Antoine Bias is one happy and grateful employee at Amtrak – thanks to his military experience and his persistence, advice from his wife – and his attendance at a RecruitMilitary Veteran Opportunity Expo.
Amtrak, The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, carries more than 31 million passengers annually to 500 destinations nationwide. And the company is driving the train when it comes to veteran hiring. During fiscal year 2012, more than 14 percent of Amtrak’s new hires were veterans. In June 2013, the company made a commitment that by 2015 it would be hiring veterans at a rate of 25 percent of all new hires.
Bias got out of the United States Navy in 2010, after working as an aviation ordnanceman and completing two 8-month deployments to Afghanistan. He found it hard to find a job at first, so he decided to go to school. As a result, he earned a certificate in automotive engineering from Lincoln College of Technology.
Next up: Put the certificate to work. Bias’s wife convinced him to go to the RecruitMilitary Veteran Opportunity Expo on June 27, 2013, at Fed Ex Field Expo in Landover, Maryland, “just to check it out.” Bias admitted to feeling nervous before the event started, and appreciated the efforts of John Lundberg, director of events at RecruitMilitary and a former gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps.
Before the doors opened at the career fair, Lundberg addressed the crowd of job seekers. He encouraged them to keep an open mind and to speak with everyone there, “because you never know what positions they may be hiring for.” He also cautioned them not to get discouraged. “Even if someone passes on you, it’s not the end of the world. Lots of employers are specifically seeking former military personnel.”
That advice resonated with Bias. He handed out resumes, and talked with many of the employers. Three days later, he started receiving calls to set up interviews. His third interview with Amtrak got him hired. He began work two weeks later as a train mechanic. He now works out of Union Station in Baltimore.
He thinks his time in the Navy helped him get the job – in addition to the transition help he received, particularly with resume tips. Bias believes his time spent in uniform made him more detail-oriented, punctual, and organized; and developed his work ethic.
In fact, during his interviews, the people who are now his supervisors advised him that the environment and culture at Amtrak were very similar to the military. The interviewers assured Bias that he’d have no problem fitting right in, because he was already used to structure and had developed a solid work ethic from his time in the service. They were right. The culture at Amtrak “made me feel right at home,” he said.
And what does Bias think of his new job? “I don’t even know where to begin. The environment is uplifting. They employees have a positive attitude, and everyone works as one team. You don’t have anyone who is disgruntled. Everyone is happy to be there.”
Bias hopes other veterans will take the same advice that John Lundberg gave the crowd at Landover. Bias’s supervisors told him they prefer to hire veterans, but he observes, “I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t stopped by their booth to speak with them. I’m glad I did.”
RecruitMilitary Veteran Opportunity Expos are job fairs that are enhanced to include franchisors and educational institutions, as well as corporate and government employers. The events are free to men and women who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life, veterans who already have civilian work experience, members of the National Guard and reserves, and military spouses. RecruitMilitary has produced Expos since 2006.