When you leave the military, the biggest question is "what's next?" It's a scary job market right now, but the skills you've received in the military make you highly marketable. The Legion sponsors dozens of veterans hiring fairs each year, and our employment experts also provide tips to writing resumes, networking and making a strong impression in the interview process.
"Because it's only fair," said the government recruiter. "They have served their country so they deserve a job when they get home."
It wasn't the usual answer to the query "Why should an employer hire a veteran?". It was the forceful response of one human resources professional at an American Legion-supported women veterans job fair in Arlington, Va., on Oct. 26. More typical, and equally valid, was the answer offered by a recruiter from a regional bank whose manager, a female veteran herself, had briefed him well. "Veterans are hard workers, well organized, and are team players," he said. "We want veterans because they're the best candidates we can find."
The unemployment rate among young women veterans is nearly 15 percent, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the rate for male veterans is that is several percentage points lower.
The bank was among nearly two dozen employers, including several federal agencies, interviewing more than 60 job seekers at the Female Veteran Internship and Career Fair. The event was hosted by two D.C. area-based non-profit advocacy and networking organizations. One, The WAVE (Women as Veteran Entrepreneurs), provides information and training for self-employed women veterans wishing to do business with the federal government. The other, Final Salute Inc., supports homeless women vets.
WAVE co-founder Harvetta Spann pronounced the first-of-its-kind fair a "great success" with "every slot filled." Spann, a member of American Legion Post 1 in Washington, is on the Legion's Small Business Task Force. She also conducts small business workshops for women veterans. Equally enthusiastic was WAVE supporter and retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier Gen. Wilma Vaught. One of the most decorated women in military history, Vaught deemed the job fair "very successful" and expressed delight that "they got so many employers here." She is board president of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Among the job seekers present were former Army Blackhawk combat helicopter pilot Lee Ann Hayley and her sister, Mara Boggs. An Army major, Boggs will soon return to civilian life from her position as military liaison to the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, Hayley, already a civilian again, is marketing herself as a "leadership and management professional." She was recently laid off from a defense consulting firm, but was upbeat as she talked about the employment opportunities presented at the women's career fair.
The American Legion was a key presence at the fair, represented by the D.C. office's human resources generalist Diane Price, assistant director for Health Policy Denise Williams and assistant director for Women Veterans Outreach Amanda Leigh, as well as Economic Division Director Joe Sharpe. The Legion also hosted an information booth the previous day at a D.C. career fair, attended by nearly 70 veteran-friendly employers.