Helen Cardona of Temecula, Calif. sat quietly for a few minutes in front of a career specialist. As the woman reviewed her application materials, Cardona, a former field communications sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, silently hoped the interaction would lead to a permanent position. With a positive jobs report in January by the United States Labor Department, many veterans like Cardona are hopeful their skills and traits acquired in the military translate easily into the private sector.

The 30 year old mother of four was one of 52 veterans who came out to a recent military employment open house at Pechanga Resort & Casino, one of the inland Southern California region’s largest employers. Candidates had the opportunity to listen to testimonials from a panel of current Pechanga employees who are also armed services veterans. They asked questions and gained more insight about the culture of working at the state’s largest resort/casino before they headed into an initial interview with a Human Resources specialist.

As soon as the career specialist looked up from her folder and began asking a few questions, Cardona visibly relaxed and allowed an enthusiastic personality to emerge. Following the 10-minute exchange, the former Marine Sergeant out of the service and looking for a job for seven months said she felt good about the experience. She was one of 30 applicants selected to move forward with department interviews.

Pechanga held its previous military open house in December 2013. That event brought in 50 veterans looking for jobs. Eleven of them netted full-time positions, including 44-year old Justin Tanner of San Jacinto who after an eight-month job search, now works as an officer for the Department of Public Safety.

“I thought Pechanga’s military job fair would be a great opportunity to get seen by a real person,” says Tanner. “Job applicants can relate because you send out so many resumes and fill out countless applications. Doing that and then having the chance to talk with someone at the place you may end up working for is so helpful. Now, I never have the same kind of day twice. Public safety has turned out to be a great fit for me.”

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