Launching Careers, Finding Jobs for Vets with ‘Urgent’ Need

Russ Barnes, a retired Air Force colonel, who designed the USF Veterans Employment Project.

Russ Barnes, a retired Air Force colonel, who designed the USF Veterans Employment Project.

Despite the improving economy, finding a job or establishing a career remains a challenge and will be especially so for the million or more military service members expected to transition to civilian life in the next few years.

So, the University of South Florida Office of Veteran Services created the Veterans Employment Project, thanks to a grant from the JP Morgan & Chase Company, to prepare USF student veterans for the competitive civilian market.

Russ Barnes, a retired Air Force colonel with 27 years of service, designed the program. More than 30 student veterans applied, but the sessions need to be smaller to provide one-on-one help.

So, he prioritized the applicants with a survey. Those who scored 10 out of 10 as “urgent” that they find a job in the next three months were accepted first.

“We want to solve that right now,” Barnes said. “They’re urgent. We want to get them right now.”

The employment project he created is not the typical workshop. Barnes turns things upside down. Instead of starting with resume writing, he ends with it. He begins by focusing the veterans on their passion, their ideal career or job.

Then, he guides them working backward, identifying their industry of interest, researching companies, and then honing their resume to fit the job description.

USF student veteran Joshua Gleaton will graduate in May 2015 with a criminology degree.

USF student veteran Joshua Gleaton will graduate in May 2015 with a criminology degree.

By the end of day one, Barnes had the six student veterans in his August session signed up on Linked In. They had to join a professional group in their area of interest, researched companies and made personal connections with people working in their desired profession.

Joshua Gleaton spent more than four years in the Army as a forward observer. The former sergeant is completing a degree in criminology as he works with students at the USF Office of Veteran Services.

“These guys are veterans, they have military experience, there’s still an enormous amount of competition in the work field,” Gleaton said.

His goal is to have a career as a state game warden or work in criminal forensics for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Gleaton said the mock interview process helped him the most.

“One question that caught me off guard is ‘What is my biggest weakness?’ because you don’t want to sound like you have a weakness,” Gleaton said. “You try to turn that into that into a positive answer. “

Student veterans pair off to complete an exercise during a 5-day USF Veterans Employment Project August session.

Student veterans pair off to complete an exercise during a 5-day USF Veterans Employment Project August session.

To prepare the student veterans for interviews, Barnes brought in Crista Shaw, a disability and employment specialist and author of Passport to Education.”

After introducing herself on day four, Shaw, who volunteered to come, started with a couple of questions the veterans may encounter during a job interview.

“Has anybody here been fired from a job, two, three, my hand is up too,” Shaw said, putting them at ease. “I’ve been fired from a job. Let me tell you how to answer this question. “

Shaw did role playing with Franklin Castillo, a Marine going for his MBA. She worked with him on how to shorten his answer and bring the question back around to the present and positives he learned from being dismissed.

“If you leave with one thing today, I would tell you wherever you go you’re in an interview and if you can just be yourself, relax and be yourself,” Shaw advised.

Castillo is one of the student veterans who marked in his survey that it is urgent he find a job in the next three months. He wants to work for a commercial bank in anti-money laundering and fighting fraud.

Russ Barnes conducting the Veterans Employment Project session at the USF student veterans lounge.

Russ Barnes conducting the Veterans Employment Project session at the USF student veterans lounge.

“I came here with a preconceived notion, now as we’ve gone through the week, I’m so desirous to put this to work,” Castillo said.

Barnes said the employment workshop works both ways. Helping veterans adjust to the civilian job market and assisting employers by dispelling common myths about military veterans.

“Some of the misconceptions: in the military they always tell you what to do. They tell you what to eat, where to go what to do. They tell you when to do it, they tell you how to do it. And then you just do it,” Barnes said. “Many business owners say ‘I can’t have someone like that in my company, I need somebody who will be creative and work on their own.’ That is definitely a misconception.”

The workshop ended on the fifth day with mock interviews for the veterans. However,  Barnes said there’s a sixth module – the actual interview and job placement. He plans to stay in touch with all the student veterans until they land their ideal position.

In the interim, a third USF veterans’ employment 5-day session is scheduled to start Sept. 15, 2014.

You can listen to the radio story on WUSF Public Radio.


Military Spouses, Guard, Reserves Job Fair at MacDill

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More than 40 employers are signed up for the Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida.

The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Surf’s Edge Club, 7315 Bayshore Blvd., on MacDill AFB. Registration for military spouses, Guard and Reserves is available online at Interested employers can also register.

The Military Spouse Business Alliance, an alliance of the top 10 non-profit organizations focused on helping military spouses find employment, is a main sponsor of the job fair along with:

  • National Chamber Foundation
  • ESGR – Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
  • Military Spouse Employment Partnership
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • American Legion
  • Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment & Training Service

Hiring Our Heroes Job Fairs Elsewhere:

Bossier City, LA– Tuesday, October 23, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., a job fair for veteran job seekers, active duty military members, Guard and Reserve members, and military and veteran spouses, at the Bossier Civic Center, 620 Benton Road, Bossier City, LA.

Louisville, KY – Tuesday, October 23rd from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM for a job fair for veteran job seekers, active duty military members, Guard and Reserve members, and military and veteran spouses, at the Kentucky Exposition Centers West Hall, 937 Phillips Lane, Louisville, KY.  Medal of Honor recipient and Kentucky-native Dakota Meyer will be joining Hiring Our Heroes at this fair.

You can find an upcoming schedule of other Hiring Our Heroes Job Fairs HERE.

