Groups that help transitioning Soldiers and spouses find their path in the civilian workforce will gather for the large-scale career fair aimed specifically at women.
USO Pathfinder will host the Empowering Women Career Summit 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 19 at Valor Hall and Event Center, 105 Walter Garrett Lane, Oak Grove, that also is open to women veterans.
Joining USO Pathfinders is Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership, the Wounded Warriors Project, Fort Campbell’s Soldier For Life-Transition Assistance and Career Skills programs.
“The entire event is built around a focus on military spouses and female service members who are transitioning out of the military and into a civilian career,” said Kari Moore, center director for USO Nashville and Fort Campbell. “This is the first time we have worked on something entirely focused on women. USO has held events with some other partners, like employee workshops for spouses from time to time, but this is absolutely the biggest and most comprehensive event we’ve worked on.”
Registration is required, those interested in attending should register online at eventbrite.com
“In the career fair portion of the event, it’s not stuff that you would stereotypically think, ‘Oh, girls will like this,’” Moore said. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s not this totally girly event, but the chance to focus on some of the needs, some of the questions and just a chance for females to be together as a network and everybody there will have a common goal.”
Beginning at 9 a.m. guest speakers will discuss topics including resume gaps, salary negotiations and interview skills. After lunch, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. employers will be on hand during a career and resource fair. Ulta Beauty and Dress for Success will offer mini makeovers throughout the day, and participants can have portrait shots taken for LinkedIn, Moore said.
There are many career events open to Soldiers and spouses but women, particularly spouses, often face different challenges, she said.
“I think there are a lot of special and unique limitations, obstacles and barriers that military spouses have to work through,” Moore said.
Spouses often must explain why they have moved so frequently or have periods they did not work.
“I think the military spouse often has a very disjointed resume,” Moore said. “Our jobs, for those of us who work in this industry, is to support them, build skills, build resources and get them to the point where their resume does make them a strong candidate. Our job is also to educate the employers, so they know what they are looking at when they look at the resume of a military spouse and they can see qualified candidate written all over it, when it’s not something they are used to seeing.”
The Army has put more emphasis on helping military spouses – male and female – because it make the Family unit stronger with more money and resources, Moore said.
And for many Army spouses, having a career they like is important to their own happiness.
“Spouses have always been the glue that holds military Families together, especially during deployments,” said Teresa English, Fort Campbell Career Skills Program coordinator. “Let’s face it, this is 2020, not 1950. Most Families must survive on two-person incomes. Soldiers are not joining the Army to become rich. Spouses bring a multitude of talents and skillsets to the job market. Sadly, these skills are sometimes overlooked for fear of [permanent change of station] relocation.”
English said spouses are excellent multitaskers who juggle careers, children, school events and households when Soldiers are deployed. But those responsibilities also can create career obstacles.
The Career Skills Program offers training for transitioning Soldiers within six months of separation and five programs are open to spouses, she said. Some couples have even completed the training with CSP together.
Moore said many spouses work for companies where they cannot transfer but there are opportunities with some nationwide or worldwide companies where remote work is possible.
USO Pathfinder works with service members 12 months before and 12 months after transitioning and supports military spouses at all points in the Soldier’s career.
“Spouses are always kind of in transition,” Moore said. “There is always something going on that they have to work through and the USO can step in and help them in those moments too.”
The organizations involved in the Empowering Women Career Summit have resources that are useful to spouses and transitioning female Soldiers, she said.
“We each bring something different to the event,” Moore said. “We have different assets we can deploy inside of the event and we have different services after the event.”
For instance, SFL-TAP works with all transitioning Soldiers, while Campbell Strong has financial resources that can provide military spouses a hand up in finding the right job.
“If they need a certification, if they need to transfer a license from one state to here in order to continue practice, Campbell Strong has these resources that are unmatched,” Moore said.
USO Pathfinder can help with employment but has other focus areas, including education, veterans benefits, housing, Family strengthening and wellness, financial readiness, legal issues and volunteerism. Information about each program will be available at the summit.
“All the voices and resources are present so we can all help in the process in a different way, so it’s important for us to work together,” Moore said.
She hopes participants leave with a better idea of how to find jobs, learn to improve their resume and interview skills and know there are resources available.
A big resource does not have to be an organization.
Networking at a career fair with other participants or potential employers can lead to future opportunities.
“I hope someone who wants to build a network is able to do that or start that,” Moore said. “I hope that somebody who is trying to tap into a different level of confidence is able to do that. And sometimes it’s about practicing that painful little elevator speech 13 times in a single day. Just that act alone can lead you to have better confidence, can lead you to be more articulate for the next career fair you go to. You look like a strong candidate when they have a chance to speak to you for those 90 seconds. I hope some people are able to walk away with interviews and even jobs.”