- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Want To Work For An MVE? Get There By Being An MVP!
by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: MBM Food Service

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As you read this issue of Military Transition News, you will learn much about MVEs – the Most Valuable Employers for separating military personnel and veterans. Although these organizations may be different when it comes to their business models, best practices, mission statements and corporate culture, they share a special bond that makes them unique among their competition – a demonstrated appreciation for the workplace talent offered by military personnel and a proven track record of hiring and retaining the best among that population. This selectivity and acknowledgement earns them that most valuable accolade. I congratulate them for their support and commitment to our servicemen and women.


You, the readership of this publication, are likely to have or will soon develop a strong appreciation for these MVEs, and many of you might choose to obtain employment with one of them. There are many ways to pursue that goal, but all of those paths have something in common - you must develop a personal connection with someone who works there. That is exactly what networking is all about - finding that individual and creating and fostering a relationship that helps get your foot in the door. In my book, OUT OF UNIFORM, I refer to that connection as your Uncle Harry or Aunt Mary, and I lay out seven different ways to find him or her. One of the best is attending a job fair or hiring event, such as the ones sponsored by or its parent company, Bradley-Morris, Inc.


These events bring job seekers and hiring companies together at convenient locations all over the country. You would be wise to make one or more of these affairs a part of your overall career transition and job search strategy. However, if you do so, I strongly suggest you do everything in your power to make sure you are one of the MVPs - Most Valuable Prospects - in attendance.


To be that MVP, you must do more than just show up. Yes, the companies are looking for good people, but there are always more good people than there are good jobs. You will have stiff competition, and you need to separate yourself from the crowd. Here are 10 ways to make that happen.




1. Research: Do your best to find out the names of the hiring companies that will be attending the event. Better yet, narrow down the field by selecting the ones in which you have the most interest. If the interviews are pre-scheduled, then focus on those companies. Do your homework. Research them on the Internet, visit their web sites and check them out on LinkedIn. Put in the work before you show up. Doing more than your competition will help you stand out.


2. Asking around: Although you may be new to all of this, you are not a pioneer and you are not alone. Seek out feedback from those who have already gone down this road. Ask for advice. What lessons-learned can they share with you? What did they do that worked well or not-so-well? Seek out guidance from the organizers of the event. Look for tips on military transition web sites and blogs. Put your “G2” skills into action.


3. Empathy: Focusing on your wants and needs is important, but so is having a sense of what matters to the potential employers. Be sensitive to their needs as well as yours. Knowing their hot buttons and pressing them will elevate their feelings about you.


4. Self-knowledge: Knowing as much as possible about the companies and their openings is critical. But no matter how extensive that knowledge happens to be, if you are not also in touch with yourself, you are doomed to fail. All the knowledge and empathy in the world will get you nowhere without also knowing who you are, what makes you tick, your strengths, your weaknesses and what really matters to you.


5. Time management: You have a limited amount of time at the event. Use it wisely. Doing the research mentioned above will help you allot your time appropriately. If you must stand in a line to speak with an employer, then figure out in advance which lines you really want to stand in. If the interviews are pre-scheduled, then your time is already allocated for you. Sometimes you will be told that a particular employer has requested to see you. That does not give you permission to cut the line, but it does encourage you to put that line high on your list.


6. Proper attire: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. In most cases this means classic business attire, i.e., a business suit with the appropriate accessories. Sometimes this requirement is waived to make it more convenient for military service members to attend, in which case you will be told that it is OK to show up in uniform. In any case, do not guess! Check with the organizers of the event to be sure.


7. Business cards: You will be collecting business cards at the event, but will you also be handing them out? Consider having some made up. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy. Include the basics: name, mailing address, phone numbers and email. You may also consider including your branch of service and specialty, but don’t include rank or pay-grade information. Possibly include a picture. Due to some Department of Labor restrictions, many companies will be unable to accept your resume, instead sending you to their web site to apply. However, those same companies may be able to accept your business card.


8. Appearance: This relates to the proper attire mentioned above. Military personnel are known for pride in personal appearance, excellent grooming and physical fitness. Do your best to live up to that expectation. Haircut? Fingernails? Shoes shined? Clothing fits properly?


9. Something extra: In theory, you and all of your competition will do everything on this list to enhance the chances of being the MVP at the job fair or hiring event. Under that premise, this all becomes a common denominator, so now what? Do something above and beyond, something no one else thought to do. Here’s an example: Let’s say you expect to interview with Home Depot. In advance of the event, go visit one in your town. Talk to the staff. Seek out the manager. Let them know you are interested in working for the company and you are prepping for an interview. Ask questions. Gain insight. Use this information and share the fact that you did this during the interview. They will probably be surprised and impressed.


10. Follow-up: When the event is over your work has just begun. There will be web sites to visit and applications to complete. There may be communication with the sponsoring organization to receive feedback from your interviews. You might have to schedule second-level interviews. “Thank you/I am interested” notes might be appropriate. Perhaps you were asked to call, or provide additional information, or apply online. Regardless, stay on top of the paperwork, follow instructions, be timely and communicate well.


Stir in some basic common sense, courtesy, reasonable expectations and self-confidence, and you’ll be well on your way to an MVP award and a new career with an MVE!


Thank you for your service and GOOD HUNTING!


Tom Wolfe is a Career Coach, Columnist, Author and Veteran and can be found at


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