Hiring Our Heroes job fair part of week-long, national hiring push

MSNBC's Richard Lui reports from the Hiring Our Heroes jobs fair in New York City, where veterans are seeking opportunities with companies as civilians.

The math is mean. Post-9/11 veterans lug a steep unemployment rate that's a point-plus taller than the civilian rate. Add to that the 34,000 troops who soon will return from Afghanistan. Bottom line: The existing bulge of ex-military job seekers threatens to further swell in a world where stripes carry no sway. 

How to crack that cold equation? Just a little face time, says unemployed veteran Ruty Rutenberg, who believes that simply standing eye-to-eye with a hiring manager allows former service members to naturally radiate the ocean of intangibles that can only be absorbed in combat. 

"That presence, that aura about military people is very tough to see online in a resume, where (HR executives) are only looking at lines of text," says Rutenberg, 29, who served as an Army medic in Iraq, riding in Black Hawk helicopters. He's been searching for his "mainstay" career for about a year. "Online, it's tough to tell a person's emotions, let alone a person's energy.

Ian Horn special for NBC News

"Online, it's tough to tell a person's emotions, let alone a person's energy," said Ruty Rutenberg, 29, who attended a job fair in Los Angeles on Tuesday.


"But when you get to be right in front of these people and interact with them, there is no trepidation for veterans in those moments. We've been in stressful situations that people can't fathom, that they've only seen in movies," Rutenberg said Tuesday at a job fair in Los Angeles sponsored by Got Your 6, an entertainment-industry-backed, national veterans campaign. NBCUniversal is a partner in that movement. 

On Wednesday, Hiring Our Heroes — a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that aims to get veterans back into the work force — is hosting a hiring fair at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City.

For veterans like Melissa Fay, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, adjusting to civilian life and finding a job can be tough –  but after a few edits to her resume, Melissa landed a position with General Electric as a financial analyst. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.

Click here for a list of upcoming Hiring Our Heroes job fairs.

Both events are part of the Got Your 6 "veteran hiring week." Such events, Rutenberg believes, are critical for companies with spots to fill and veterans with bills to pay: "One of the things the military ingrains in us is how to be present and confident in the moment, really in any moment." 

Still, owning that moment may require a touch of coaching, say some career counselors, who have spotted common, repeated flaws in the resumes and in interviewing skills of ex-service members.

Humility 'can be damning'
On paper, the mistakes typically involve the use of jargon: cumbersome acronyms, technical descriptions, and — to many civilians — the complicated system of military ranks. Is a "specialist" special? 

MSNBC's Richard Lui, joins Andrea Mitchell Reports live from the Hiring Our Heroes Jobs Fair in New York and explains how the initiative is trying to help veterans market themselves better in the work force.

"They feel: 'I've earned this rank. I want to make it prominent on my resume.' But that's one of the biggest complaints we hear from employers. They don't understand what 'sergeant first class' means," says Shareem Kilkenny, co-owner of Veteran Career Counseling Services. She operates VCCS with her husband, Kester Kilkenny, an Army veteran who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"What I have to get them to understand is: How do I translate their ranks and skills into the skills that employers are looking for? It might be better, for example, if a resume reads: 'Worked under extremely stressful conditions,' or 'Worked in a deadline-driven environment' or 'Dealt with constant change.' ”

Jon Soltz of VoteVets.org, talks about the unemployment numbers about veterans and their spouses and shares his thoughts on the Hiring Our Heroes initiative.

In addition to reading like a foreign language, militaryspeak may just get a veteran's resume tossed, warns Elizabeth Hruska, assistant director of career and internship services at the University of Minnesota

"This can be a barrier to a civilian employer who needs to quickly understand the basics of you and your qualifications — and (emphasize) quickly: Employers tell us they spend only 10 to 30 seconds on that initial resume once-over," Hruska says. 

While many veteran candidates may try to pitch themselves as the ultimate team players, some are prone to selling themselves short due to that group-first mindset, says Jason Dozier, veteran transition specialist with Hire Heroes USA, a nonprofit dedicated to creating job opportunities to veterans and their spouses through personalized employment training. 

