Veterans land jobs in person. Shocking, I know. You might find a job listing online. You might apply online. You might message back and forth online with a recruiter on Monster or LinkedIn. You will definitely interview on Zoom. But you land the job in person. Face to face. Live.
Reactivate Your Network at Military Conferences.
So where do you find all these face-to-face people who are willing to talk to you about jobs? As Military.com's transition master coach and a military sociologist, I can tell you one of the best places to reconnect with your invisible network is at a military trade show or conference, especially for midlevel or senior leaders looking for a job in defense.
Not everyone believes this. "I went to one of those things as a junior officer," one senior leader scoffed. "Not for me."
Well, of course not. Early in your career, the purpose of attending one of the annual trade shows for the defense industry like Sea-Air-Space or the AUSA Annual Conference and Exposition is to demonstrate that platforms, weapons and tech do not magically appear before you. A whole industry exists.
Later in your career, you may go to a trade show to see innovations by defense companies or to hear the secretary of the Navy or the Air Force chief of staff talk about the future of warfare.
But the best part of attending a conference is always bumping into people from your past. Some people call that "networking." Whether the people you know are still in uniform or they are now working in the defense industry, this is the best place for transitioning military to reignite their network. Because networking and identifying future job prospects are always on the conference agenda.
Networking Is Normal at Trade Shows and Conferences.
I talked to Beth Klein, manager of Sea-Air-Space, the Navy League's global maritime exposition. The largest maritime expo in the country, it features more that 350 exhibitors and 15,000 participants. "Trade shows are important ways for veterans and transitioning military to connect with organizations familiar with the military story," said Klein. "Employers recognize the talent that comes out of the military, and they want to be in a space where they can access that talent."
That is why most trade shows also offer a hiring event. At Sea-Air-Space near Washington, D.C., the Transition Connection Job Fair will be held on the first day of the event, Monday, April 3, from 10 a.m to 2 p.m.
"Employers will be there to hire folks in the military community for their talents and skill set," said Klein. "There will also be a number of government organizations and nonprofits available to help with resume review, LinkedIn makeovers and headshots." Expect large employers like BAE Systems, Huntington Ingalls and General Dynamics, medium size employers as well as upcoming businesses like Frontier Technology.
Find Your Kind on the Expo Floor
Even if you do not know a soul in attendance, you don't have to feel awkward or nervous. "Most of the people on the expo floor have a military background. They understand it is intimidating. Their role is to be the forward face of that company," said Klein. "They are at these events all the time, and they are used to greeting people who are new to the process."
Also, be prepared to share something about yourself. You can say something as basic as, "I have a background in a number of different areas like X, Y and Z. I'm interested in exploring what I can do with my background." Practice what you will say before you go so it comes across naturally.
Military conferences, exhibitions and trade shows are a gold mine for job hunting veterans and spouses. For more tips, read our exclusive guide to networking at military conferences and events, featuring 19 tips that help introverts and extroverts navigate events with skill and confidence, and check out our calendar below.
Best Trade Shows and Conferences for Military Job Seekers
Sea-Air-Space is the largest maritime expo in the U.S. The agenda typically includes numerous keynote speakers, presentations and professional development opportunities. Attendees come from government agencies, the private sector and the military.
The Marine Corps Association's annual conference features more than 400 exhibitors focused on the technologies, requirements and solutions of the USMC warfighter.
Air, Space & Cyber Conference 2023
The Air & Space Forces Association's conference is designed to provide professional military development, the sharing of emerging requirements and technologies, and building connections that advance the cause of air and space power.
AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition 2023
The Association of the United States Army hosts this annual event, which is the largest landpower exposition and professional development forum in North America. The conference brings together 30,000 attendees, including thought leaders in military, government, industry and academia.
Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference 2023
Distinguished speakers come from the Department of Defense, the intelligence community, academia, industry and the Five Eyes (FVEY) -- an intelligence alliance comprising the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- to discuss issues pertaining to Information technology (IT) and defense. More than 400 exhibitors and 3,000 attendees.
Surface Navy Association Symposium 2024
The Surface Navy Association's annual symposium brings together members of the military, business and academic communities to discuss issues and challenges pertaining to naval surface warfare.
Hosted by the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA) International and U.S. Naval Institute (USNI), military and industry come together on the West Coast to explore current and future naval platforms and technologies, with particular attention to the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
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Transitioning military, veterans and spouses may be qualified for the job, but they are missing the secrets of civilian hiring. Find out everything you need to know with our FREE master class series including our next class You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.