Veterans Unemployment Rate Drops Again

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The corporate focus on providing jobs to veterans seems to making an impact. Labor statistics released Friday show that unemployment among veterans dropped for a sixth month in a row.

The jobless rate among veterans of all generations stands at 6.9 percent, down from 8.6 percent a year ago.

Among veterans who served after 9-11, unemployement is still above the national rate of 8.3 percent. The Post 9-11 veterans unemployment rate is 8.9 percent but that’s down from 12.4 percent in July 2011.

There is concern to keep the trend going. Some advocates are calling on the federal government to extend tax credits for companies that hire veterans. Those tax credits are due to run out at the end of 2012.

Veterans Seeking Jobs Have a New Online Tool

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Starting this week, Veterans can use the VA’s online My HealtheVet portal ( to view official details about their military service from deployment data to Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) codes which define the type of work performed and skills learned during their tour of duty. Veterans can electronically download that information to their personal computers.

Military job information available to Veterans under this program will depend on their discharge or retirement date.

  • All Veterans discharged after 1980 will see military specialty or classification codes;
  • Some Veterans discharged between1975-1980 will see military specialty or classification codes;
  • Some Gulf War Veterans may see combat pay and deployment periods;
  • All Post-9/11 Veterans will see combat pay and deployment periods

Veterans not signed up for My HealtheVet must register. That can be done at any VA medical center by completing a one-time identity-verification process.

You can read the full Veterans Today article HERE.

One Veteran’s Search for a Job

Marlene Carter checks numerous websites every morning looking for job leads, job fairs and employment workshops.

She served 21 years in the Army, was a battalion commander in Iraq, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and holds a masters’ degree in administration. Yet, after five months, Marlene Carter is still looking for a job in the Tampa Bay area.

Carter starts every morning, including most weekends, at the computer searching websites and checking email for leads.

“It’s no longer the little ‘Help Wanted sign’ in the window where you could go in and meet your future employer and dazzle them with your personality and hunger for a job,” Carter said. “You’re on a computer and you’re having to use words and hopefully the right words they’re looking for to get that job.”

At first, she had a hard time finding the right words to describe her military experience, education and management skills that fit into a civilian job application. Carter said she’s like many in the military who “don’t brag” about their work and instead “just do it.”

A photo of Carter while she was serving in Iraq as battalion commander for Army criminal investigators.

“That’s one of the biggest things I had to learn,” Carter said. “My first resume was hilarious. My husband was like ‘you’re not going to get a job with this. You haven’t shown what you’ve done.’”

Using tips learned at employment workshops for veterans and advice from one-on-one job counseling, Carter rewrote her resume. She has made it into the semi-finalist pool for four jobs and has had one personal interview since starting her job search in July.

Congress just passed and President Obama signed into law new tax incentives to encourage the hiring of veterans. Carter hopes it will help. She said it is not an unfair advantage in this tight job market because veterans still have to have the skills that an employer needs, but she added it’s nice to have their service recognized.

Carter stands before some of her and her husband's military memorabilia. The sword in the center is her's.

Carter retired as an Army lieutenant colonel with the Military Police. Her background includes commanding a battalion of Army criminal investigators in Iraq. Her agents started the investigation into abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.

“In fact, I got to visit Abu Ghraib because I had agents literally living there,” Carter said. “I sat on a board where we had to look at the different prisoners being held there and make decisions do we keep them are they a terrorist threat or where to do they go from the prisons.”

Yet, Carter not interested in doing civilian policing. She would rather use her management and administrative skills or work with children. She has broadened the types of jobs she’s looking for and lowered her salary expectations. Carter also attends job fairs, participates to training workshops and networks with veterans groups.

“It’s been a little disappointing at times,” Carter admitted, but then smiled. “You just have to, next morning, get up with a positive attitude and apply, apply, apply.” Tools to help Veterans find jobs:

Veteran Job Postings

Military Skills Translator

Veteran Career Network

Veteran Job Fair Calendar

Military-to-Civilian Resume Writing

Veterans Jobs Package Passes Senate, Now in the House

Image courtesy of the Bay Pines VA website.

Almost a quarter million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are out of work. A Senate bill passed just in time for Veterans Day would provide tax breaks of up to $9,600 to private employers who hire them.It’s now up to the House.

Scott Horsley, White House correspondent for National Public Radio, writes that the tax credits are the first sliver of President Obama’s $447 billion jobs package to actually win bipartisan approval in the Senate. Obama says service members who fought for their country shouldn’t have to fight for jobs when they come home.

Employment chances for returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan also was the topic of a conversation between Veteran Affairs Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki and Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep.

Returning Florida National Guardsmen have an unemployment rate among recently returned soldiers of more like 16 percent, according to the Florida Army National Guard. And wounded veterans have a nationwide unemployment rate over 40 percent according to a Florida Sun Sentinel article which also finds veterans skeptical that the Veterans Jobs Package will help.

Troops to Energy Jobs Program

The unemployment rate among post-9/11 Veterans is in double digits. Couple that with the statistic that in the next five years 40 percent of the workers in the nation’s energy workforce are set to retire or leave through attrition and you come up with the national program: Troops to Energy Jobs.

The jobs program is managed by the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) and is designed as an ongoing process of outreach, recruiting, education, and training to create a pathway for military personnel to transition from the service into civilian careers in the energy field.

Steve Dunwoody, a Veteran and Department of Energy employee, recently wrote about the pilot program. The partnership hopes to bridge the Veteran employment gap and increase opportunities for Veterans in the energy sector.

Learn about energy careers, job match-ups and training at Get Into Energy Military.

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