"Military members are very team-oriented, and the word 'individual' can be a euphemism for those who fail to be a productive member of that team," Dozier said. "And so tasks and accomplishments are more likely to be framed as 'we' rather than as 'I.' Humility is a great virtue, but it can be damning if you're looking to be competitive in the job market."  



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I respect those who served in the military. My dad is a WWII vet (not drafted).

Let's just not forget the long-term unemployed civilians (LTUC). There are just as many, if not more, myths about them (skills out of date, all job loss is for reason, etc.) as there are vets (mentally unstable, no transferrable skills, etc.) that result in hiring discrimination.

The vets had hard jobs, and mostly weren't well paid, but until recently, they had an income & benefits. The LTUC did not.

    Reply#56 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:23 PM EDT

    It is a sad state of affairs. When I returned home after 2 combat tours in Viet Nam, I could not find a job. I was finally hired to dig ditches. The hiring manager asked me, "Is this the kind of job you were looking for?" Obviously after leading men in combat, I was hoping for a little more - not a job digging ditches; but when you have to feed your family, you do what ever it takes. My sympathy and support for today's vets.

    There are civilian organizations that are seeking vets and I am the head of HR in one of them. Let's talk.

      Reply#57 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:25 PM EDT

      I work for a company called Centriq Training in the Greater Kansas City area. Our program is open to anyone, but we have worked with veterans for years using their Post 9-11 GI Bill to obtain hands-on training for jobs in IT. We have had a lot of success in the Kansas City area - teaching the skills necessary to enter the workforce as a Network Administrator or Application Developer. Our training takes an average of 4 months and since we also serve the corporate need for IT training, we have relationships with hundreds of Kansas City companies who come to us when they need IT staff that is properly trained to enter the workforce. You can visit www.centriq.com or call Russ Mondry at 913-322-7044.

        Reply#58 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:28 PM EDT

        I'm a veteran with two tours to Iraq, and a Purple Heart after being wounded in combat; I can tell you that most vets I know are not just asking for a handout. What we want is a level playing field that takes into account our experience. It is frustrating when you have a BA from a major university and can't get a job because employers consider working part time at the GAP as better work experience than the military. Most of the vets I know can't even get an interview because they won't count our time deployed as prior work experience, so we can't even get our foot in the door. Now we have people like myself in their mid to late twenties just finishing our degrees and we get passed over for most jobs because we chose to join the military instead of working in the civilian sector.

        • 1 vote
        Reply#59 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:33 PM EDT

        kknoop, you are only too correct. However, the USPS still gives extra points on its exams to Vets. If you score 95, for example, and a civilian scores 98, you'll be the one who is hired, because of your 5 point bonus. On paper, you have 100. The best thing is to take the course, learn the secrets of studying for the exam, study hard, make 100, then walk away with an ACTUAL score of 105! It DOES happen, and even though they are downsizing, they are always hiring somewhere. You may have to relocate, but at the pay scale, it's probably worth it. Just sayin'...yer welcome;)

          #59.1 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:13 PM EDT


          As one vet to another. Thanks, and, amen brother.

            #59.2 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:33 PM EDT

            I got laid off 3 years ago. I too am a vet from the VN war. Believe me when I tell you that being a vet doesn't get you a job. It just puts you in front of the line and you get the first reject.

            No employer is going to give a vet a job unless they are qualified to do that job and only if they are the best out there at the job.

            The government makes it sound like the vet has first choice when they do not.

              Reply#60 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:35 PM EDT

              I seem to recall the first lady being heckled and boo'd at a NASCAR race when she spoke on behalf of verterans and high unemployment. Seems the rights hatred of the first family trumps all, even their own values.

                Reply#61 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:41 PM EDT

                First lady has done nothing for unemployment or vets - and I am not on the right! I am in the middle because it's the far right and far left that are screwing up getting the US back on track!

