Hawaii’s defense reputation is shrouded in infamy – from Edward Snowden’s last stop before China and Russia, to the site of Pearl Harbor, the defense industry is often seen through narrow lenses. But real life in Hawaii is more ‘let’s hit the beach’ than ‘ripped from the headlines.’
Is Hawaii a consideration in your cleared job search? It should be. There are inherent challenges to living on an island, but for professionals who make Hawaii home, the benefits often outweigh the negatives.
Real Life On an Island
What’s life really like on an island? If you’re looking for a workplace with all of the perks of DoD life and none of the D.C. stuffiness – Hawaii may be a great fit for you. Here are a few of the other perks.
1. Job security. Once a company gets you to Hawaii, they have good incentive to keep you there. You may find yourself wanting to leave island life at some point, but it won’t be for lack of opportunities. Hawaii has worked hard to keep its defense industry going for the past half century, and a variety of Hawaii-based defense contractors – including JTSI – is helping to maintain that defense industry base.
2. Work-life balance. More than ever, defense professionals are craving work-life balance. Hawaii-based companies are often more likely than most to offer a reasonable work-play balance. And you may never have more options for what you do with your playtime. If you hate professional dress, here’s another reason to consider to Hawaii – even in many defense industry offices, flip flops and casual attire can be commonplace.
“For off-duty hours, Hawaii is the best of everything to me,” said Stephanie Rush, a Department of Army Civilian who worked in Hawaii and plans to return. “For history and cultural buffs, there are memorials, museums and galleries a plenty. The weather and location means outdoor activities can happen day in, day out, year round, to include swimming, running, hiking, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, surfing, etc. Because Hawaii is a huge tourist spot, there tons of stores (and for anything that’s not on island, Amazon Prime is a life saver!). Lots of nightlife options. The US is considered a melting pot, and Hawaii is like its own Pacific-centric melting pot. There are so many different cultural backgrounds and ethnic groups represented in Hawaii.”
3. You’ll have lots of friends. What keeps Hawaii running? The Department of Defense and tourism. If you’ve never visited or been stationed in Hawaii, you may not realize the size of the defense base there, but defense hiring is significant. The Army’s Schofield Barracks and Naval Station Pearl Harbor are both located in Honolulu and the Army, Navy and Marine presence can be felt across the island. Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is the largest industrial employer in Hawaii and the U.S. Government is the state’s biggest employer. Hawaii is the third-ranking state in per-capita defense spending and has one of the highest per-capita populations of service members.
The DoD facilities are often considered top notch. Slightly comparable to what you might find at an overseas military installation (although there are no Department of Defense schools).
“There is no doubt Hawaii is gorgeous and the DoD facilities are top notch,” said Michelle Roberts, President and CEO of Lead Dog Strategic Consulting, who spent a year stationed at United States Pacific Command. “It is also the only state in the U.S. that gets away with charging two different prices depending on whether you are a tourist or “kama’aina” (local). I had to carry my electric bill around with me to prove I lived there, so I wouldn’t be charged the higher prices.” She noted that many of the downsides of Hawaiian life are mitigated if you don’t have kids in school – and don’t mind carrying around your electric bill.
A move to Hawaii definitely requires doing your homework – from figuring out housing to researching school options, like any move, one to Hawaii requires a lot of thought. And when you’re moving to an island, an even great understanding of the local nuances – particularly if you are moving with family.
Hawaii may be a great place for ‘bookending’ your defense industry career. For the young and adventurous, the outdoor amenities and variety of activities have great appeal. Likewise, if your a mid-level or senior professional, you may also appreciate the scenery, salary bump, and job security. Wherever you’re at in your career, Hawaii is a cleared career destination you shouldn’t rule out.
“I think Hawaii is like every other place – in the end, you make it what it is,” said Rush, who says that while schools and costs can be a challenge, working for the Department of Defense can mitigate many of those concerns. “I lived in Hawaii for about five a half years before taking my current job in Germany. I’ve always considered this current gig sort of like a sabbatical – I fully intend to go back to Hawaii and hopefully buy a perfect-for-me house on the North Shore in a couple more years. There’s a common phrase in Hawaii, ‘lucky we live Hawaii,’ (folks in Hawaii take a lot of liberties with grammar) and it really is true. I can’t believe I get paid to live, work and play in paradise, where folks from all over the world save up to visit for a week or two.”