Job fairs offer help for those about to leave the service

Looking for work is a full time job all by itself.

For someone who’s making the transition from the military to the civilian workforce, there are unique challenges when it comes to a job search.

“If someone came into the Navy right out of high school, they may have never had a job or had to look for a job,” said Bill Conley, Work and Family Life Consultant at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s Fleet and Family Support Center.

Bill Conley

That’s where the Navy’s Transition Assistance Program comes into play. TAP classes are held at the support center each month for those who are separating from the Navy. Retiree TAP classes are held every other month.

The classes lay the groundwork for a job search – covering how to write resumes, how to handle the interview process, how to make the most of a job fair and even how to dress. But Conley said what someone does during their military service can make a big difference when it comes to a civilian job hunt.

“The most challenging question for people separating from the military is ‘Did you find a career path you like, and did you do anything to prepare for it?’,” Conley said. “The military offers a lot of opportunities – did they take advantage of it?”

While the classes and one on one guidance offered at the support center provides a solid base for an impending job search, help during the job hunt is  also available through the state.

“Our classes are a great supplement to the TAP classes,” said WorkSource Whidbey center coordinator Anne Hallam. “There could be some additional information they didn’t previously get.”

Job fairs
WorkSource often joins forces with the Fleet and Family Support Center, and arranges its bi-annual job fairs around the Navy’s TAP classes so skills can be put to use immediately. That’s the case for the upcoming WorkSource job fair, scheduled for Thurs., May 5 at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge.

“We give those attending a two-hour lunch on the last day of TAP class so they can attend the job fair,” said Conley.

Anne Hallam

“It’s a good opportunity to meet people face to face,” Hallam said, adding that people should dress professionally and have their resume with them because some employers will conduct interviews on the spot.

Fleet and Family Support Center also has a job fair coming up on June 27 which is targeted specifically for people separating from the Navy.

“The companies participating are looking for specific skill sets acquired from this air station,” he said. “The people stationed at NAS Whidbey have skill sets that can make them more marketable.”

And that is a key factor in today’s job search.

“There may be a lot of skills you’ve developed but don’t know you have,” Conley said.

Spouses, too
The search for employment extends beyond just military personnel. Hallam said a lot spouses take advantage of WorkSource services, especially when they first arrive.

The frequent moves necessary when part of a military family can make a job search more difficult.

“Since they have traveled around to different stations, it might appear to an employer that they can’t keep a job longer than a couple of years,” said Hallam. “Many spouses are highly skilled but this could be their biggest obstacle to employment. WorkSource…offers ways to best market their skills no matter what the work history looks like.”

Understanding the local job market is also important for Navy spouses because it can be challenging.

“Depending on what part of the country they are coming from they may not be prepared for a small community that is surrounded by water,” Hallam said. “Island living takes getting used to and they must quickly come to the understanding that wages may not be what they’re accustomed to.”

Despite local employment opportunities, someone’s skills and experience may make it necessary to look elsewhere.

“Because we have a lot of smaller businesses and no big manufacturing centers or industry, you may have to think beyond the island,” Hallam said.

“Location is a big part of it,” Conley agreed. “They have to ask themselves if they’re willing to relocate if necessary.”

Whether military members and their spouses choose to stay or to go, Hallam and Conley encourage them all to take advantage of the assistance either organization can provide, and not try to go it alone.

“It’s important to touch base with either WorkSource or Fleet and Family to make sure they’re getting the right information,” Hallam said. “A resume has always been important, but now it’s even more important. They have to find a way to be picked out of a crowd.”

“It’s all about getting people jobs,” said Conley. “The bottom line is, we all want people working.”

Upcoming Events
Workshop: How to prepare for a job fair, 9 a.m., April 26.
Job Fair: Thursday, May 5, noon to 4 p.m. Oak Harbor Elks Lodge.