Job prospects on horizon for veterans as Medaille expo aims to match career skills - The Buffalo News

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Job prospects on horizon for veterans as Medaille expo aims to match career skills

Driving a tank; driving a forklift.

Deploying a battalion; deploying a sales force.

Using computer programs to distribute supplies and arm missiles, or to track shipments and schedule vacations.

When you put it like that, it’s easy to see how a veteran’s military training can make him or her a good, or even exceptional, fit for a job opening in the civilian sector.

What unemployed veterans want most is the chance to tell that to employers.

They will get their chance at the Veterans Career and College Expo being held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Medaille College.

Among those who will be there is Lance R. Mauro. A captain in the Navy, he believes that his experience as a commanding officer – along with his master’s degree in administration – qualifies him for a management position in a private company.

“Military business management skills are very transferable to a company that needs an operations person,” Mauro said. “But some companies, well, it seems they have a hard time translating that.”

He bases that opinion on months of fruitless job hunting.

“Since February, I’ve been looking heavy duty, seven days a week,” Mauro said. “In that time, I have sent out hundreds of résumés, and I have had about a dozen interviews, some better than others.”

One recent interview with a major local bank has left him hopeful: “I talked with two awesome gentlemen, and it seemed to go well. They understood my experience, and they were honest with me. They said if this opening didn’t work out, they might have something else soon.”

Mauro, 55, compares that to an encounter he had at a financial services company.

“I talked to a couple guys there and got kind of ‘beat up’ in the interview,” he said. “They didn’t understand my résumé, and they indicated they thought my service experience was worthless.”

That’s particularly disheartening for veterans who worked hard to build their technical and leadership skills while on duty so they could find work once they returned to civilian life.

“Financially, it’s a major struggle,” Mauro said. “My wife is working, but she makes minimum wage, and I am worried about my unemployment running out.”

For now, while he hopes for a callback from the bank, Mauro will keep networking and explaining how a man with international logistics experience – capable of ensuring an oil terminal’s transition to Iraqi operation with a multinational staff, for instance – could be an asset for any company.

The career expo was organized by the Upstate New York Better Business Bureau and Medaille College, where Raymond M. Otto was the point man.

A Navy veteran himself, Otto now helps veterans make use of their GI Bill of Rights benefits to attend college.

“One of the things I wanted to do was hold a job fair that really targets veterans,” Otto said. “The hardest thing is finding employers who really want to hire veterans. A lot of places will say they want to support the veterans, but how many actually follow through on that?”

All the companies participating in Saturday’s event have jobs available now, Otto said, and most will be prepared to talk to candidates on the spot.

“They can do initial interviews right here, so the applicants can get their foot in the door,” Otto said. “And that’s all anybody wants – not a career fair where they smile and tell you to apply online, and you never hear from them again.”

William S. Cleary is head of human resources at Dunn Tire, which is taking part in the expo. Its interest in veterans is more than lip service, he said.

“We’re always looking for good people,” Cleary said. “One good thing we’ve found about the military is that people come to us from it extremely well-trained.”

And while anecdotal excuses sometimes cite veterans as being rigid or having other difficulties adjusting to a civilian workforce, Cleary said, “We haven’t seen that. It’s not a concern.”

The expo is open to all veterans and their spouses, who have their own set of employment issues.

“Spouses are the backbone of the military, and we want to help them, too,” Otto said. “They have moved so much, they can’t get established in careers.”

Aimee R. Victoria knows all about that. She has been looking for work since she and her husband, who is in the Air Force Reserve, moved to Western New York in August. She has experience in public relations, brand-building, nonprofits, event planning and freelance writing.

“Maybe there is no such thing as a traditional résumé anymore,” Victoria said, “but in every place that we have lived, I’ve had to reinvent my career. I’ve developed a lot of different skills.”

She and her husband have three children, with the youngest 3 years old. Being unable to afford regular child care limits her ability to network, which she knows is key to nailing that all-important interview.

“In this economy, I know that if you don’t know somebody to recommend you, you’re not going to get the job,” she said. “I know there are a lot of good employers out there. I just need to make real contact with them.”

Warren E. Clark, president of the Upstate Better Business Bureau, said they are hoping for a good turnout Saturday, and good results for all participants.

“We know the statistics – for job openings, for unemployment and for veterans,” he said. “And we know the difficulties. Businesses were not understanding the difference in terminology for the military, for instance – that a platoon leader could be an excellent production manager.”

To remedy that, the expo will offer résumé-writing help – how to “civilianize” experience – plus career counseling and advice on how to handle an interview. (One tip: After initial introductions, refer to your interviewer by name rather than “Sir” or “Ma’am.”)

“This isn’t one of those job fairs where people drop a hundred résumés on a hundred tables, and the story goes out that there was a big job fair – and nobody gets employed,” Clark said. “We take them one at a time, and we try to find jobs, one at a time.”

Among the 35 businesses participating are AT&T, Delta Sonic, First Niagara Banking, KeyBank, M&T Bank, National Fuel, Rite Aid, Snyder Corp., Calspan and Wegmans. Job seekers are encouraged to dress appropriately for interviews and bring copies of their résumés.

The expo will be held in Medaille’s Events Area, 18 Agassiz Circle. Workshops will be at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in the President’s Dining Room.


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