Hundreds of service members, retirees and veterans attended a special veteran networking event hosted by Goodwill-Olympics and Rainier Region’s Operation: GoodJobs group at the American Lake Conference Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord Feb. 7 to meet and network about career opportunities.
The conference rooms hosted more than 70 employers and organizations who are looking for the ready-to-work talent pool found in the military community — many of whom are prepared and trained through their military service.
“We’re trying to increase exposure in our audience,” said Terrence Hodge, the military and veteran services program manager for Goodwill-Olympics and Rainier Region. “That opportunity to speak to those employers; they don’t get that too often unless they get to the interview.
Through Operation: GoodJobs’ partnerships, there were several big-name employers advertised for the networking event, including Boeing, Walmart and Wells Fargo. The group also has connections with several local organizations such as Tacoma Public Schools.
The field included local agencies like the Washington State Patrol and Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. Veteran training organizations like Commercial Driver School, Troops to Transportation and Troops to Teachers were also on hand.
Having such a large, diverse collection of employment opportunities is what Hodge thinks makes these events as popular as they are, he said.
“It gives our military community exposure to what’s in the local economy,” Hodge said. “Typically, the people that come in here are targeting the big names, but they don’t know about the small organizations that have the same opportunity.”
Hodge said some of the smaller organizations may even provide a better commute and benefits because they can more directly support their employees.
“If (job seekers are) looking for (information technology work) at Microsoft, there might be another organization comparable locally that can do IT that is going to provide those opportunities,” Hodge said.
Master Sergeant Anthony Dimico, of the Henry H. Lind Noncommissioned Officer Academy, came to the networking event with an open mind. With a master’s degree in management from Troy University, Dimico said he feels confident his management skills can translate to various fields, such as IT and mechanical.
Dimico said the event was a great way to begin meeting people as soon as possible.
“I’m about seven, eight months out from retirement, so I’d like to start getting my name out there — start seeing what opportunities are available, what employers are looking for and what can I do to make myself more marketable,” Dimico said.
In addition to local employers seeking job candidates from JBLM, some job seekers found companies who offer jobs outside of the Pacific Northwest. This was a big attractor for attendees like Capt. Jordan Reilly, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, who is also applying to graduate school programs.
“There are businesses here that are focused nationally and not just here,” Reilly said. “I love the area, but I don’t know if I’m staying.”
Hodge has first-hand experience transitioning from military service to a civilian career. After 10 years of service, Hodge left the Army out of JBLM as a sergeant first class in 2005. He worked for government agencies and in aerospace manufacturing before joining the Operation: GoodJobs team.
His big tip for anyone who is about to leave the military is to get out and attend these kinds of events and connect with a local veteran service organizations.
“Refine those skill sets, and identify the gaps for those positions,” Hodge said. “Do the research. The opportunities are here. Boeing is not the only aerospace manufacturing organization; there are many others.”
For more information on Operation: GoodJobs’ upcoming hiring fairs, programs and veteran training events, visit goodwillwa.org/training/veteran.