After attending numerous military job fairs as part of my work, I have witnessed firsthand countless job seeker mistakes that are easily avoidable. The list below was compiled in order to provide useful advice to assist transitioning military service members with marketing themselves more successfully and to help them overcome some common challenges.
- In the event you are uncertain of the specific types of companies that will be attending, tailor your resume to common industries or fields that interest you such as Project Management, Logistics, or Administration. Ensure that your resume is no longer than two pages and printed on quality resume paper – aim to bring approximately 10 or more copies. Avoid using military verbiage as much as possible. Insider’s Tip: The majority of CivilianJobs.com military job fairs host a MilitaryResumes.com booth where you can receive a free resume consultation from a Certified Professional Resume Writer if you need advice.
- Take a proactive approach to all aspects of the job hunt, including military job fairs. Most military job fairs will publish a list of companies registered to attend, so use this to your advantage. Find out about the major companies that interest you and see if they have specific military hiring initiatives in place. Some things you need to look for include what types of positions are they hiring for, what locations are hiring, and the overall company culture. Insider’s Tip: CivilianJobs.com offers a list of Most Valuable Employers (MVE) for Military® with companies who focus on hiring military talent.
- Dressing business casual or in a tailored suit in black, grey or navy is recommended. Avoid flashy makeup, jewelry and too much perfume or cologne. Insider’s Tip: CivilianJobs.com hosts many of their military job fairs on military installations. In the event you don’t have the time to change into professional attire, BDU’s are acceptable.
4. Avoid distractions
- Steer clear of attending military job fairs with your friends or colleagues since it’s easy to get sidetracked. Do not bring pets or children to any hiring event (yes, I’ve witnessed this!). Ensure that your phone is on silent, and if it does ring, avoid answering. If it’s urgent, take the call outside.
5. Crafting your elevator pitch
- When someone asks, “Tell me about yourself,” you should have a 30 second response ready to go highlighting your key attributes. The main focus is for you to keep this response relevant to your job search (discuss your MOS, education/training background, and main career objectives). Practice this response so it sounds natural, not as if you are reading it from a script.
6. Map out a plan of attack
- Some military job fairs will hand out a floor plan layout of all the attending companies. Before entering, determine your first and second rate companies and their locations. Visit your second rate organizations first to get rid of any nervous jitters and to get an idea of the dialogue flow between you and the representatives – think of these as practice rounds. Save your first choice companies for last – by that time your elevator pitch will be perfected. Insider’s Tip: Do not walk into the middle of the room and study the layout in front of potential hiring managers – this may make you appear lost or ill-prepared.
7. Maximize opportunities
- Many job seekers tend to have preconceived notions about certain companies or industries. Make it a point to talk with every vendor or representative at a job fair that you can – you never know what prospects or networking opportunities may exist unless you ask! Insider’s Tip: Many colleges and universities attend military job fairs looking to hire talent. Talk to each representative and ask about what positions they have available in the event you aren’t interested in furthering your education.
8. Follow up
- Upon collecting representatives’ business cards or information, ensure that you connect with them within 24-48 hours after the event. LinkedIn or email messages are preferred methods of contact for most professionals.
It’s important to approach military job fairs with realistic expectations and understand the purpose of these events – that is, the majority of candidates are not going to be hired directly from the floor. Military job fairs need to be viewed as networking opportunities and intelligence gathering with the goal to learn more about what companies are offering. And maybe, you’ll also make the connection that makes the difference.
If you follow these 8 simple steps with a confident attitude, your military transition will become much more clear-cut.