“You’ve got to engage with other people. You can’t just sit quietly in the corner, but you also have to listen to your client — not just what they say, but what they mean.”
First Command Financial, recruiter
For one to say that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes military job fair Tuesday at Safeco Field in Seattle was a success might be an understatement. It was easily one of the most attended hiring fairs organized by Hiring Our Heroes.
A similar hiring fair at Petco Park in San Diego, Calif., June 2 had about 300 transitioning service members, spouses and veterans in attendance. Safeco Field’s Terrace Club concourse had more than 1,400 preregistered as more were walking into the ballpark.
Part of that turnout was because of the companies who were looking for military talent: Alaska Airlines, Amazon, Starbucks and more than 70 additional employers.
“If you’re a transitioning service member, you want to be stationed in the Pacific Northwest,” said retired Army Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr., senior director of events and programs for Hiring Our Heroes and former Joint Base Lewis-McChord garrison commander.
The employers know what to look for when military job seekers apply for a position or ask questions at a fair. Dick French, recruiter for First Command Financial, said salesmanship is leadership, but it’s all about how social the prospective employee is.
French said he has often asked interested parties if they are either the wallflower or the vocal, arm-flailing, fun-lover at social functions. While toned down a little from the latter, he said being sociable is a big part of what employers look for in addition to leadership skills.
“You’ve got to engage with other people,” French said. “You can’t just sit quietly in the corner, but you also have to listen to your client — not just what they say, but what they mean.”
The large group of job seekers certainly had to be social, considering they filled up the entire concourse as they visited the numerous employer tables. Many brought their resumes, along with a much-rehearsed elevator speech.
For those who have spent many years in the military, it might not be the easiest task they’ve been given.
“It is a daunting process to go from a culture to do as your told and then for us to focus solely on ourselves,” said Spc. Eric Jokl of 109th Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade.
Some came to the hiring fair with only days to have their best suit dry cleaned and their resume updated. Specialist Jeremy Coleman, 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division found out about the hiring fair June 16.
He was training at Yakima Training Center at the time, but he was granted leave. With only a few days to mentally prepare, Coleman was still confident after taking workshops with the JBLM Service Member for Life — Transition Assistance Program.
“I’m confident in meeting people and building my resume,” Coleman said.
The field of candidates included active-duty spouses who were hoping to learn more about the region’s job market. Ikuko Warner, wife to Capt. Stanton Warner of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, has only been in Washington state for eight months.
She said these kinds of hiring fairs are helpful for spouses seeking a new job in a new state.
“It’s helping me so I can talk to people and see what kind of cultures these companies have,” Warner said.
And although looking for a job after the military was the big reason for attendance, there were certainly a number of baseball fans who loved standing inside Safeco Field — even if they were only in the 200-level concourse.
“(It was) silly of me to think we’d be down on the field, but I’m just happy to be in the stadium,” said Spc. Chris Avery of 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne).