Veteran finds support, friends and then a job
The Wenatchee World, Wash.
WENATCHEE — In today’s job market, Joe Hanson’s impressive resume got him nowhere.
A veteran Navy Seabee. Sixteen years in the steel industry. Expert in emergency response and haz-mat procedures. Mercury-removal specialist. Project management training. Well-spoken. Well-groomed. Good people skills. Good humored.
But nearly a year after being laid off from a mill in Tacoma, the Gulf War veteran remained jobless. He’d sent out more than 70 resumes, answered dozens of classified ads and applied online at a score of businesses.
Job offers? Zero.
“I couldn’t get a job at the end of a shovel,” said Hanson. “I was at a low point. I was getting a bit desperate. I realized I couldn’t do this on my own, but I wasn’t even sure where to turn.”
Enter WorkSource Wenatchee, the practical-minded, job-finding branch of the state Employment Security Department. The agency’s local office now devotes time and personnel to help vets of all ages, all wars, to spit-polish their resumes, translate military training into civilian skills and target that know-how toward local industries.
The department has become a hub for job-hunting veterans, said Adrianne Wiegenstein, business services specialist for WorkSource, as local, state and federal programs crank up to help vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with vets from other conflicts — ease into the civilian workforce.
Wiegenstein estimated that two to three veterans a day seek job advice at WorkSource. “Last week, we served nine veterans in one day.”
Programs include job fairs, workshops, face-to-face networking and counseling in resume writing, people skills, proper attire and interview etiquette. WorkSource advisers also help vets enroll in programs such as the federally-funded Gold Card Services, a career assist program for 9-11 era vets.
Now, two months later, job hunter Hanson can declare victory. The 37-year-old Navy veteran was hired in June as a full-time safety coordinator for Wenatchee-based McDougall & Sons, one of the major fruit packing and marketing companies in the region.
He gives full credit for his quick employment turnaround to WorkSource Wenatchee and its connections to local businesses, industries and local nonprofits — particularly Vets Serving Vets, a clearinghouse of immediate aid and long-term services for local veterans.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” said Hanson. “It’s a truth I learned the hard way. It wasn’t until I met the right people, people who know how to network, who know local employers, that I got a chance to find a job.”
Hannah Schoepp, veterans employment rep at WorkSource, said that when Hanson first entered her office “he had all the right qualities to find a good job, but he wasn’t packaging them properly.”
Schoepp said she helped Hanson rewrite his resume to identify military and steel-industry skills — discipline, organization, strong work ethic, emergency and safety know-how — and target those skills to appeal to local employers.
“Our goal is to get their resume to float to the top of the pile,” she said. “We help vets package themselves in the best way possible. It’s sort of like a 60-second commercial (on paper) about that one individual — this is who I am, this is what I do — and it gets right to the point.”
Then networking kicks in, said Schoepp. “We introduced Joe to people we thought could help him.” That’s how he found Vets Serving Vets.
Tucked in a storefront in a strip mall off North Wenatchee Avenue, Vets Serving Vets provides food, clothing, housing, fellowship and guidance — career, medical, financial — for vets from all military branches.
They welcomed Hanson with open arms. “I found an immediate kind of camraderie with people who understood what I was going through,” said Hanson.
Organizers of Vets Serving Vets assessed Hanson’s needs and, within days, began working their extensive network of community contacts to help him find work. “I was out there meeting people, shaking hands, looking them in the eye, finally talking face-to-face with people who could really offer me a job. It was incredible,” he said.
Duane Broaddus, president of the group, said, “We have a mission to take care of veterans and fill their needs. Joe (Hanson) needed help. We could offer that help. It’s why we’re here.”
After two weeks of hard networking, Hanson hooked an interview with McDougall & Sons, where he was soon hired as a safety coordinator in charge of the company’s non-food safety programs at processing plants, warehouses and controlled-atmosphere facilities. “It’s right up my alley,” said a smiling Hanson.
“Joe’s an incredible success story,” said WorkSource’s Wiegenstein, “but he’s just one special guy in a huge group of vets that need help in finding work. We like to think their starting point is right here, in this office, at this very desk.”
Added veterans rep Schoepp, “And the one thing veterans might want to know before they come here is that we really do care about this. We want to help. Our hearts are in it.”