                  #61.1 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:11 PM EDT

                  I was lucky, i am a Nam vet. from many yrs ago i got a job and now i am retired. God bless our soldiers and vets.

                    Reply#62 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:41 PM EDT

                    With all the country now worried about school shootings...Our retired military would make GREAT security officers with their background....

                    • 1 vote
                    Reply#63 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:51 PM EDT

                    I totally agree with wagewatcher yes they deserve jobs but what about the millions of people already out of work who can't find anything now why should returning verterans be given special preference. Lets get the economy fixed so everyone can have a job! Tell the government we want job!

                      Reply#64 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:58 PM EDT

                      I meant wagewatcher comments are right on.

                        Reply#65 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:00 PM EDT

                        Yeah, Right! Everyone knows the Vets are an aggressive liability and all suffer from PTSD. Maybe WE Vets should march on Washington like our WW1 brothers did in the 1930s. Only this time, DC won't have MacArthur to protect it!

                        • 1 vote
                        Reply#66 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:07 PM EDT

                        What better way to incentivize the youth of this nation in serving this country by they knowing they have to compete with getting jobs with veterans on their job interview. Nothing wrong with that idea as long as a veteran can meet the needs of the employer, and the employer respects and considers his service as a sign of an added asset beneficial in his employment. - it is due time in lieu there is no draft in this country !!

                        • 2 votes
                        Reply#67 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:09 PM EDT

                        I did my little stint during Nam- and when we returned home nobody wanted to do anything for us- lots of people fell into substance abuse employers did not like the risk of having a possible loose cannon on their premises- I hope the best for our vets and while everybody smiles and says sure I will hire them there is a little distrust- especially with record numbers claiming PTSD

                          Reply#68 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:32 PM EDT
                            Reply#69 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:42 PM EDT

                            NO jobs for our vets, Obama says illegals come 1st, lets keep 11 million illegals and ship the vets to foreign countries. Our country and our president suck, he cares more for illegals then the men and women that fought for our country.

                              Reply#70 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:44 PM EDT

                              I thought that with the economy huming along that getting a jobs was an easy task, that what the lame stream media has been saying for the last 4 years. Now that the elction is over, health cost are going to go up becuase of barry care our vets can't find jobs. Hey election have consequence live with them, and enjoy Foward.

                                Reply#71 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:50 PM EDT

                                Although I am sure we would all like to see our vets hired, one large problem is that very few skill sets translate directly from military to civilian jobs. Knowing how to drive a tank is not going to help you in the civilian world. And "leadership skills" only go so far. The military is socialist in structure - and that does not translate well either. This "Group think" idea is not what companies want.

                                The sad fact is that no vet coming out of the service has the job skills that corporate America wants. This leaves only blue collar and low wage jobs. Sad but true.

                                  Reply#72 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:52 PM EDT

                                  A couple of earlier commentators had complained that we vets joined the military voluntarily, and that it was our choice. (but this was not choice in the matter, no matter what, I would have ended up in the military)..etc..... I served during the vietnam war, but stationed in Okinawa, but enlisted in the Air Force, because I would have gotten drafted the (draft was still in effect), probably into the Army, and a ticket to Nam. I don't think I could have served in a front line combat role, my hat is off to you guys who were in "the bush"

                                    #72.1 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:00 PM EDT

                                    solex, YOU are obviously uninformed. Many, MANY Vets are more than capable of translating their Military skills into civilian work skills. They are Disciplined. They are Self-reliant. They THINK on their feet. They are usually under more pressure than you or me. They learn real teamwork, and the negative teamwork comments, so far, are WAY off base. Teamwork is not only good for companies, it is essential. I'll take a Vet over whiny civilians ANY DAY!

                                    • 1 vote
                                    #72.2 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:03 PM EDT

                                    I've been medically retired since 2011 I'm only receiving 80% disability so I am still able to work. But it seems that in Florida companies are not military friendly. I've been sending out my resume since before moving to Florida and still up to this day I haven't had any luck. Maybe with a little help from "Hiring or Heroes" program will give me the chance to work again. The only problem is there is no Hiring or Hero job fairs any time soon in the area of Orlando FL....

