost. It's about bringing all the interested (and not so interested!) parties together to come up with tangible, consistent solutions that will improve the lives of SPOs and their families.
Initially, as is my experience, this starts with a job. As the research shows, there's work being done on finding out the issues, and there are organisations that are coming up with solutions to fix the issues SPOs encounter with careers, but 1) they'll freely admit that there are still huge mountains to climb in helping SPOs with their jobs, and 2) as an SPO this issue creeps up on you; I had to hit rock bottom before I saw that there was a problem. And this is where SPO Voice needs to come in - to plug this gap:
- to be the website; the place to go for a new SPO, to be supported, guided and listened to when they fall in love. To have their expectations listened to, and in many cases, managed.
- to work with employers to help them know the benefits of employing an SPO and to help them negate the challenges that come with frequent moves, short term contracts, gaps in CVs, disrupted availability and the emotions and challenges that arise for SPOs during deployments. There's lots of work to do here; lots of advice to give to employers and ideally some ways of making moves to new jobs easier for SPOs.
- to work with government ministers and the Ministry of Defence to collaborate in improving communications with SPOs, and better signposting of support out there, and to aid understanding how working directly with SPOs to come up with the solutions is the right, and only thing to do.
After all, as I always say: