In 1992, Major Roger Hood had just retired from the Army infantry, and he was wondering what do with the rest of his life. He stepped inside the unemployment office.
"I came out of the Florida Jobs and Benefits Center and I said to myself, 'That was the worst service that's ever been provided to me.' I got the runaround from everybody. And I said, 'I wish I could be in charge of this office."
Which falls under the category of being careful what you wish for. Hood is now president of Heartland Workforce, and one of his jobs is providing work for veterans.
"Transitioning from military to civilian life can be challenging," said Hood, who has written an article for The Griffon, a Charlotte, N.C., quarterly magazine published for the 108th National Training Command, which trains foreign soldiers to work with the U.S. military.
"One of the biggest mistakes a service member can make is to not make adequate preparations for a given mission. The same holds true for the process of transitioning to civilian life," said Hood, who eventually became the Frostproof city manager during the Ben Hill Griffin Jr. days. He's been with Heartland Workforce for 12 years.
While soldiers are proficient at preparing for a mission, many will enter the civilian job market with no prior planning and no clue as to what to expect, Hood said.
"Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for that next job," Hood advised. "Now is the time to start preparing yourself to be competitive for hire."
"If you were to leave military service tomorrow," Hood asked, "where would you like to reside, and what kind of job would best suit your financial needs?"
"A lot of military leave and never do any preliminary checking about where they want to go," Hood said. "We've been trying to encourage folks to obtain labor market information."
A computer tech might fight a job anywhere. A radar operator might have better chance in a city with a major airport, Hood agreed.
"Several months before leaving military service, determine where job vacancies exist in the career field that you want to work," Hood suggested. "If your heart is pulling you home, then determine how best to market yourself for jobs that might be available in that area.
"If you have decided where you want to live, have you conducted a labor market analysis of that area to learn what the job prospects are and what salary or wages you can expect to make?" Hood asked. "Do you know which civilian occupations would be a good fit based on your education, experience and military occupational skills?"
Heartland Workforce has free tools that allow veterans to match skill sets with jobs and markets. Two specialists, Ken Willis and Nancy Stalter, know which employers don't understand why hiring a veteran can be useful to the company, and which prefer veterans.
"I have learned that while many of the employers we work with appreciate a veterans' military service, a number have no idea of the value-added skills and strong work ethic that a veteran possesses," Hood said. "Some weren't in the military. They have no idea what veterans bring to the table. Veterans have a strong work ethic: they're used to getting up, getting ready and going to work. Some employers will hire veterans before they hire anyone else."
When hired by Heartland Workforce in 2000, Hood vowed to give veterans priority. "When people walk in the door, we ask, 'Are you a veteran?' If they say yes, we serve that one first. We just feel we owe the veteran that service."
The state of Florida also is working on rules to transfer military certifications like truck driving into a civilian certification.
One-Stop Career Centers have resource rooms where job seekers can access listings of job opportunities, and utilize computers, fax machines and other tools to assist in their job search, also at no cost.
Find a listing for one of Florida's 100 One-Stop Career Centers www.floridajobs.org/onestop/onestopdir/index.html.
More info: find Employ Florida Marketplace at www.EmployFlorida.com