Four hundred service members circled the first and fourth floors of the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., talking to representatives from 125 companies that lined the platforms encircling the basketball court. Between the high volume of job seekers, the employers looking to add fresh talent to their teams, and the monumental structure that so accurately captured the momentous concept of transition, the Hiring Our HeroesHiring Fair on March 25 was nothing short of impressive.
Looking at the map of employer tables, Staff Sgt. Akilah Johnson was overwhelmed by all of the opportunities: “In the military you have multiple skills—your main job, and all the additional duties you’re assigned. Having lots of skills is good, but it also makes this hard. How do I start? How do I market myself?”
Wrapping up a nearly 13-year career that has spanned the U.S. Army National Guard, Active Duty and now Reserves, Johnson attended the fair to find employment opportunities in Human Resources. Companies recommended by her fellow transitioning veterans, as well as ones well known for their veteran affinity organizations, interested her most. As another soldier in uniform passed by, she sighed in relief: “That makes me feel good. Now I know I’m not the only one.”
For many soldiers, anxiety builds and increases as their retirement or separation date approaches, and this question of self-marketing is a source of apprehension for many. Just as it is for any job seeker, the resume is a powerful tool to help them represent their skills and experiences in language employers understand.“Have a few versions of your resume that highlight different skills, tailoring your resume to each job,” advised representatives from Crown Agents, USA, an exhibitor at the March 25th fair. “Create a skills summary paragraph to make you more accessible to recruiters. Put this at the top of your resume.”
To help soldiers, veterans and their families translate the invaluable skills the military teaches to civilian jobs, the U.S. Army’s Soldier for Life program works closely with Hiring Our Heroes and other military and veteran service organizations. Meaningful employment is integral to veteran and families pursuing health and education opportunities
After a few hours at the fair, Johnson finished the afternoon by speaking with a recruiter from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Johnson wants to continue serving the military as a civilian. “As soon as I get a chance I am going to update my resume and send it,” she said.
Leaving the fair energized and positive, Johnson encourages other transitioning service members to attend events like the Hiring Our Heroes Hiring Fair. “It doesn’t hurt to try,” she said, adding, “I’m so excited right now!”