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Recruiters & business owners talk hard-to-fill jobs

Jun. 9, 2014 - 11:49AM   |  
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Gunnery Sgt. Chris Albright left the Marine Corps in 2013 and jumped right into his new career as owner of CMIT Solutions in northern Virginia, a national information technology franchise. He expected techies to come clamoring for jobs, but it didn’t work out that way.

“I probably received 30 resumes in the first 24 hours, and when I contacted them with a questionnaire, either they didn’t respond to my request or they couldn’t answer the questions I was looking for,” he said.

He’s not alone. Despite a market chock full of job seekers, some business owners are finding it hard to fill positions in certain jobs. That’s good news for veterans entering the workforce. In some professions, at least, the jobs are there for the asking.

Jobs to fill

Employment network ManpowerGroup recently surveyed business owners to discover which positions they find hardest to fill. That list includes:

■ Skilled trades

■ Sales representatives

■ Drivers

■ Information technology staff

■ Accounting & finance staff

■ Engineers

■ Technicians

■ Management/executives

■ Mechanics

■ Teachers

Virtually all of these can track directly back to military specialties. IT, drivers, engineers, accountants ... there’s hardly a job category here that some military professional could not lay claim to.

Even those whose military work is not a perfect match may find an open door in a field where business owners are hurting for talent. Take IT, for instance. “Maybe they did some programming, or they did some troubleshooting,” said Rebecca Dernberger, VP of the northeast division for Manpower. “It may have not been their main job, they may not have the title of ‘IT technician,’ but if they have some of those core skills and experiences, they still can articulate that on a résumé.”

For those whose skills do not align perfectly, Dernberger suggested they may find the job market to be surprisingly flexible. That’s because employers are in need not just of specialized talent, but of people who can relate to other people. In the Manpower survey, 33 percent of employers said they see candidates who lack the “soft skills.”

“This is probably a common thread among all these jobs,” Dernberger said. “They want somebody who can troubleshoot, who can problem-solve, who can collaborate and work toward an end goal that benefits their employer. That is a consistent theme that we hear.”

It also describes much of the military way of life.

Needing leaders

That’s just the kind of person Jamie Brooks is looking hard to hire. Brooks, a Naval Academy graduate, left service as a lieutenant commander in 2007 and today owns City Wide Maintenance, a building management company in Raleigh, North Carolina.

He’s always looking for folks who possess the people skills to get out there and sell, and the fortitude to take no for an answer and keep on going. Moreover, he wants people with the go-to-it mentality he saw among his comrades in arms.

“This is a job where you do well when you are highly competitive, you want to be the best in the region, you want to see your name in lights. Finding someone with that competitive nature who has the stamina to make 80 phones calls a day, that is tough,” he said.

Over time, he has turned to multiple veterans to fill that role.

“They know how to lead by influence, which is all about looking at a situation, breaking it down and putting yourself into another person’s role. You need to ask a lot of questions, understand the other person’s situation. That’s sales — and it is not that different from a battlefield scenario,” he said.

Sales jobs like these are among the hardest to fill. Even more commonly cited: engineers. But here the lines are harder to draw, and the notion of engineering can encompass an especially broad range of specializations. Engineers may be mechanical or electric. They may have expertise in everything from chemical engineering to civil engineering.

So when companies tell pollsters they need “engineers,” that may mean any number of things. In fact, openings exist in all these areas, and the best move one can make is to lay the groundwork early — ideally, while still in uniform.

Find the industry or technical niche that most excites you, Dernberger said, then pursue whatever military role best aligns with those skills. Plumbing, electrical, construction: These and other military skill fields can track smoothly to a future engineering job.

The same holds true of many other military positions. Consider the hard-to-hire list: Employers want educators, accountants, technicians, managers. Whatever your military role may be, there is almost certainly a way to connect the dots back to one of these in-demand positions.

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