NOVEMBER 6, 2017 – Having a plan before traveling is a way to ensure that someone will arrive at a destination on time and with everything they need. Having a plan when a Soldier transitions from Army Active Duty is required to ensure that the Soldier will have a successful start to civilian life.
Soldiers within 18 months of transitioning, or 24 months prior to retirement, are both required and encouraged to attend the Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP), which can help accomplish future civilian goals.
SFL-TAP Centers around the world host various job fairs, hiring events, and employer days that transitioning Soldiers should take advantage of. These events brings employers and job seekers together. Companies, both local and national, attend to meet new qualified candidates. Job seekers are able to network with hiring managers while attending the event too. Job seekers not only benefit from having the opportunity to connect with numerous companies at one time, but they are often interviewed or hired on the spot.
BEFORE THE EVENT:
Search for information about upcoming job fairs through state employment agencies, local Chamber of Commerce programs, local Veteran agencies, SFL-TAP Centers, and other organizations. Find the date, time, location, and a point of contact for upcoming job fairs. Then, ask for a list of scheduled employers and the positions to be filled. If a job seeker finds something that matches their interests, research the company and find information about what they do. Learn as much as possible about the organization before attending the event.
Job seekers should refine their resume before the career event. Targeted resumes should be created for specific positions the employers at the event have open or for the particular organization a job seeker would like to speak with. Attendees may also want to create a more generalized resume that focuses on their past work history, achievements, and awards. Before attending, job seekers should ensure that someone has reviewed their resumes, and create several copies to hand out at the event. Counselors at the SFL-TAP Center can help transitioning Soldiers modify their resumes to meet career goals.
Practice answering basic questions, such as “tell me about yourself.” SFL-TAP encourages transitioning Soldiers to create and practice their 30-second introduction, sometimes referred to as a commercial or elevator speech. An elevator speech is used to tell someone a career summary in the time it takes an elevator to go from the bottom to the top floor of a building. The short statement should include two to three skills or strengths that the job seeker would bring to a company, any applicable training or education completed, and prior work experience that pertains to the organization.
In addition to practicing the speech, job seekers should also prepare a list of questions to ask an employer. Asking questions about the position, the company, and future duties shows interest.
DURING THE EVENT:
Job seekers should approach companies they are interested in at the event. If there is time, it is encouraged to visit with other companies present at the event as well. As a job seeker, it’s important to keep options open during the job search. While job fairs can be busy, be sure to allocate enough time to talk with employers, but don’t plan to arrive while employers are still setting up their tables or at the very end of the day when they are packing up.
Attendees should bring a portfolio of prior work, pens, a note pad, several copies of their resume, a general cover letter, a list of references, and wear proper attire.
First impressions are lasting ones. Attendees must be dressed professionally. It’s important to dress as though the job fair is a job interview. This is the first impression a job seeker may have with a hiring manager and it needs to be the right one. Present a firm handshake, look confident, and show enthusiasm.
During the discussion, avoid military jargon, translate military experience into relatable civilian skills, and ask questions. Do not discuss salary or benefits at this time. At the end of the discussion, shake their hand again, leave a resume with the employer or if applicable, ask for the website link to post resumes to, and ask for their business card to follow-up.
AFTER THE EVENT:
Although job seekers may feel that preparing for the job fair was the most important part of the event, don’t let job hunt focus lessen afterwards. Take a moment to analyze the experience and use this information to prepare for future job fairs, as well as for making future networking contacts.
After the event, send a short thank you note to each person the applicant spoke to at the event. Do this within a few short days of the conversation. To make the note stand out, mention something memorable that was said during the discussion. In the letter, job seekers should continue to reinforce how well-suited they are for the position and show enthusiasm in the organization. Job seekers are encouraged to send another copy of their resume along with the note.
Be patient, but do not be inactive. Hiring managers are busy. The hiring process varies for each company and it may take a few days or longer to hear back from an employer. In the meantime, attendees should continue their job search, attend other job fairs, make networking contacts, and continue to follow-up with companies they have previously reached out to.
SFL-TAP can help transitioning Soldiers prepare for their job search with courses that discuss how to create a resume, how to apply to jobs, how to translate their military experience, and more. By using available resources to create a career transition plan, transitioning Soldiers can increase their chance of finding civilian success.
For more information on SFL-TAP, visit www.sfl-tap.army.mil or contact a local SFL-TAP Center. SFL-TAP can also be found on Facebook (@ArmySFLTAP), Twitter (@SFLTAP), LinkedIn (Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program Connection Group), and YouTube (SFL-TAP Television).
Story by Jenny Hale and Julia Park
U.S. Army Human Resources Command