By Susan Ricker
Advance your job search with a wide variety of employers and organizations that can be found at career fairs—and learn how to do your military service justice.
A career fair is a great opportunity to interact with employers, share your experience and possibly secure a follow-up job interview or even an offer. With five to 10 minutes of an interviewer’s time, you can learn about their opportunities and talk yourself up, and discern if their organization might be right for you to join.
With all the perks that come along with career fairs, it can be easy to view this as the answer to your job search. But for job fair attendees – and military veterans in particular – it will greatly improve your chances of finding the right job match if you take careful steps to prepare. Along with dressing sharply and being punctual, here are the steps to take to make sure you can ace the career fair.
Go in with a plan. Career fairs are an efficient way to pack progress into your job search, since plenty of employers are assembled specifically to meet job seekers and identify prospective talent. But if you plan to make the rounds once you’re there and see who you’re interested in, you may be wasting your time.
Not every employer will be a good fit for your experience or career goals, so check the career fair’s website ahead of time to identify who will be in attendance and who’s company goals and positions are the best match for you. Create a list of who you want to make sure you meet, and take the time to research the company and customize your job application materials. You’ll be able to speak intelligently to their reps, as well as offer tailored information about yourself. Prepare for this by reading through their website, browsing past press releases or checking them out on social media.
Make your resume readable for civilians. A strong resume sums up your past experience and skills, then applies them to your prospective employer’s needs to demonstrate that you’re the best person for the job. For veterans, your service experience can be just as applicable to the position as a civilians, but you need to make sure that a non-military employer can understand how.
Translate your skills and experience into more business-friendly language, like your leadership skills, project management or experience in high-stress situations. The biggest challenge employers face in hiring veterans is understanding how their experience applies to the open position, so take out the guesswork for them and make it clear how you’ll benefit the organization.
Point out veteran advantages. While you were serving in the military, you picked up a number of skills and training, as well as some characteristics that allowed you to work well on a team and act as a strong leader and service member. Even though you’re no longer on active duty, those traits can still serve you and others well – and it helps to point this out to employers. A CareerBuilder survey shared the top qualities and soft skills that employers know to expect from employees with military experience, including:
- Disciplined approach to work—63 percent
- Ability to work as a team—60 percent
- Respect and integrity—56 percent
- Ability to perform under pressure—51 percent
- Leadership skills—51 percent
- Problem-solving skills—47 percent
- Ability to adapt quickly—45 percent
- Attitude of perseverance—41 percent
- Communication skills—40 percent
- Strong technical skills—31 percent
There are also a number of other advantages veterans have in the job market. For one, former military members have federal security clearance, which is not only required for many government jobs, but also for jobs at government-contracted companies that work on classified or defense-related projects. Because it can cost companies a lot of time and money to get security clearance for civilian employees, veterans are usually preferred for these types of positions.
End on a high note. When your time with the recruiter is coming to a close, express your interest in learning more about the position and company, and ask for the opportunity to come in for a longer interview. Also be sure to get their business card or information for connecting on social media, and follow up within 48 hours with a thank-you note for their time and reiterate your interest.
The career fair will go by quickly if you’ve done your prep work and come ready to talk about your experience and ideas. And for military veterans who prepare in advance and understand their best qualities to share, a career fair can be one of the best opportunities for connecting with the right employer.