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Employers laud ‘professionalism’ at Veterans Job Fair

May 25, 2011 - Northeastern student Amy Fuentes (left) speaks to Ted Woo (right), Chief CBP Officer with the US Customs and Border Protection during the Veterans Job Fair inside Cabot Gymnasium at Northeastern University. Fuentes served in the Marine Corps from 2001-2006 and is looking for a job when she graduates from Northeastern in December 2011. The job fair served as an opportunity for employers to meet qualified veterans from the Greater Boston Area, including university students and graduates who are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Winston Nicholls, a 1991 Northeastern University graduate and Navy veteran, was back on campus yesterday — this time for a job fair specifically for veterans, where former members of the United States military spent the afternoon talking to technology, engineering, finance and public-sector companies about available positions.

“I’m a high school teacher and my school is closing at the end of the year, so now I’m looking for a new career for the third time,” said Nicholls, who served in the Navy from 1982 through 1986 before studying business administration at Northeastern.  “You have to sell your experience and show what you can bring to the table. As a veteran, you have a lot more to offer than a lot of other people looking for jobs.”

Although the Veterans Job Fair has been held in the Boston area for seven years, this is Northeastern’s first year as host, said Maria Stein, the University’s director of Career Services. The event, sponsored by JobNet OneStop Career Center, the New England Center for Homeless Veterans and the VA Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program, drew hundreds of job seekers and more than 80 employers — more than double than the number at last year’s fair — to the Cabot Cage on Huntington Avenue.

“Veterans should be helped and we’re doing our best to see that they are, whether they’re our students or alums or members of the community,” Stein said.

As a participant in the Veterans Administration’s Yellow Ribbon Program, Northeastern provides free tuition to nearly 200 veterans who have served in the post-9/11 era. Members of the University’s Career Services department work one on one with veterans to help them transition from the military to Northeastern and then into a career.

“We’re actually seeing lots of overqualified people,” said Christine Barber, a supervisor at the Veterans Benefit Administration’s regional office in Boston. “I think that’s because of the job market the way it is, where even people with this incredible drive and background have to compete so hard for even entry-level positions.”

Bill Auger, who served in the Marine Corps from 2002 through 2006, said he is currently unemployed and traveled to Boston from Ayer for the job fair with the goal of making strong connections in the security field.

“I’ve been here about a half an hour and I’ve already had some great conversations,” Auger said. “I feel good about today. It’s a really comfortable atmosphere where you’re really able to talk to people and make connections.”

Dan Ahmad, a recruiter for BNY ConvergEx, which creates software to run advanced financial transactions, said veterans “bring a certain sort of discipline that is hard to get anywhere else.” This job fair provided the opportunity to meet potential candidates who would be positive additions to the company, he said.

“You can’t get that kind of person just anywhere,” Ahmad said. “So when we hire a veteran or someone out of the military, you know they’re going to be a great employee,” said Ahmad.

Ted Woo, a chief U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, said that Northeastern candidates stand out to employers because of their “professionalism and preparedness.”

“They come dressed the part and are prepared,” Woo said. “I know I’m getting a higher-quality candidate. They are trained early on in what they need to do to prepare themselves for the future.”