Job seekers speak to U.S. Army Maj. Scotty M. Austin, deputy district commander of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, at the Hiring our Heroes career fair Feb. 15 in Los Angeles. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/ The American Legion

Job fair creates environment for success

As a veteran who herself felt the fear of trying to find a job, Stephanie Stone recognizes how important events like Wednesday’s Hiring Our Heroes career event in Los Angeles can be.

“I think these opportunities are wonderful because they are multilayered,” said Stone, the chief deputy director of the Los Angeles Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “… It’s really creating the environment for success.”

Stone, a member of American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, was one of the featured speakers at Wednesday’s event at Staples Center, which included a workshop for job seekers on résumé building, networking and interview tips, as well as a job fair.

A Navy veteran, Stone shared her experience of losing her first post-military job when the recession hit in 2008. As a single parent of two high school age children, and with a mortgage, losing her job left her “scared to say the least.”

“I didn’t know what to do next and, more importantly, I didn’t know where I was going to end up. But I did know I was going to succeed, and that was largely because of what the military had given to me,” she said, emphasizing the military’s philosophy of “improvise, adapt and overcome.”

She encouraged the job seekers on hand Wednesday to remember that, and to reach out beyond the employers on hand.

“Not only are you going to go out there and shake the hands of employers and HR directors, your job is to go out and find 10 battle buddies that you’re going to connect with,” she said. “Your job is to motivate each other, to provide resources and links to these job opportunities that you find here. Your job is to help that person out as much as they’re going to help you out. That is your new mission.”

Stone said it’s important to “reach back and pick up the next person that’s struggling to come up.”

“We should never think that we are going to these events and nothing will happen because at the least you’ve made those connections. At the most, you’ve connected with an employer who’s going to end up hiring you,” she said.

Lt. Col. Derwin Brown, the West region director of the U.S. Army Soldier for Life program, encouraged the 300-plus job seekers to “take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Approximately 75 employers were on hand for the event, which included the opportunity for job seekers to receive up to two free tickets to Wednesday night’s game between the L.A. Clippers and the Atlanta Hawks.