Job fair gives vets a chance to transition into civilian life

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
The town of Warsaw hosts its 96th Veterans Day Parade on Saturday

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Transitioning from military to civilian life can be difficult for veterans. Many veterans finish their service with decades of experience under their belt, but still have trouble finding work in their post-military life.”I used to be a dedicated, hard-core guy,” Gerardo Cruz said of starting over after 20 years in the Navy. “But personality-wise I learned. What I tell everybody who is retiring is, ‘You need to learn to become a happy civilian. You have to change your way of doing certain things.’ … It’s a learning process.”Now Cruz, a veterans employment program supervisor with the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Workforce Solutions, helps veterans like himself find work after their military careers are over.On Nov. 15, Cruz’s department will host a job fair for veterans hoping to find work.”We are here for them. If for some reason they can’t find a job for themselves, that’s where we come into play,” Cruz said.The job fair, which will be held at American Legion Post 265 at 146 Broadhurst Rd. in Jacksonville, will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the first hour open only to veterans, active duty and eligible persons.Face-to-face communication with the 70-plus employers that will be on hand gives prospective employees the chance to sharpen their job hunting skills.”We offer workshops to get the people ready, to polish their resumes,” Cruz said. “We also give workshops on dressing for the opportunity, even interviewing skills. We build them up to these events. We offer that throughout the whole year.”Jennifer Creech of Consolidated Staffing, which has offices in Jacksonville, Cary and Winston-Salem, said she usually speaks to 50 to 60 potential employees during the event.”We do try our best to hire more vets, and that gives that big opportunity to help us as well as help them,” Creech said.Creech said job seekers with a military background offer the dedication and discipline that any employer looks for — and she would know, having hired three veterans in her office.”They are always prompt, they work hard, they’re always willing and eager to learn,” Creech said. “They’re just real good all-around employees.”Paul Myers, a police officer who recruits for the Rock Hill (S.C.) Police Department and will be at the job fair, said the transition from military to law enforcement is natural, and that first responders target veterans because of the similarities.”It’s that same sort of ‘we’re going to run toward the danger vs. away from it,'” Myers, a former Marine and 16-year police veteran, said. “And that’s what you need out of the military, so as a result those are the kind of people we try to attract.”Employers who hire veterans benefit from the structure instilled by their background, but there are also tax credits and other incentives given to companies that hire veterans.But it’s really about giving back to those who have sacrificed themselves to serve. And when Cruz sees a veteran land their first civilian job, it makes his hard work worth it.”That ‘thank you’ sounds so good when they tell you,” he said. “That’s amazing.”