Reverse Job Fair Offers Employment Opportunities for Soldiers

WTU Force Structure Joint Base Lewis McChord Soldiers attend the Reverse Internship/hiring job fair at the Kitsap County WorkSource in Bremerton, Washington. (Photo Courtesy Mary Ball)

By Annette P. Gomes Warrior Care and Transition

Let’s face it, we’ve all been through it at least one time in our lives – seeking employment at a job fair and winding up with more frustration than you bargained for. It’s a familiar feeling for Sgt. Gabriel Olivares.

“So many times you attend the job fair and they want you to go to a website, fill out a sign in sheet and you never hear from them, so you feel let down,” Olivares said.

Recognizing this frustration for many Soldiers transitioning to civilian life, the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash. in conjunction with Operation Warfighter Program and the Navy’s Office of Civilian Human Resources, recently held a reverse job fair at the Kitsap County WorkSource office in Bremerton, Wash.

A reverse job fair puts the hiring managers on the other side of the table where they approach the Soldiers about possible employment opportunities. WTB Transition Coordinator, Mary Ball says it was empowering for the Soldiers to be sought out by the hiring managers.

“It’s disheartening when a Soldier sees six to nine agencies at a job fair and feels uncertain of whether or not they have the right skill set. A lot of times the Soldier will talk about themselves very generally and not toot their own horn and really sell themselves,” Ball explained. “Typically there’s a Human Resources representative at these job fairs that knows little about the various open positions. If the Soldier does not sell themselves and stand out, the resume will go back to the HR department and never make it to the hiring manager.”

Soldiers, like anybody, can become discouraged in their job search when their resumes are not making it to a hiring manager. A reverse job fair guarantees this because the hiring manager is on site to ask specific questions and provide specific information.

“The goal of the event is to reverse the process so that we highlight the Soldier and their skills and talents for the hiring managers as they search for a specific candidate,” Ball said.

Approximately 20 Soldiers attended the event with 18 hiring Managers on hand seeking potential Operation Warfighter internship candidates and potential hires. So far, four have received internships and two have been contacted regarding permanent jobs.

“I felt better about this job fair because there was more of an exchange. You received contacts, business cards and the managers genuinely seemed impressed,” Olivares said of the event. “The one on one contact made it more personal because they came to us and they really seemed to care. I would like to see more opportunities like this.” Following the event, Olivares was offered an internship with Naval Sea Systems Command.

Ball saw the event as a huge success for everyone involved. “I saw Soldiers at the start of the hiring fair and they seemed uncertain, but by the end of the event, I saw smiles and a greater level of confidence because they had hiring managers waiting in line to talk to them. It was a win – win situation for everyone.”

Ball hopes to start having reverse job and internship fairs with different agencies once per quarter to provide employment opportunities for Soldiers. Ultimately she would like to set it up so the agency can have hiring/internship managers present from various departments present to speak with the Soldiers.

Ball also hopes to offer monthly Operation Warfighter Internship Fairs, which typically have six to eight agencies participate, at the WTB to continue to provide Soldiers opportunities to further their careers.