Hundreds of soldiers, veterans and military spouses came to Club Stewart on Tuesday for a career expo hosted by the Noncommissioned Officers Association.
Eight schools and 12 companies participated in the career fair, including two metropolitan-police departments. The companies represented included large, international employers as well as small, family owned businesses. Shelley Conklin, senior sales and marketing supervisor for NCOA, said a desire to support veterans is something all participants have in common.
“What we’re looking to do is help people make connections,” Conklin said. “We’re doing 46 (career) expos this year. After this one, we’re hosting an expo at Joint Base Charleston, then we’re hosting three expos in Hawaii. ... We want to give veterans an opportunity to talk with somebody on the inside. ... We want to give them the opportunity to ask questions about their hiring process and the qualifications companies are looking for.”
Conklin said employers participating in the expo understand what they’re getting by hiring a veteran — someone with a strong work ethic and leadership experience. Despite their potential, she said veterans of the most recent conflicts have a higher unemployment rate than other Americans, which is why NCOA and other organizations are trying to help service members before they leave the service.
She said she encourages veterans to pre-register for an expo, but added that’s it is not required. She also recommends veterans come to an expo with copies of their resumes, but that is not required, either.
“I’d never tell someone, ‘Don’t come if you don’t have a resume,’” she said. “The question I hear most often is, ‘What should I wear?’ I tell soldiers to wear their uniform. Business-casual is fine, but you can never go wrong wearing a suit.”
She said she expected the greatest number of visitors for Tuesday’s expo would come during the lunch hour. By
11 a.m., Club Stewart’s main ballroom was starting to fill with soldiers in their duty uniforms and veterans in civilian attire. Sgt. 1st Class Derek Woodson and military spouse Dparis Mallory were among those stopping at tables to talk with company representatives.
An electronics-maintenance chief, Woodson said he’s retiring this summer and looking for a job that will allow him to live in Augusta, where he owns a home. Woodson said he was stationed at Fort Gordon for several years before being reassigned to Fort Stewart, then deployed a month later.
“I have a house in Augusta,” he said. “My wife is a nurse and has a job there. My son will graduate from high school this year, and my daughter is going to college in Augusta. Today, I’m just trying to see what’s available in this area in my field.”
Woodson, who originally is from Louisiana, will have 21 years in the Army when he retires. He was talking to former Marine Luis Rodriguez, general manager for Exel/DHL.
“I’m a veteran, too, so I volunteer for these expos to attract some more leaders for my company,” Rodriguez said. “We’re the largest supply chain company in the country. We have about 40,000 employees in the U.S. and South America. ... We’re looking for strong character and leadership experience to fill supervisor and manager positions. Veterans already carry the skill sets we’re looking for.”
Mallory talked with Donnie Norris, customer-service representative for Lift Atlanta, which listed job openings for customer-service representatives, mechanical technicians and sales staff for their Decatur and Augusta offices. He said Lift Atlanta is a family-owned business with 50 employees.
“I’m looking for jobs in customer service, public relations and administration,” Mallory said after completing an application for one of the customer-service jobs at Lift Atlanta. “I used to own my own business, and I worked for Bank of America for eight years.”
Mallory said she has an associate’s in accounting, a bachelor’s in forensic science and several certifications, including culinary arts. She said she’s returning to work because her husband just left the Army after 14 years of service. He’ll soon begin his own job search, she said.