Military Spouse Career Forum and Fair
Ashlyn Dickson (left) and Cherry Whitley network with representatives from Lockheed Martin at the Military Spouse Career Forum and Fair, April 26, 2013 on Schofield Barracks.

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (May 3, 2013) -- Army wife Ashlyn Dickson moved to Hawaii with her husband two days before Christmas last year.

Since then she's been settling in, making friends in her Wahiawa neighborhood and tackling what some consider the "dreaded" employment search.

Army wives facing similar employment challenges joined more than 100 military spouses and attendees at the Military Spouse Career Forum & Fair, April 26, at the Nehelani Banquet and Conference Center.

Dickson had been looking for a job on her own, but admitted looking hasn't worked out the way she thought.

"Everyone says it's hard to get a job in Hawaii if you are not from Hawaii," said Dickson. "I kind of think that's silly, but I can also identify … in Texas it's the same way. If you don't know someone, no one's going to be able to vouch for you."

Event organizer Yolanda Johnson, program manager, Employment Readiness Program, Army Community Service, within the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, took a wholistic approach to the career fair by adding a panel discussion that touched on everything from handling disappointment to volunteering to business attire in Hawaii.

She asked local celebrity Bernadette Baraquio to lead the panel discussion.

Baraquio is the creative director and executive producer of the weekly television show "Living Local with the Baraquios," which highlights the special stories, people and places of Hawaii.

"What comes with getting a job in Hawaii is learning about the culture." Johnson said. "(With the panel,) I wanted to bridge the gap between the local and business communities and the military community and teach our spouses about what Hawaii is.

"How do you get a job someplace when you don't really know where you are? Learn the culture, and you can learn how to live in Hawaii," she added.

The panel discussion struck a cord with Army spouses Lakeisha Bullock and Sharless Harrison, both recent arrivals to Hawaii, giving them tips on how to proceed with their searches. For example, Bullock plans on researching volunteering as a way to get her foot in the door for careers she's interested in.

The panel's emphasis on patience, perseverance and networking -- particularly in the island environment -- also hit home with the women.

"Like they talked about in the panel, it's all about who you meet and who you know. You never know who you're going to meet," Harrison said.

Attendees put their networking skills to use after the panel discussion, mingling and interviewing with approximately 50 participating companies, such as Bank of Hawaii, Paul Mitchell the School Honolulu, and Roberts Hawaii.

The experience was a first for Dickson, who had never attended a career fair and wasn't sure what to expect.

"I was so nervous when I woke up this morning. Just ask my husband, I've been nervous all week," Dickson said. "But everybody's made me feel so comfortable. It's just nice to get out of the house and talk to people who are professionals. … It's been a really good experience."

Page last updated Fri May 3rd, 2013 at 00:00