FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- No matter what stage of his or her Army career a Soldier is in, the Hiring Our Heroes Career Summit at Fort Campbell can help lay the groundwork for the future.
The Oct. 17 summit -- also open to spouses and veterans -- is much more than a career fair, said Marnie Holder, director of veterans programs for Hiring Our Heroes with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
When someone joins the Army, he or she is "not in the place where they have to apply for certain jobs," Holder said. "They have different promotion channels, different pathways they take over their careers and part of that is not going through an interview, is not going through the application process. What we are really doing is helping give experience and exposure to what that is all about. The event is to educate, inform, inspire and connect."
During the summit, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Personnel Processing Center, 7162 Hedge Row Road, Soldiers, veterans and spouses can get in front of national, regional and local employers, while preparing themselves to navigate the hiring process.
The Hiring Our Heroes Career Summit is meant to give Soldiers, spouses and veterans the tools to create good resumes, practice job pitches to prospective employers, get tips on how to do better and meet employers in different areas.
"The Army isn't going to choose where you go next and this is really the opportunity for everyone participating to take ownership and be commander of their own destiny," Holder said.
The Hiring Our Heroes Career Summit will include workshops, employer panel discussions, mock interviews and guest speakers.
Participants also will get a LinkedIn premium membership with headshots and learn how to use LinkedIn effectively to connect with employers.
Duane Soumis, director for Soldier For Life-Transition Assistance Program, said the summit, is hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and is an excellent addition to the large quarterly job fairs routinely hosted by SFL-TAP.
Soumis suggests participants register for the free event early and then use the Fort Campbell Career Center to get extra guidance for preparation. Participants can register for the summit online at HiringOurHeroes.org and upload their resumes to be reviewed. Registration also will be available starting at 8 a.m. the day of the event.
"It is a unique opportunity for transitioning Soldiers and anybody who is looking for an employment opportunity," Soumis said. "The onsite courses, conversations and discussions are a great prelude to the actual hiring opportunity. … Even if you are not currently in the job market, the venue will enable you to start thinking about the future and allow you to start a strategic plan for when you transition or seek a different job opportunity."
The Hiring Our Heroes Career Summit will offer attendees town hall style employer discussions, network opportunities and experts from human resources who can provide job hunting tips and advice.
"It's not just for job hunters but anyone at any stage of their uniformed career," Holder said. "One hundred percent of the time, when you put on a uniform, you will one day take off the uniform. We know this and acknowledge this and want to make it as easy as possible getting them the knowledge and resources early on in their military time so they are making informed decisions."
So far, more than 100 employers are signed up to take part in the career summit and there is room for more.
The employers come from a cross section of government, industry, corporations and small businesses who recognize the talent Soldiers, spouses and veterans can provide.
Holder said support and commitment from Fort Campbell's leaders can make the summit a success by allowing Soldiers the time to attend. Leaders also can participate to better understand how to talk to Soldiers about career opportunities in and out of the Army.
While at the career summit, participants might discover job aspirations that inspire them to stay in the Army to get additional training or schooling for an eventual career in the civilian world or to apply to their Army careers, she said.
"We have found that these events, if they are encouraged to attend at any point in their career, they are going to come and get information that will help them determine when is the best time for them to get out, maybe they need to seek more educational opportunities while they are serving, get their education paid for to position them into an ideal candidate for these job openings," Holder said.
Helping Soldiers set up seamless transition to a civilian job helps the Army.
"If we know our service members are going on to great career opportunities, they will create the next generation [of recruits]," Holder said.
By helping spouses get the resources they need to find successful careers locally or to find work when the Family is relocated helps the Army retain Soldiers, she said.
Veterans also will find resources that may not be regularly available.
This is the third Hiring Our Heroes event at Fort Campbell. Past events have drawn as many as 1,000 participants. Holder hopes to see the same participation as in years past and said room will be made for as many Soldiers, spouses and veterans who want to attend.
"If not taken advantage of, these types of opportunities will go away," she said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has hosted more than 100 events over six years as part of its Hiring Our Heroes mission to connect service members, spouses and veterans to companies that are not only veteran-friendly but veteran-ready, she said.
The event is aimed at participants who may want to stay in the area, move elsewhere or just be ready for the future.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show there are more than 6 million jobs available. Veteran unemployment has fallen to an all-time low and while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce cannot take credit for that, they have had great success getting service members connected with companies and educating companies about what veterans can offer.
There are specific programs for spouses and an announcement about those efforts will be made at the Hiring Our Heroes Career Summit.
"Career planning should be something people are thinking about all the time," Holder said. "We are trying to help them take the experiences they have had in the military and get that packaged, give them resources to help them plan for their next career."
That means starting a resume before transitioning out of the Army.
"It should not just be those in their last 12 months," Holder said. "It is helpful for Soldiers to start thinking about how to build resumes on their military experiences as they are going through those experiences."
The summit also should help keep Soldiers, spouses and veterans informed about what is happening outside of the Army.
"It is important for them to know what is happening outside the gates," she said. "Where are job opportunities? What do they need to do? Is there a long hiring process involved in getting jobs nowadays?"
Technology is changing how one finds jobs and connects with employers and there will be information on how to best use LinkedIn and Indeed as well as other information.
"There is no one in the military community who should not see themselves at this event," Holder said.
The keynote speaker, retired Gen. David H. Petraeus, former commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), has been heavily involved in getting many companies to be veteran-friendly, she said.
The summit will provide "a superb opportunity for veterans, serving military members considering post-uniform opportunities and military spouses" to explore employment possibilities with companies seeking to hire veterans and military spouses, Petraeus said.
"There will be a critical mass of companies assembled at the career summit that is very rarely brought together," he continued. "Beyond that, the companies present understand that what veterans want is not just a job opportunity; they want a career opportunity. And the companies realize that such an opportunity entails more than just hiring a veteran; a career opportunity includes investment in the veteran (or military spouse) through job training, professional education, mentoring and support through veterans groups in the firm."