Hundreds of servicemembers, veterans, and military spouses explored career options and passed out resumes during the Military Officer Association of America's premiere hiring and networking event Thursday evening at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
MOAA's Military and Veterans Networking Forum connected members of the military community directly to small businesses and large corporations. More than 800 people and 86 companies registered for the event.
“You have people here just to help veterans,” said Col. Brian Anderson, USAF (Ret), MOAA's senior director for transition and member services. “The real key to transition success is networking.”
Along with opportunities to meet hiring managers, the event featured panel discussions on job sectors and entrepreneurship, and a session that provided networkers with professional headshots, perfect for LinkedIn profiles.
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The annual event provides people with a chance to learn about available job opportunities and sharpen interviewing skills, but more than anything, Anderson said he hoped it allowed participants to gain a new sense of courage to get out of their comfort zone and network.
“With 70 to 75 percent of all positions being filled through networking and employee referrals, I hope they gain confidence in articulating their sense of purpose and the value and worth they offer to prospective employers,” he said.
Keynote speaker Jeff Danley, Starbucks' director of regional operations for Maryland and former chair of the company's Armed Forces Network in the mid-Atlantic region, encouraged veterans not just to seek employment, but to find a job that aligns with their own passion and beliefs. Starbucks, like many participating companies, has pledged to hire veterans and military spouses, with the chain hiring more than 15,000 in the past five years.
Lt. Col. Cattleya Born, an Army nurse who is preparing to leave service, was among hundreds of attendees browsing through the exhibitors.
She commissioned into the Army from college and has worked in health care for more than a decade. The networking event allowed her to meet others transitioning into civilian careers, as well as explore other job interests.
“I'm just seeing what's out there,” she said. “I can work as a nurse, but I kind of want to try something else.”
Kirby Traynham, a Marine Corps spouse, attended the event with her colleagues from Gartner Inc., a research and advisory company. The company is rapidly growing, and veterans are attractive candidates, she said.
Traynham said veterans typically possess leadership skills and can think on their feet. Even if they aren't sure what job is a good match, Traynham said she encourages servicemembers to contact her so she can help narrow their focus.
“We value what the military has taught them,” she said. “All they need to do is come to us and we'll help them translate their skills.”