How to Make the Most of Any Military Job Fair

(Pfc. Trevon Peracca/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

There aren't a lot of employers out there who will do as much as the U.S. military to help its employees leave the company for different jobs. When you think about it, it's actually astonishing how far the armed forces go to help service members leave the military.

On top of all the benefits of service provided to veterans after leaving, the Defense Department, the individual branches and even specific military installations have programs, partnerships and events to help vets find jobs. The most common of these is the military job fair.

The job fair that happens at your local military base is a great place to start looking for a post-military career, no matter where you are in your job search. If you're unsure about what you want to do, you can check out the organizations that are looking for veterans. If you find something of interest, you can find out what qualifications you need to get that job.

Local job fairs are also perfect for those who love the area in which they're stationed and are thinking about staying or returning once they leave the military. These fairs can be the best way to start networking within that local community, one of the hardest things for military members to do, but the most important step in finding sustainable employment.

Here's how to make the best of your local job fair.

Doing the Research

Chances are good that the whole base will know a job fair is coming. Maximum participation is always the goal, so there likely will be a full-court press to get the word out. Once you know the job fair is coming, find out what companies will be there and what jobs might interest you.

Finding companies and careers is one of the purposes of a job fair, and it's likely that still will happen, even with a great deal of preparation. Those who are pressed for time or truly concerned about a coming separation will want to ask more detailed questions of some employers.

Find the companies you like, the careers you want and figure out what's most important to you. With these three things in mind, you will get some of your most pressing questions answered in a meaningful way.

Working the Room

If there is an opportunity for you to apply for a job, talk to a company recruiter or start a new professional connection during the job fair, then it's important to know more about the company, why you might want to work there and why you'd be a good fit. You may even want to prepare answers for some questions commonly asked during job interviews, just in case you catch a recruiter's eye.

Read: Study the 10 Most Common Job Interview Questions

For those who may not be so pressed for time and are just starting to explore opportunities outside of the military, it's still important to consider what your future goals are, what kinds of jobs would help you get there and what questions you should ask of an employer who captures your attention. You always can do research on these companies after the job fair to see whether it's a good fit.

While it's important to be professional, it's also a good idea to be personable. The job fair isn't a formal job interview; it's a place to learn and interact with companies and potential employers. Imagine you're a recruiter looking for a candidate to fill a position, with two equally qualified applicants. The more personable one is likely to get along better working with others and as part of a team.

Following Through

Be sure to follow up with any recruiter you talked to at length. If they seemed interested in you, your skills and/or experience, they probably were and likely want to hear from you. Remember that they were inundated with people throughout the event, so remembering one of those might be difficult.

That's why you need to follow up with a well-written email, résumé attached, thanking them for the discussion and asking about next steps.

If they remember you and you promised them anything at all, be sure to follow through with that promise. If they asked for a résumé you didn't have, send them one. If they asked for a cover letter, send that, too. If they want you to apply for the job and ping them when you submit the application, do it.

Show off that attention to detail (and any other positive preconceived notions) that veterans are famous for; that's why they were at a military job fair in the first place.

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