How To Get The Most Out Of Military Job Fairs

career
Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery

Military job fairs can be a major help when a transitioning job seeker or reserve component service member is faced with a bewildering array of voices saying they want to help hire military. It can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin when looking for that first civilian career. Job fairs can be a good place to start.


Most active-duty military installations host job fairs a few times a year for the transitioning population. These hiring events are either run by the installation transition program or by a third-party organization. These events are a good way to get your feet wet and offer some exposure to national and local opportunities, in one place.

Having attended a large variety of military job fairs throughout the United States in the course of my civilian career as a recruiter for various organizations; a few tips come to mind for someone taking the plunge for the first time.

What to wear

Most employers have the reasonable expectation that they will see uniformed service members at a military job fair. We hear different transition offices advising for or against wearing a uniform at a job fair, but it’s really up to you. If you don’t have time to change into civilian clothes, or you don’t know what to wear yet, then go ahead and attend wearing the local uniform of the day.

If you already have that interview suit ready to go and want to try it out, go ahead. What we would advise against is wearing the same clothes that you would choose to sit on your couch and watch the game in. Appearances matter when you meet a prospective employer: Look like you are taking your job search seriously and that you care. Just like you learned in your initial training, keep it neat, clean, and serviceable. Wear what you would think to wear for an important occasion like a graduation or a retirement ceremony. Business casual is fine. For men, that typically means slacks, dress shoes with a matching belt, and a collared shirt. You can add a sport coat or sweater if you like. For women, that means pants and a blouse or a conservative-length skirt with closed-toed shoes.

Related: Read about three lucrative jobs in the growing world of insurance.

What to say

About the worst thing you can do at a job fair is walk up to an employer and say, “What do you have for me” as your form of introduction. If you are unable to research the attending companies ahead of time and you want to find out more about someone, simply approach the representative, shake his or her hand, and introduce yourself. For example: “Hi, I’m Will, nice to meet you. Can you tell me a little about what you are looking for today?” From there, you will get the information you want and the representative can quickly align you with opportunities that are appropriate for you. You will also impress this person because so few job seekers actually say this.

If you are interested in an employer, show them. Ask how you can follow up with questions such as:

“What’s the best way to find out more about this opportunity?”

“What is the interview process like?”

Questions like these indicate that you are interested and want to be informed.

Avoid using a service-connected disability or VA disability rating as a selling point when meeting an employer. Focus on your strengths and background instead.

Often you will encounter company representatives who don’t know what they’re hiring for in the local area and are just telling everyone, “Apply online and we’ll go from there.” This can get frustrating, but take heart because a lot of genuinely invested employers will also attend these events. It’s not always recruiters, either. Often, you will encounter actual hiring managers who took time out of their work week to travel to an installation and meet service members face to face. If you meet some of these individuals, do yourself a favor and take the time to ask for their cards and information about following up. Pay attention to what they have to say and show enthusiasm if you are interested in some of the companies’ roles.

In the age of applicant tracking systems and internet-based recruiting, the most valuable ally you can have on your side is a current employee or hiring manager at a company you are interested in. They can help pull you out of the bucket of thousands of applicants and get an actual person to look at your resume and application, which overcomes your biggest obstacle at this point in your career search.

If you have a conversation with a company representative and you like what he or she has to say, feel free to ask for advice. If you aren’t sure what your resume should look like, or if you don’t know how to make yourself stand out yet, ask employers who you meet for their feedback. Most people want to help, and these individuals are on the front line of the hiring process for the companies that want to hire in your local area. What they have to say can really boost your success rate when trying to get your foot in the door for a new opportunity.

Follow up

Almost every table you visit at a job fair will be handing out promotional material of some sort. You can end up with a pile of squeeze toys, lip balm, stickers and key chains. In other words, a mess. I highly recommend that when you leave a vendor's table, take five minutes before you do anything else to jot down some notes about your conversation with the representative. It’s easy to get job fair conversations jumbled up after spending hours talking with different employers and these notes will keep you focused.

It’s a good idea to send professional emails to the people you met at the job fair with your resume attached and a quick note describing why you specifically liked their opportunity. This reintroduces you to an employer and makes it easy for them to forward your resume to a colleague.

See job fairs for what they are: A way to meet employers that are hiring and start networking. View every experience as an opportunity to learn and improve on yourself as a career professional. This is one of the first steps to get into a hiring process. Don’t expect to get hired on the spot, but don’t blow a potential opportunity by not being prepared. You are responsible for your own success.

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less