I’ve always wanted to be a career woman. Then, I got married in college to an ROTC cadet and the last 10 years have been a military whirlwind. Two kids and five duty stations later, I’m finally ready! The problem is my resume. I have been busy these last ten years. I’ve volunteered, taken a couple of jobs and been a contract writer. I thought that I had a lot of great things to add to my resume that showed I hadn’t completely neglected my dream of being a career woman. However, for the last 11 months, I’ve been applying for jobs and have been turned down repeatedly. Most of the time my resume isn’t even making it to the HR department. I needed a different approach.
You might be thinking that my resume might just need some work. You aren’t wrong and I’ll be writing about that soon. It turns out the thing I needed most was a new game plan. I’ve been on military posts long enough to see several signs throughout the years about career fairs. I never went to any of them. Now that my kids are in school full time and with over twenty-five rejected job applications, it was time to try.
My first fair was held at a downtown library and the parking was horrendous. After I looped around and around the little free library lot and found nothing, I had to go find parking elsewhere. There was a parking meter maid giving out tickets to all the cars around me as I was trying to download the app and pay for parking. By the time I had straightened it all out, I almost wanted to go home. I was frazzled, to say the least. But I walked in anyway. There were about 20 tables set up inside a room with resources, business cards and some free merchandise. I decided to start at the beginning and stop at every single table. I highly recommend that.
I was nervous but put on my resilient military spouse’s face and made a lot of connections. There were companies there that I had never even considered. There were jobs that I knew I wasn’t cut out for, but I stopped, grabbed a flyer and spoke with them anyway. I had a lot of great conversations and to my surprise, they all had pitches ready for me. I went in thinking I needed to pitch myself, but it turned out they all pitched me instead — that took a lot of pressure off! I took all the business cards so I would remember names and have a way to reach out.
I left feeling grateful for having the courage to go. I also left with an invitation to another networking event four days later. I went to that event and met some incredible people. Most importantly, I left the job fair with connections. One of those connections recommended me for a job that wasn’t even listed. It turned out that the recommendation got me a job interview — something I have been trying to get with my resume for almost a year. Two weeks later, I landed the job and it’s absolutely a perfect fit for me. I had never really harnessed the power of networking but it’s truly a superpower! I can’t recommend enough putting yourself out there and meeting people.
I also highly recommend checking out resources from the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program established by the Defense Department. They provide education and career guidance to military spouses worldwide, offering comprehensive resources and tools related to career exploration, education, training and licensing, employment readiness and career connections. It’s truly a treasure box!
Here’s my advice from my career fair experience:
- Join your local employment readiness office social media page. This is how I learned about the career fair.
- Research career paths. I was asked the question, “What are you interested in?” and I wasn’t 100% sure at the time.
- Bring multiple copies of your resume.
- Rehearse an elevator pitch. You may not need it but practicing it will make you feel more confident. Check out this resource for networking tips.
- Stop at every table and grab their business cards.
- Connect with everyone afterward on LinkedIn.
- Send a simple, “Great to meet you today” follow-up email to the businesses that got you excited.
- Be yourself!