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Attend Career Fairs And Networking Events


Attend Career Fairs And Networking Events

Career fairs and networking events are prearranged encounters that could lead to a quick victory in your military-to-civilian transition war. You can use these events to shape your future operating environment by practicing your new combat techniques with recruiters and hiring managers. If anything, you can expand your network and knowledge of a company, its culture and values, and its employment opportunities.

Why Do Companies Participate?


Maximize recruiting and minimize cost: These events are great opportunities to access large pools of potential candidates at a low cost and with minimal effort.

Rapidly distribute information: Companies announce their talent needs to all participants before and during the events.

Abbreviate their selection process: Interviews can be conducted on-site and sometimes offers are made to save time.

Build their brand: Presenting a company brand in public alongside well-known companies can immediately improve a company’s reputation.

Meet and network with peer companies: Meeting other like-minded companies establishes mutually beneficial relationships where best practices and even talent may be shared.

Expand their talent network for future needs: Many companies grow their database of talent that they can call upon when future needs arise.

Why Should You Participate?


Research multiple companies: Quickly learn about the company’s culture and values.

Expand your network: Create a gold mine of networking opportunities; conduct impromptu informational interviews or arrange to meet after the event.

Learn about opportunities associated with targeted career fields: Explore current and future job opportunities and the required credentials.

Practice using the language of your targeted career fields: Speak your “new” language, whether it be a general discussion, an impromptu informational interview or an interview with a hiring manager.

Compare your military skills and credentials: Assess the relevance of your military experiences to your targeted career fields by learning about job requirements.

Attend free workshops and seminars: Most events offer additional experiences or tutorials that will improve your performance throughout the military-to-civilian transition.

Get your resume reviewed: Professionals often review and offer suggestions on how to improve your resume.


  • Enhance your network – gather new contacts

  • Learn more about potential companies and their culture

  • Learn more about a company’s opportunities

  • Learn more about qualifications needed for your targeted career fields

  • Improve how you present yourself to non-military people

  • Leave a positive first impression with a selected company

  • Find a job to apply for

  • Get invited to an interview

How To Prepare For These Encounters


Here are twelve steps to help you make a favorable first impression upon first contact at one of these events:

1. Register early and, if permitted, provide in advance a resume that highlights your education and relevant military skills and experiences.

2. Determine which companies will attend and note those that may support your targeted career fields and are in your preferred geographical areas of interest.

3. Research the identified companies to assess their culture and values.

4. Research whether your selected companies are veteran friendly or have a veteran employee resource group.

5. Develop your plan of attack for the day of the event - decide which of these companies’ tables you will visit.

6. Develop a customized resume for each of your targeted career fields, then print several copies of each.

7. Rehearse your 30-second personal introduction and greeting, identifying who you are, what your career interest is, your relevant skills and experiences, your geographical preferences and the earliest date you can start work - and do it without using a single military word, title, phrase or acronym.

8. Contact event organizers to see if these specific companies provided a listing of the open roles they intend to fill at the event.

9. Visit the selected companies' career sites; review relevant job descriptions.

10. Apply for one of these jobs – ONLY if you meet all the specified requirements and after customizing your resume to that job description. (Print off all online responses from your application and carry them with you.)

11. Procure a notebook and pen or fully charge your mobile device to capture essential information from company representatives.

12. Select appropriate clothing to wear to show you are professional and ready to work.

In The Heat Of The Moment


While at the event:

What should you expect from the participating company?

1. You might meet a recruiter who never served a day in their life; so, you should ensure your introductory presentation is tailored to someone who doesn’t know anything about the military.

2. You may find a hiring manager who will assess talent for a specific need. (The hiring manager is often NOT at the company table. Instead, they will be in a separate room to conduct interviews.)

3. You may find a veteran employee in attendance who can translate your skills and experiences for the recruiter and hiring manager. Sometimes this veteran employee is a member of the employee resource group.

4. The company effort may be narrowly focused into one of these different objectives:

  • Hire immediately to fill an urgent need (normally advertised before the event)

  • Build a pipeline of talent to fill a specific and recurring need 

  • Strengthen their database of talent for future, unspecified needs

5. They may ask you to “sign in” (electronically) so they can capture your information in their database.

6. Do not get offended -- they might NOT ask for your resume because the event organizer often has a centralized database for all participants, and your resume is included.

7. The company representative may ask you questions to learn more about your suitability and interests.

8. The representative may provide additional information and give you leads that are not available on the employer’s website.


Three things you should NOT EXPECT from the participating company.

1. The company asks you to apply for a job on the spot. This will only happen if you are perfect for the company’s immediate need, and they need you to apply before they can properly interview you.

2. The company representative invites you to participate in an interview. This may happen, but only for those attendees who are suited for the job. You might be the lucky one. But don’t expect this.

3. The hiring manager offers you the job or hires you at the event. Similarly, this can happen, but very infrequently. Timing and perfect alignment of the needed skills are essential.  So, don’t expect this either.   


How to handle first contact with a recruiter or hiring manager of your selected company:

  • Review any notes you have about the company before approaching the table.  

  • Even if “traveling” with a support group, approach the table by yourself. Have at least one copy of your resume handy and something to take notes with.

  • Provide a firm handshake, introduce yourself and learn whom you are speaking with – recruiter, hiring manager, veteran employee.

  • Deliver your personal introduction and greeting – keep it to 30 seconds: explain your career field interest; present your relevant skills, experiences, geographical preferences and the earliest date you can start work.

  • Ask what the company’s objective is at the fair.

  • Ask if they would like a copy of your resume.

  • Inform them you applied for a job posting of theirs before the event.

  • Listen intently to their response and take notes.

  • Ask for a business card or contact information.

  • Be professional, polite and positive.

  • If the company representative asks you if you have questions:

    • ask about the company culture and values

    • ask if the company has a veteran employee resource group and if you can get their contact information

    • ask if there is someone in the company who would be interested in participating in an informational interview so you can learn more about your targeted career fields

    • ask if you can connect with the company representative on LinkedIn

    • ask about their greatest current needs and future needs

    • ask for feedback on your 30-second personal introduction

    • ask what makes them a better company for employees than their peer competitors


  • What exactly does your company do?

  • What can you do for me?

  • How much do you pay?

  • How much time off or how many vacation days do you give your employees?

  • Does your company have any jobs for me?

  • Given my military experience, what can I do for you?


Before proceeding to the next company or table, take notes highlighting:

  • Your impression of the engagement

  • Your impression of the company

  • Topics of discussion with the company representative

  • Any follow-up agreements

  • Self-reflect about your performance – do an AAR; that way you get better at the next engagement


At the conclusion of the event:koch-industries-careerfairs-laptop.jpg

  • Send a thank-you email to remind the company representative who you are, what your interests are and any specifics you discussed

  • Ask the company representative about next steps

  • Follow up on all leads – build your own database

  • Compare your impressions of the company with friends and colleagues who also attended the event

  • Complete all follow-up agreements

  • Organize all the information you gathered at the event

  • Do a personal AAR