Walter Campbell wanted to make sure he covered all his bases when it came to finding a civilian job. By day, the Air Force Technical Sergeant is part of the 314th Recruiting Squadron in Burlington, New Jersey. In his spare time, he moonlights as a stand-up comedian, having performed at colleges and churches for 18 years, including frequent gigs with Sinbad.
After serving for 20 years in the Air Force, Campbell will be retiring in April 2014. As soon as he decided upon his retirement date, he began looking and planning ahead. First, he registered as a candidate on RecruitMilitary’s job board as well as other boards, so employers could find him. He ramped up his LinkedIn profile, joined Twitter, and jumped on various military websites to begin networking and learning about job openings.
Resume Hits and Misses
He next focused on his resume. “My last resume went back to 1993, a year after I graduated high school. I think I listed basketball as one of my skills,” he jokes. It was time for a serious revision.
After taking a resume course offered at his local base, he sent drafts to colleagues to proofread and provide feedback. At their suggestions, he improved how he translated his military jargon. One colleague said, “Write your resume for the job that you want.” That begged the question: what did he want to do? After some soul-searching, the answers were clear: human resources/recruiting, and logistics, which mirrored his military background and skills. So, Campbell wrote a separate resume for each type of job, and used them interchangeably. “Once I brought out the skills I had for the careers I wanted, I felt much better going forward,” he says.
Networking and Career Fair Success
Campbell attended RecruitMilitary’s Philadelphia career fair in November 2013 with the intention of spending 50% of his energy on job searching and 50% on networking. He met recruiters at a previous RecruitMilitary event, and had stayed in touch. They had passed information and job leads on to him and he stayed in constant contact with them. “They kept me sane,” he relates.
He recalls standing in a long line to speak to a well-known defense contractor, and noticing that the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) table nearby was quiet. He initially wasn’t going to go over, but something eventually made him ask if they were hiring for HR roles. AIM Admissions Director Woodrow Day read over his resume and said, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” Sure enough, Campbell interviewed the next day and received an offer on the spot.
The news that dad had gotten a job was not lost on Campbell’s’ seven-year-old daughter, Legend. He had texted his wife earlier that he thought he might receive an offer. He arrived home to this sign:
— Walter Campbell (@walterartis) November 9, 2013
“She knew that dad was looking for a job, and that it was important,” he says.
Campbell’s Top Five Tips for Veterans:
- Hit EVERY table, even the colleges. Ask if they are looking for students, or if they are hiring. You might be surprised. If they are not hiring, ask if they will accept your resume anyway for any future openings. “The one table I didn’t want to go to was the one that gave me the interview and the job offer. I had visited all the college tables already. I had no background in aviation or in maintenance. But something in me said, ‘Just ask the guy.’”
- Stay socially connected: Get a Twitter account and set up a LinkedIn profile. There are military communities within each, sometimes with jobs posted. Doing that will help with the next bit of advice:
- Be memorable through follow-up. Campbell followed up with every recruiter he spoke with at the career fair, and asked each of them that day if he could join their LinkedIn network. They all said yes. Then he followed up with them soon thereafter. “You have to realize that recruiters may be meeting hundreds of people at one event. They may not remember your face, but once they saw my LinkedIn profile picture (which he also includes in the email he sends thanking them for their time after the event), they might be able to put my face with my name and remember me. “Oh, that’s the guy who is the stand-up comedian, or whatever it might be,” he says.
- Connect. Campbell’s follow up email went something like this: I met you at the RecruitMilitary career fair. I’m am the Air Force recruiter who is also a stand-up comedian. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I have attached my resume, and if there are any future openings at your company, I’d appreciate being considered.
- Be strategic in when you follow up. If an event was held on a Thursday, he advises reaching out on Friday or Monday at the latest. “You don’t want to be the person that a recruiter may have loved, but they can’t remember which resume was yours when they get back to the office. You don’t want them to think, ‘What was that guy’s name?’”