A program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
It was a flyer at Fort Jackson’s Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program’s office that lead Scott Johnson on the path to his post-military career.
“I saw the advertisement for the Hiring Our Heroes Career Summit. I was attracted to the various events scheduled throughout the day, especially the LinkedIn review and the employer panel,” Johnson said.
During the job fair portion of the event, Johnson connected with FedEx Freight. Six months later, he was hired as a Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist.
“I am currently working for the company (FedEx Freight) that I targeted at the HOH event I attended. It truly is exactly what I hoped for and it would not have been possible had I not attended the HOH event during my transition,” Johnson said.
Johnson is one of thousands of transitioning service members and military spouses who have landed careers with military-ready employers at Hiring Our Heroes Career Summits. During the last five years, Hiring Our Heroes hosted nearly 100 Career Summits at military installations throughout the world.
In 2018, Hiring Our Heroes hosted 30 career summits for more than 7,000 service members and their spouses.
Career Summits were originally called Transition Summits and the target audience was service members approaching their six-month transition window. As the Career Summit program grew, its focus changed to meet the needs of today’s military family. One component of that change was inviting military spouses to attend the summits.
“Recently, we decided to bring military spouses into the fold. It’s important to have military spouses part of the conversation since they are a part of a service member’s decision to stay in or to get out,” said Hiring Our Heroes Director of Career Summits Marnie Holder.
The curriculum has evolved through the years, too. Originally, the emphasis was on awareness and resources. Now, the event focuses on career planning workshops aimed at a service member or military spouse at any point in their career journey.
Five years ago, the summits were in response to the high unemployment rate among veterans. Now, the veteran unemployment rate is a record low 2.7%, yet military leaders and employers continue to request Career Summits.
“The demand is coming from the employers. They are looking to tap into this pipeline of talent,” Holder said.
Booz Allen Hamilton is one employer that has attended Career Summits since the beginning of the program. Booz Allen Hamilton joined HOH’s Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council in 2013 and became a member of the Veteran Employment Advisory Council in 2017.
Just one hire from a single event makes the Career Summit a successful event — particularly if the hire fills an in-demand role, said George Bernloehr, Military Recruiting Lead at Booz Allen Hamilton.
“We typically experience a few immediate hires from the event and establish communication with candidates who may have six months to a year before they transition,” he said. “Multiple hires from a single event, a typical outcome from attending a HOH transition summit, makes it a very successful event for Booz Allen Hamilton.”
While Booz Allen Hamilton has attended Career Summits for years, John Deere is a relative newcomer in the veteran employment arena.
John Deere’s Labor Relations Manager Jeff Kennedy said John Deere wanted to expand its military recruitment efforts for some time, but wasn’t sure how to navigate the process. Through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, John Deere connected with Hiring Our Heroes. The results have had a direct and immediate impact.
“We attended events in Japan, Europe, and El Paso, Texas, in which we had the opportunity to meet with over 2,500 military personnel and families. Through these contacts we have multiple strong leads for production, skilled trades, and professional positions,” Kennedy said.
A Career Summit is a hands-on career planning event designed to educate, inform, inspire, and connect.
“People think it’s going to be a sit-and-watch-the-slides type of session and are pleasantly surprised when they discover it is very much interactive and engaging,” Holder said.
At Career Summits, service members and military spouses participate in mock interviews, receive LinkedIn profile reviews by employment experts, and learn about certifications needed to segue into high-demand careers.
“By having all of these sessions prior to the career fair makes the entire event much more impactful and successful for the job seekers and the employers,” Holder said.
Career Summits have an average job offer rate of 38% at the time of the event with a majority of the success stories unfolding long after the summit ends.
What can military job seekers do to increase their chances for success?
The first step is preparation. Bernloehr recommended that service members and military spouses research the companies attending the career summit and make a list of ones that they want to meet with at the event. Don’t be afraid to talk with hiring managers who are not on your list.
“Time permitting, make the most of the event and visit every company participating. You may be pleasantly surprised by discovering a new and exciting career with a company you did not know too much about or role you had no idea was available at the company,” Bernloehr said.
The second step is to have an idea of what kind of career you want to pursue post-military. Vague remarks, like “I can do anything,” puts the responsibility on the employer to fit the service member into a job.
“Great candidates know what they want and are realistic when it comes to the job expectations,” Kennedy said.
What can companies do to increase their chances of finding the right candidates for their positions?
Hiring managers may need to be flexible with the hiring process and be prepared to meet job candidates who aren’t separating from military service for at least a year.
“Two out of three candidates that we are offering to will not be out of service until 2020,” he said.
Holder recommended that employers participate in the career planning sessions. Listening to the questions asked by participants and hearing the answers from other partners and employers will provide insight into the hiring experience, she said.
As a hiring manager, be ready to engage in short conversations with as many participants as possible.
“Make time to have a short conversation with the participants — learn what the candidate wants to do in a new career, not just what they have done. If you’re able, bring a team of recruiters, HR and talent acquisition professionals to conduct interviews at the event — get a jump start on the hiring process,” Bernloehr said.
After five years and nearly 100 Career Summits, demand for our engaging and informative sessions on military installations continues to grow.
“We’re seeing more of a demand for these summits than we ever have before,” Holder said.
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A Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation