Joint effort helps vets land civilian jobs

Posted March 19, 2016
Updated March 20, 2016

— Non-profits across North Carolina are working to close a long-standing employment gap.

"It's real hard. It's real hard," Victor Suazo says about his search for job opportunities after serving in the military.

Suazo was one of many veterans at the Emily K. Center in Durham on Friday looking to soak in the keys to having a successful interview. He was also there to pick up a new suit, especially picked out for him for free.

The 5.2 percent unemployment rate for all veterans in the state was .01 percent lower than the national average for this same demographic, according to the Joint Economic Committee, but a closer look at the data shows veterans are still at a disadvantage. Post-9/11 veterans in the state were at 7.2 percent unemployment in 2014, matching the rest of the country's veterans, but still significantly higher than the state's 5.4 percent unemployment rate for the general public.

eMerging Entrepreneurs created Friday's workshop, bringing on NC Works, which offers job search tips and resources for veterans, to lead discussions, and SuitedNSuccess to help job seekers choose the right attire for interviews. It was the second installment of the "Service to Success" workshop aimed to guide veterans through their transition period from service to civilian.

Mark Taylor from SuitedNSuccess said he hoped his group could help more veterans this year than last.

"Even if you feel like you qualify for the job, you're still kind of nervous, and for some individuals that you're helping, there's a lot riding on it," Taylor said.

He sees many programs are designed to help women with professional attire. SuitedNSuccess fills a gap in helping men feel confident, too.

"It's very important for man to feel like a man when he can get a job, he can provide for himself, if he has a family, you know, provide for them as well," Taylor said.

"If you look good, then you feel good. You feel confident. So if I can help them with just that, then I feel like I've done my part."

Beyond dressing the part, NC Works taught workshop attendees how to speak the part with interviewing tips.

When Suazo walked back into the room at the end of the workshop with his new suit, he was met with a roar of applause. He thinks Taylor has done just what he set out to do.

"It means I can have my confidence when I'm going into an interview or talking to people," Suazo said just before leaving to find his next job.

eMerging Entrepreneurs have scheduled weekly workshops offering career assistance for veterans and their families throughout the spring.

Michelle Chavez is a junior studying Broadcast Journalism, Business Management and French at the University of Maryland. "I've learned that, as storytellers, we can access the most intimate aspects of a person's life and share these stories with the rest of the world in ways that may change another person's perspective or decisions," she says.


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