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Job fairs provide good opportunities for the fully prepared

Story and photo by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer
Photo by Nick Stubbs

Tom Whitlock, a recruiter for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs speaks with a prospect at the recent job fair held at the Officers Club.

You only get one chance at a first impression. That is the basic lesson emphasized by the Family Support Center when tutoring those on how to get the most out of a job fair, like the one sponsored by Family Support recently at the Officer's Club.

It was the largest job fair yet, said Irma Avery, who coordinated the event. And it was a hit.

"We've had a fantastic turnout," she said amidst a buzzing crowd of MacDill's job shoppers and dozens of employers looking to tap what they have identified as highly desirable candidates.

"We actively recruit military," said Jim Bauer, a retired Air Force colonel now working for Edward Jones, a financial management company. "Military people are self motivated, disciplined and reliable."

Many other companies like to recruit from the ranks of the military for the same reasons, said Mrs. Avery. But those competing for the jobs have to be aware that there may be fewer jobs than applicants and it is important to "stand out."

Family Services offers a free program to prep job seekers for the job fairs it brings to the base. She said a lot of focus is dedicated to the first 30 seconds of contact with a potential employer.

"They (employer representatives) can be very busy at a job fair so it is essential that you be prepared to say what you need to in 30 seconds and to make a good impression," she said. "You might have longer in some cases but you can't really count on having more than a minute or so if things are busy."

At a recent course in job fair prep, she advised her students to approach less crowded booths first, even if the job or company is not on the top of their list of hopefuls.

"You can practice and get your presentation and timing down," she said. "Then you can work your way to the companies that are of more interest and when you see the opportunity, step in."

Students also were advised on putting together a good resume and handouts to leave with company representatives. Presenting such documents proves interest in the job and the representatives keep them so when a second contact is made later they have a reference.

Mrs. Avery said it is important to list any valuable information which employers can use in evaluating the applicant. She notes those with security clearances must tout them, as it is a big plus with many companies, such as military contractors, who require their employees to be screened for sensitive jobs.

But employers at the job fairs are not only interested in military personnel, she said. Spouses of military members and civilian Department of Defense employees also are desirable "finds."

"Military dependants make up a lot of our staff," said Tom Whitlock, who was at the show representing the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs. "Like military people, they have a lot of understanding about the needs of military people and they speak the language, which makes them a good fit."

Mrs. Avery said more job fairs will be organized on base and those interested in taking free courses at the Family Support Center should contact the office any time during the week. The lessons learned are good for anyone job hunting or planning to attend other job fairs off-base.

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