Does it seem impossible to get a job on base? Endlessly applying for jobs and never getting the callback? Maybe it’s time to rethink your employer.
Getting a job with AAFES -- the Exchange -- can be easier than you think. We talked to AAFES HR manager Kristine Groenenboom-Newbold to get the scoop.
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Kristine, is in charge of Human Resources for the Exchanges at Ft. Benning/Ft McClellan/Anniston AD, Dobbins ARB/Camp Merrill, and Robbins AFB/Moody AFB. In that capacity, she has seen a lot of spouses come through the exchange, and she is eager to help match them into positions at the Exchanges.
"It's really easy for a military spouse to get employed with us," Kristine said. That's a good thing because once you have a job with AAFES, you can look forward to transferring that job to another base when the next a PCS rolls around.
"The reality is that it is quite beneficial. Especially not having to have that fear of quitting your job and having to find another job. That's one headache you don’t have to worry about."
Fill Out the App
Once you have your profile set up and are logged in, you will be able to look and apply for jobs that interest you. "Once you do that job search, you can save your search," Kristine explains. "The system will notify you whenever there's a job posted so you don't have to go through the hassle of doing it all over again."
Utilize Spouse Continuity
"Spouse continuity" is what spouse preference ought to be: When you get PCS orders, getting your job transferred is as simple as letting the HR office know.
In whatever category you have achieved -- corporate lingo for internal "rank" or pay grade -- they will try to fit you into an equivalent open role at your new base. This is as true for part-timers as it is for full-timers, a boon to many spouses looking for work.
"So if you're part time here and we know you're going there, and they have a regular part time job, you don't have to go through the recruiting process or the competitive process. You'll just automatically be put into that job if you're qualified for it."
That is great news for many spouses who fear losing their jobs between posts. For spouses working with AAFES, that stress is replaced by a community of employment support in the midst of transition.
"Our HR assistants are motivated to really help those spouses because they receive a reward for maintaining spouse continuity," says Kristine.
"So whenever they get it, they get a little bonus, too. It's not that they need that, but they also get a monetary recognition for maintaining spouses. It's a win-win for everyone."
Grow From Within
If you have already had experience in retail or hospitality, a starter job at the Exchange or the restaurants inside of it might not seem like the obvious choice for you.
But don’t turn away from an entry-level job with AAFES just because you know your experience qualifies you for more. AAFES primarily promotes from within, so that entry-level job could be the ticket to a bigger, better one with room for further growth.
"A lot of times people come on board and get their foot in the door. Based on criteria and motivation they can put in for a job and their interview skills get them that job," Kristine explains.
"We only send the top five qualified individuals to interview, but we may have a job that may not be well sought after by some of our associates," Kristine explains.
A likely scenario would be a job opening up at a branch store where not a lot of people want to work. "Like, I work at the main store and I don't want to work in one of the branches. Then a job is posted in the branch and we won't get many applicants for that. So someone who just started has a very good chance of being referred for the interview."
Because of that internal preference, starting a job with AAFES -- any job -- is better than waiting for the "perfect" job to open up and applying then. Your best shot at that "perfect" job when it opens is to have already shown your interest in the organization by coming in on the ground floor.
Nail the First Impression
The last piece of advice Kristine offers AAFES applicants may seem obvious to you, but getting that first impression right troubles a number of AAFES applicants. Kristine demystifies how to nail it with two simple tips: be honest and appropriately dressed.
Be Honest. It should go without saying that when the application asks you if you have ever been charged with a crime or held by a law enforcement agency, lying is not a good idea.
"A lot of people put 'no' and we run a background check and something pops up," Kristine says. "It may not be anything of significance to keep us from hiring you, but you've already lied to us. The thing is to be honest. Let us be the judge whether that warrants a yes or no, because we're pretty understanding. We understand that people have events in their life. We're not prudes. Be honest with us and give us the opportunity to be the judge of that. That's key."
Dress Appropriately. While the Exchange can sell some fun party wear, your job interview is not the place to debut it.
"When you're scheduled for an interview, please report professionally dressed," Kristine advises. That means business casual.
"We see them coming wearing blue jeans, and you have to understand, our customer base is the military. And they wear uniforms. They have a standard they are expected to wear, and so do we."
Duds aside, the interview is also a place to keep your tattoos and piercing appropriately covered. "No visible tattoos. No extreme piercings, or things like that on your face. We expect our associates to mirror the image of our customers," she says.
A safe guidepost would be if your spouse cannot show it at work, neither should you in the context of an interview.
If you have any lingering questions about how to dress for an interview, please check out our guide for what to wear. But you can never go wrong with a pair of slacks, an ironed button-up shirt, and flats.
Good News: those are things you can usually find at the Exchange, a place where you can start with an entry-level job and build a career.
Related: For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Military.com Job Search section.
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