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Imagine driving up to the University of Phoenix Stadium (Home of the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL). The excitement builds as you approach. You pull into the crowded parking lot. As you exit your vehicle, Security Guards and Hosts direct traffic and guide you to inside the Stadium. Depending on how you entered, you might have spotted a huge statue honoring U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment Veteran and NFL Star Pat Tillman. Military Men & Women from each branch of service, some along with their Military Spouses, marched into the stadium - not ready for the opening kickoff, but ready to double-time into a new career!

Who Attended? According to the RecruitMilitary website Attendees included:

53 Exhibitors (including USAA)

728 Veterans Registered

284 Soldiers

180 Airmen

127 Sailors

93 Marines

29 Spouses

6 Coast Guardsmen

5 DoD Civilians

2 Others

It's easy to recognize the categories shown above. We know these well. But, some other categories and descriptors can be used to describe the Attendees at this career fair. Are you ready?

I observed lots of things that day, and want to share them with you:

  • Lots of Military Couples attended together. This reminds us of the importance of considering the entire Family when planning a military-to-civilian career transition. The dialogue I had with these couples emphasized the amount of teamwork required to make a successful transition. An interesting dynamic observed here and a very noteworthy aspect of what you need in order to succeed.
  • Lots of People just looking at each & every opportunity. I would further categorize these Attendees the way we tend to classify some Voters - "Undecided". My conversations with many of the Undecided revealed that they knew they were headed out, but did not know what they were going to do. In some cases, confusion as to how their military skills would translate into civilian careers was the issue. Others were just checking things out. My hope is that these folks can pinpoint their career goals and find a specific pathway to civilian success.
  • Lots of variations on the "dress code". To me, (and you don't have to agree with me here) we all know that in the Military we have so called "business attire". Essentially what is known as a "Class A Uniform" - the uniform you see when you're not in the field, when you're at a more formal event, etc. (Non-Cammo is what I'm referring to here!) In civilian circles, the expectation is that you wear clothing that's of the "business attire" category too. Attendees showed up in shorts, T-Shirts, Caps, combinations of Military/Civilian clothing, and there were some 2-piece suits and business dresses seen too! Hiring Managers did pay attention to this wide variance on what is considered appropriate dress for a job fair. That's all I'll say about that.
  • Lots of firm handshakes and looking people in the eye. The Military obviously teaches and trains to a standard when it comes to respect. 100% impressive interpersonal skills demonstrated by Attendees. Military bearing, when used appropriately can convey confidence without cockiness, self-assuredness over shyness, and a high level of professionalism any Employer would want to see.
  • Some "Lookie-Loos". You ever walk into a store and when the Salesperson asks you a question you automatically say, "Just looking!"? I saw a few Attendees do this and really wanted to pull them aside and share some advice. I believe people have perceptions about certain companies, For example, most people make the connect to USAA based on the categories of products they provide; car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, banking, mortgages, credit cards, car loan, etc. So, if your military job involved Construction of say, bridges or installing communications equipment, you might not make the connection to a potential job opening involving your skills set. In other words, if you walk away thinking, "I don't know anything about insurance or finance." you might have just missed an opportunity. The point is this: Don't be a "Lookie Loo", ask every company about the career opportunities there! You might be surprised!
  • The Network Marketing Guy shows up at these too. A well-dressed guy walks up to me. I ask him the usual set of qualifying questions to find out about his military background. He's not here with a Friend who is in the military. There's not enough evidence to convict him of being a Veteran. (A small voice inside me whispers, "Why are you here?") My "red alert" radar starts pinging! A few seconds and well-chosen probing questions later, I determine that this guy is trying to sell me something (not to mention potentially all other 728 Veterans in the place). I ain't buyin'! I'm here to find a Military Person find a job on the outside and somehow make a dent toward moving that Veteran Unemployment rate closer to zero.

I'm here to tell you, we have a motivated, dedicated, ready-to-work set of people available for employment!

Employers, please accept my challenge to strongly consider hiring qualified, Military Candidates! You'll be glad you did!