Service members who leave the military and begin their search for civilian employment may come across several challenges. And those leaving the military with a disability – visible or invisible – encounter even more. As employers learn more about what veterans can contribute to their business or organization, the task gets a little easier, but there are still opportunities to use resources and tips from the community.
Before You Go
Before you attend a job fair, do some research and figure out what companies are going to be there, and what open positions those companies have. See whether you can imagine yourself in any of those positions, what qualifications they require and how you stack up against the competition. Learn a bit about the company’s veteran programs and see whether you know anyone who currently works there that you can talk to.
Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Alston Cleary said learning how to translate his military experience for the civilian workforce was key to landing the job and continues to be a part of his workday. Cleary began his Army career as a maintenance technician and now works as a Total Productive Maintenance Coordinator for the John Deere plant in East Moline, Illinois.
“A lot of things that I do in the military are the same things that I’m doing at John Deere,” he said. “They just have different acronyms or call them different things.”
Use Them to Build Your Network
Job fairs – even those that may not be within your intended career field – are a great opportunity to build your network and practice talking to people. Prepare your personal introduction, dress as you would for an interview and have a few answers ready if they want to do a quick interview. You can also work with organizations like RecruitMilitary that helps connect employers to veterans, to prepare for a job fair.
Choose a Job Fair to Attend
Getting out and meeting people is one of the best ways to further your job search, and an effective way to do that is through a job fair. Organizations like DAV host job fairs regularly, and often virtually, to connect veterans with national employers who have committed to hiring veterans. The job fairs are open to veterans, transitioning military service members and their spouses.
In 2021, Cleary attended one of DAV’s virtual job fairs where he was introduced to another organization that helps connect businesses with qualified veterans.
After the Job Fair
Just like after an interview, there are a few crucial steps post-job fair that you won’t want to forget about. Start by following up with the people you met, either by sending them more information about yourself or a quick “thank you” email. You can also self-assess your experience and decide what you need to work on for the next one. If you were able to connect with a potential employer, or learn about a new opportunity, follow through with that.
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