Legion, Hiring Our Heroes bring employers, job seekers face to face
(Photo by Ben Mikesell)

Legion, Hiring Our Heroes bring employers, job seekers face to face

The wife of a U.S. Army soldier stationed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., Kristie Wooddell knows firsthand the intangibles that come with being in the military. That’s one of the reasons Wooddell, an area human resources business partner for Lowes, has a passion for hiring veterans.

Wooddell was one of the Lowes employees manning a table at The American Legion-Hiring Our Heroes career fair March 5 at the Washington Hilton in the nation’s capital. Dozens of employers – from national companies such as Lowes, Raytheon and Hilton, to federal agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Transportation Security Administration – were on hand for the 200 registered job seekers.

Those on hand seeking prospective employment were current members of the military, their spouses and veterans – a group that Wooddell said Lowes has enjoyed great success in employing.

“Lowes is a huge supporter of the military in general, and veterans,” Wooddell said. “And I’m also a military spouse, so it’s something that’s near to my heart. I’ve been coming to these (hiring fairs) for three years now. It’s always good to come in and connect, and hopefully connect somebody with a job they want.”

Wooddell said veterans “have some transferable skills. Leadership is not always something you can teach. That’s one of the first things I look for (when) looking at somebody’s résumé and trying to place them within our organization: Did they lead a group of people, and were they successful leading that group. The rest is something you can teach."

One of the job seekers attending the workshop was 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran Stephanie Ramirez, who served in the U.S. Army from 2011-2019. The March 5 event was the first hiring fair she’d attended – but it won’t be the last.

“I’m absolutely obsessed,” Ramirez said. “One, it was so fun. I’m a people person. I love the one-on-one interactions. Love that the employers here are willing to talk to you. If you have questions they’ll answer it. Even if you’re not looking for a job with their company, if you want some advice on something they’re willing to give it. This has been great. I will come to more of these.”

Ariel A. De Jesus Jr., assistant director of The American Legion’s National Veterans Employment & Education Division, said such events are important in order to get veterans and servicemembers in front of a large audience of potential employers.

“(Hiring Our Heroes) has a lot of great companies that attend (the hiring fairs),” De Jesus said. “And it’s hard for the job seekers. They don’t know what’s out there. Being able to get out and see the companies that are here is important. You can go on … all these job boards, but they’re hard at times to navigate. And then having that face-to-face contact with the company, that matters.”

Nicholas Maggio, who served in the Army from 1999-2018 and is now looking for his “second career” attended The American Legion’s workshops in the morning and then headed downstairs for the hiring fair. It was his first such hiring fair after doing his previous job-search efforts online.

“I’ve had various degrees of success online. Not many interviews,” Maggio said. “Coming here, I’m trying something new.”

Earlier in the day, Ramirez attended three employment workshops that focused on résumé cliché writing, using LinkedIn and financial literacy. She said the day’s events helped out as she moves toward her civilian career.

“I think transitioning is a really scary thing, no matter what stage in life you’re at. Taking what you do in the military and applying it to the civilian can be very, very overwhelming,” Ramirez said. “Organizations like Hiring Our Heroes and The American Legion taking the time to reach out to veterans, to reach out to transitioning servicemembers to make sure they’re ready for the workforce, is crucial. I don’t think I would be as confident as I am if it weren’t for things like this.”