Jerry Black sat down, looked his interviewers in the eye and said, “I’m Jerry.”
It was smooth sailing from there for the 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. Black impressed his mock interviewers Thursday with a clear speaking voice and his experience as a sales manager.
He left the trial run on Thursday better prepared for the main event — a veterans’ hiring fair Friday in Joplin with at least 20 employers hoping to fill empty positions with former service members.
It is not uncommon for a hiring fair for veterans to be held at the Joplin Job Center, 730 S. Wall Ave., but this time the event was devised and put on by other veterans.
As he prepared for his interviews, Mike Klarner, 59, shuffled through a packet that included a sample resume and a list of local Veterans Administration contacts. The packets were assembled by Compass Quest, a Joplin nonprofit that focuses on veterans issues.
The shared experience of the people on both sides of the mock interview table helped bridge a gap between military and civilian life.
“Veterans have a lot of skills they attained in the military,” said Troy Roland, head of the Joplin Job Center. “They have to be able to communicate those skills.”
Klarner said he hoped the mock interviews would improve his odds of finding a job, and he believes his military experience will be a plus for employers.
“I would think it should be easier (for veterans to get a job),” he said. “They’re loyal and focused on the job.”
Ted Donaldson, co-founder of Joplin’s Compass Quest, says he helped organize the job fair because he believes it is especially difficult for veterans to find meaning in civilian jobs.
He recalled the intensity of his own experience as a 19-year-old sergeant responsible for several soldiers and, later, as the commander of a military aircraft.
“When you get out of the military, how do you keep that level of fulfillment?” he said.
Participants during the trial run on Thursday said they are glad for the extra help. “We’ve sacrificed for our country,” Black said. “I am happy to be put at the top of a list somewhere.”
Black said he lost his longtime job at a local manufacturer in 2011 after the company sold. He found other work in sales, but the new jobs didn’t seem to make use of his skills.
“Networking is what I’m looking for,” he said after his interview on Thursday.
It seemed he was already on his way.
“Several people have recommended the same position,” he said. “I’ll look into it.”
Job fair continues
The hiring fair for veterans runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at the Joplin Job Center, 730 S. Wall Ave. More than 20 employers are expected to attend.