Transition summit sets jobseekers on the path to success
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office
Spc. Nicholas Lanehart, left, 706th Military Intelligence Group, visits with Sgt. Dan Rusinyak, with the Lexington County (South Carolina) Sheriff’s Department, at the National Transition Summit June 22. Rusinyak spent six years in the Army, as an infantryman, and is now in his 12th year with the Navy Reserve. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs OfficeThe U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program held a National Transition Summit June 22-23 at Gordon’s Conference and Catering Center.
The purpose of the event was to give Servicemembers transitioning from the military resources and opportunities to connect directly with employers and hiring managers.
According to Marnie Holder, HOH director of Transition Summit and Virtual Events, it was the program’s 72nd transition summit on a military base and fourth time at Fort Gordon since the first was held in February 2014. Holder said the program has experienced “great success” with more than 40,000 job-seekers and 5,000 employers attending since its inception. So far this year, there has been a 55 percent job offer rate stemming from these events.
The summit is required for all military personnel who are within 18 months of separating from the military and is highly recommended for those up to 24 months from separation. Military spouses, retirees, and veterans were also welcome to attend.
Day one of the summit featured employment workshops with experts who spoke on topics including how to create a resume, networking, searching for the right career, and the power of a LinkedIn profile. There was also an interactive panel discussion where job-seekers could get answers to their transition and job search questions from hiring experts.
The day concluded with a networking reception in which job-seekers had an opportunity to build their professional network by interacting with dozens of companies.
Day two included industry briefs and additional workshops. It concluded with a hiring fair with more than 50 employers; many of which conducted interviews on the spot.
Kicking off the Transition Summit, Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison, Jr., U.S. Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon commanding general, thanked everyone for attending and emphasized the important role everyone has in the transition process.
“Second to only bringing people into our Army, our job really is taking care of each other – the second most important thing is transitioning folks out of our Army,” Morrison said.
Morrison had two messages he wanted to share; one for the employers/ industry partners, and the other for transitioning military personnel.
Addressing the former, he spoke highly of military personnel at Fort Gordon.
“They are the very best our nation has to offer, and they bring unique life experiences that you’re not going to find anywhere else,” Morrison said.
His advice to Servicemembers was to be careful not to undersell themselves to employers.
“You’ve probably been to more countries … you’ve seen complex challenges, you’ve gotten unbelievable life experiences and education … learn how to market yourself,” Morrison said.
It is advice one successful veteran encourages fellow veterans to take.
Eric Sifford, vice president of Information Security Engineering at Bank of America, retired from the Army in 2015. Sifford attended his first Transition Summit at Fort Gordon earlier that same year and was so successful in marketing himself that he landed his present job during the summit. To this day, he credits the Fort Gordon Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program with giving him the resources he needed to land a job post-retirement.
“My resume is what got me my job when I walked in here three years ago, and it was a resume I crafted and fixed and refined from expert advice I got from the Soldier-for-Life Center,” Sifford said. “If I had bypassed that part of the process, I firmly believe I wouldn’t have gotten a job as quickly or as easily.”
Angela Gaston, Fort Gordon Transition Services manager, SFLTAP, said success stories like Sifford’s are more common than one might think. And although there is truth to what Sifford said about SFL-TAP playing a role in his success, Gaston said it is ultimately up to the job-seeker to make things happen.
“When you come to this event, you are face-to-face with a lot of military-friendly companies who are truly wanting to hire veterans,” Gaston said. “I always say ‘show that personality directly with the person who is making the decision on whether you would be hired or not.’”
Sgt. 1st Class Jose Ortiz Jr., 15th Regimental Signal Brigade, has spent years getting ready to retire. With about one year to go after 23 years of service, the information technology specialist is approaching the transition with self-assurance he previously lacked. Ortiz said he considered retiring twice before, but both times found himself in the “fear phase,” because he wasn’t ready. Now he is.
“I’m better prepared for interviews, I had my resumes looked at and the hiring managers helped tweak it, so I’m definitely better-prepared and more confident,” Ortiz said.