Come as you are

Come as you are Karen Hannah talks with Roberta Berry and Nancy Adams of Warrior Care and Transition about the plethora of wounded warriors at this year's Hiring Heroes event at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. (Photo by MaryTherese Griffin)

By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and Transition


ARLINGTON, Va. - The ordeal of finding a job can be intimidating to say the least. Now throw in a combination of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and physical injuries and you've taken it to the next level. That is the situation for many of our wounded warriors transitioning out of the military, but there are people to help get them ready to take that intimidation head-on.

Enter Karen Hannah, Associate Director of the Recruitment Assistance Division for the Department of Defense- spouses, and Veterans. She helps transitioning military members find jobs and places a special focus on wounded warriors, especially at Hiring Our Heroes Career Fairs.

"I want [wounded warriors] to know that employers, whether they are a Federal Agency or private sector, want the skills that they have to offer." This wasn't the case 50 years ago. Hannah clearly remembers watching her father struggle to find work after he returned from Vietnam. This isn't just a job for her. It's a mission.

Hannah understands that wounded warriors and their spouses never planned to be in the position they have found themselves in. So she also helps military spouses and veterans find work. Hannah wants to help all of them face the factors she has found to be the most intimidating parts of job hunting for service members, starting with the dress code.

"When we first started doing these career fairs it was strictly for wounded warriors and their families and it was clear [business dress] was an issue," Hannah explained. "They didn't plan on being at the career fair that long and certainly didn't pack things like a suit." Hannah wants wounded warriors to know the employers know that many service members have possibly never interviewed for a job before, and probably haven't had to write a resume before.

She also wants wounded warriors to know they don't need to worry about a suit or a dress to look the part. Come as you are! We want our wounded warriors and their spouses to know it doesn't matter how you're dressed just come as you are."

Intimidated by dress code. Check! Hannah takes the time to address other concerns heading into a career fair with the participants beforehand. "Normally the day before our Hiring Our Heroes event we talk to the service members during morning formation about how to navigate the career fair, what to look for, what to expect and how to dress. We let them know they can come in their uniform or sweat pants. Whatever type of outfit they may need to wear because of an injury, its ok. These employers are not looking for everybody to be in a suit and tie."

Besides how to dress, another intimidating factor that Hannah wants to help address is the resume. Companies that participate in the Hiring Our Heroes events want to give service members a warm welcome and peel back the onion to learn what they have done in their career that may match the positions they have available. This is where many become intimidated because they don't see how their military experience translates into the civilian world.

Intimidation by resume. Check!

Warrior Care and Transition's Career Education and Readiness Division makes it easy for both job seekers and employers by helping to put your skills into civilian business terms is one of their specialties. Many installations also offer resume writing workshops that can help too. Every Soldier has special qualities and there are some that seem basic to Soldiers, but Hannah says they are like gold to an employer.

"Dedication to duty. Tenacity to get the work done. Great team players. [Employers] are fully aware that a Soldier has likely been a leader no matter what job they had," Hannah said. "Even someone who says 'Oh I just kick down doors' Well you had to have a weapon, you had to check it out, you had to become trained in the use of said weapon and you had to have your buddies back, YOU are a team player. You have communications skills." No more need to be intimidated by a resume or what job you had in the Army. Check!

One piece of advice Hannah wants all service members, especially wounded warriors to know, and is not to be afraid to talk about your disability rating. "If a soldier has a thirty percent disability rating and they want to work in the federal government, I would suggest they right up front say 'Hello my name is and I'm going to be getting a 30% disability rating' because that takes that off the table," Hannah explained. "Some employers may be afraid to ask. You need to know if it's the federal government they have the ability to hire someone with a 30% disability rating on the spot. So say it!" So if you were intimidated because of a medical issue, that's now taken care of too.

Hannah encourages everyone to go to a job fair and not to get down on yourself if people tell you to apply online or don't have a position available that fits your skill set. There are plenty of job fairs going on throughout the country and one may have the job for you.