Someone recently posted in a military spouse Facebook group with questions about an upcoming job fair on base. She wasn’t sure if she was able to attend since she was not in the military, and many others followed up with questions. “What time should I arrive and what should I wear?”
We’ve got some tips for military spouses who are thinking about attending an upcoming job fair.
If you are overwhelmed with the idea of on-the-spot interviews and dozen of employers at once, look no further. There are many resources that can help you prepare.
1. Military spouses should not be afraid to attend
You will see job fair advertisements that may state “military only” or “open to the public.” “Military only” usually always means that anyone with a military ID (including dependents) are encouraged to attend, not just the service members themselves. There are a lot of employers who are looking forward to speaking with military spouses and are expecting you to attend!
2. Check out the employer list before attending
Not all employers at a job fair will be the right company for you, and it may be too busy to speak to everyone. Figure out what companies are your priorities. Check out their websites prior to attending and educate yourself on the company. If they have open positions posted online, go ahead and apply. You will stand out among other job seekers if you approach the recruiter with a position you have already researched. There may also be positions open that are not posted on their website, so don’t be discouraged if their site doesn’t show they are hiring.
Additional tip: Pick out a few companies you are NOT interested in working for and go speak to them first. This will give you good practice and help get the nerves out! Once you start feeling comfortable, you can confidently approach the companies you are really interested in.
3. Attend job fair preparation classes on base
The family service and education centers on base often have classes to aid job seekers. They also may have one specific to the upcoming job fair (great resource, especially if it is your first one!). These will cover resumes, interviewing skills, job fair tips and much more. If there isn’t one specific to the job fair, check out the other classes offered on a regular basis. Practicing interview skills, tips for getting federal jobs, and how to build a resume are often available!
Additional tip: If there is an employment brief or other similar class on base, the family employment liaison will often bring in employers who are hiring. They could be looking to fill open positions quickly, this is a great way to meet face-to-face!
4. Visit MSEP and Military OneSource
Following our previous tip, these are great especially if you can’t attend a class in person. They offer tons of resources for military job seekers online including interview tips for military spouses and much more!
5. Bring many copies of your resume
You may be surprised about the amount of people that do not bring their resume to job fairs. This provides employers the opportunity to view your experience on the spot and looks professional. Presenting your resume to an employer is always a good conversation starter. Bring your resume to one of the resume building classes on base to have them review. They will also give ideas for how to properly format it and more.
6. Dress appropriately
Dress professionally. Dress pants or a business skirt paired with a blouse are appropriate for women. A blazer is great too. For men, a suit and tie is best. Carry a nice pad folio or folder with your resumes in it. Having a clean, professional look will make you stand out among others.
7. Arrive early, if possible
If you can’t get there when the doors open, no need to worry. Employers are available the entire duration of the event, and understand that people come and go according to their schedules. Arriving at the beginning of the job fair may help you beat crowds and allow you to spend a quality amount of time speaking with the recruiters.
8. Be confident.
Approach the recruiters confidently and with a smile. Remember everyone on the other side of the table has been in your position before.
8. Follow up
Ask the recruiters for their business card if they didn’t already give it to you so you have their contact information. If there was something memorable about your conversation write it down so you don’t forget it. When you get home from the job fair, send them a follow up email and let them know you enjoyed speaking with them. If there is a specific position you spoke about, include that in the email and why you are good for it. A follow up phone call is appropriate as well!
Additional tip: The employment liaisons on bases often have good connections with local employers. If you establish a good relationship with them, they may be able to get your resume in the hands of the right person.