Michael Baldi, a 22-year-old Marine veteran, perused the tables of big financial firms like Goldman Sachs (GS) and Credit Suisse (CS) at the "Hiring Our Heroes," career fair on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City last Thursday. Baldi has one year left at the University of Albany-SUNY, where he is studying finance and information technologies. He was there to get a feel for the market, and put his resume out in a crowded sea of job seekers.
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Looking for work among his fellow veterans put Baldi at ease, his optimism apparent despite the odds he is up against: Veterans face higher rates of unemployment at 12.1% compared to the national average of 9.1%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's May 2011 statistics.
"Having a military job fair is more nonchalant," he said. "It makes it easier to relate. I learned a lot more here about how to further my chances of getting a job than at any other job fair."
Deutsche Bank Director Ellen Gardener said more than 1,000 veterans registered for the career event, which coincided with the Veterans on Wall Street Conference held the same day. Gardener said the more than 100 companies present at the fair were required to have open jobs to registered for the event, which was held for not only vets, but their spouses as well.
"People can hire on the spot," she said. "[The event] is less intimidating for the veterans. I think the high rate of veteran unemployment is something that is getting lost in translation."
Fellow Iraq veteran Jeremy Rogers, 27, shared Baldi's enthusiasm. Rogers has been out of the Navy for three years and is currently completing a one-year internship at Momentive, a chemical company, while studying at the University of Albany-SUNY.
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"It's nice to have a conference where everyone knows you're all veterans," he said. "Somehow you are all related to military. At other job conferences, you're competing with so many more people. This is geared toward our credentials."
Hiring a veteran can be beneficial for both parties, as employers can receive a tax credit for doing so under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Work Opportunity Tax Credit. To qualify for the credit, the vet must have been discharged or released from active duty within the past five years and must have been receiving unemployment benefits for at least four weeks in the past year, according to the Department of Labor. The credit varies, but is generally around $4,800 per veteran hire.
Marilyn Barley, recruiter for New York Life Insurance and participant at the job fair, said the company is always looking for new recruits, and veterans often flourish as sales people in the company.
"They are self-disciplined, self-directed and are a phenomenal fit," Barley said.
Iraq Veteran Freeman Ryland, a talent acquisition specialist for the American Red Cross, was discharged from the Army in 2007 and was recruited at a similar job fair for vets. He now in turn reaches out to veterans on behalf of ARC, at events like Hiring Our Heroes.
"This is a very important event to connect with U.S. vets and show them the opportunities we have for them," he said. "It's a win-win situation."
ARC is also aggressively recruiting veterans for various positions across the country, and has no limit on how many they can recruit for the positions.
Brian Pasch, CEO of PCG Digital Marketing in Eatontown, N.J., is also stepping up its efforts to hire veterans. Pasch said he was moved to begin recruiting vets after learning of their high unemployment rate.
"It's hard to find people who are motivated and successful," he said. "Production is key. People coming out of the armed services have those characteristics you have a hard time finding."
On August 18, PCG will host a career day in Red Bank, N.J.at the Two River Theater to find locally-qualified candidates, and is offering discounted registration for veterans. The fair will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is open to the public.
PCG has 10 positions open for veterans, Pasch said. The company will be taking two full hours to meet with vets and go through the different opportunities they have open in digital marketing and social media. Pasch said jobs are available in management, graphic design, writing and more.
"Those coming out of the armed services are looking for stability," he said. "This is a growing market."
Robert Farley, a 59-year-old disabled Vietnam Marine veteran, was not feeling as optimistic as his younger counterparts. Of the nearly 130 companies present, Farley said only a handful of them were willing to accept applications on the spot.
"Everyone is directing you to their Web sites," Farley said. "Suppose you are homelessyou can go to the library to fill something out, but how will they contact you? That is the story that doesn't get told."
Although he has a PhD, Farley is struggling to find work and pay his bills. Like so many other vets, he was hard hit by the recession and ever-competitive job market.
"I should be teaching and enjoying my grandchildren," he said. "I am looking for work because of the cost of livinggas prices in itself."
Farley's son and son-in-law are both in the service, and he fears they will also be hard-pressed to find work once they are discharged from the military.
"The toughest battle is not in Afghanistan, it's when they come home," he said. "But, you just put on your best face and try again."