                                      Reply#73 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:06 PM EDT

                                      Ask your Government officials to pass E-Verify and free up the millions of jobs now held by those here illegally. Also demand an end to the 1.3 million foreign worker visas that are handed out EVERY year, so corporations can hire cheap foreign labor. College grads are now competing with grads from India, China and many other countries and are working for half your estimated salary.

                                      We have the highest standard of living in the world but our corporations want you to live like your in a third world country.

                                      • 1 vote
                                      Reply#74 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:11 PM EDT

                                      Obama needs to grow a pair and be a REAL president by resurrecting Operation Wetback, which both Teddy Roosevelt AND Harry Truman used to force illegals back over the border so as to ensure our fighting men and women would have jobs on their return from the wars.

                                      • 1 vote
                                      Reply#75 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:16 PM EDT


                                        #75.1 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:30 PM EDT

                                        Lest we forget.... Randy...

                                        Wonder how many of those jobs Americans don't seem to want were filled by this program you mentioned ?? Operation Wetback ?? ... Yea, Right !!

                                        • 1 vote
                                        #75.2 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:29 PM EDT

                                        The best way to explain the problem facing Americans looking for work is with the game Musical Chairs: The music plays, and as the music plays, chairs get taken away as more people get added to the game. When the music stops, all the people try to find a chair to sit in and because there are fewer chairs and more people left over, they lose out. Now, instead of chairs, imagine those chairs are jobs instead. That is what is happening in our economy. The number of jobs grows less while the number of people looking for work grows larger.

                                          Reply#76 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:28 PM EDT

                                          Employers are terrible in my opinion....they respect themselves and no one else. Why are there laws on the books which require an employer of a vet who has been called to duty, to treat the vet with no punishment when he or she returns to work from a deployment? While their employee was putting their life on the line for our country, a company was only concerned about the disruption to their "work day" caused by a missing employee. I would guess and say the vet felt the 'selfish sword of revenge' for their deployment rather than a welcome home from their boss. I say, all businesses who are taking applications and are screening for interviews, any application from a veteran must be added for an in-person interview by law!

                                            Reply#77 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:33 PM EDT

                                            Hiring push my behind. It has always been hard for VETS to get jobs because they give them to family members of Congress or Representatives or friends. John McCain has led people to believe that its easy for VETS to get jobs and he, just like all Republicans is a LIAR!!

                                            • 1 vote
                                            Reply#78 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:40 PM EDT

                                            The m fing dems have done nothing. Get your head out of your azz.

                                              #78.1 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:45 PM EDT

                                              toyhunt, that's only if you deny reality.

                                              The Democrats (sponsored and fully supported by the administration) tried to pass a vets/jobs bill which was promptly killed by the Republicans.

                                              So take your lie somewhere else...

                                                #78.2 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:21 PM EDT

                                                Firearms industry is booming. They should be able to find lots of jobs. More people employed in firearms realted industry than entire GM.

                                                  Reply#79 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:44 PM EDT

                                                  Over-simplify a solution much?

                                                  Okay all vets, move to gun factory towns right now!

                                                    #79.1 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:22 PM EDT

                                                    The majority of vets enlist due to the fact that they have no skills, and are unable to obtain them. In other words, they are unemployable. The few vets that do have a good work ethic are snapped up by employers. Go to any bum hang out or freeway off ramp 99.999% of the panhandling drunks are honorably discharged vets. The only job they ever held was in the military. There is a reason most vets cannot get hired.

                                                    • 1 vote
                                                    Reply#80 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:04 PM EDT

                                                    Wow, you are really misinformed.

                                                      #80.1 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:17 PM EDT


                                                      Coming from a non-vet with a silver spoon in his mouth... what do you expect !!

                                                      Buddy, first walk in our shoes before you criticize any of our vets... many who can do your job many times over with NO problems !!

                                                      • 1 vote
                                                      #80.2 - Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:45 PM EDT
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