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Veterans, Wisconsin National Guardsmen and military spouses seeking employment got a boost Feb. 12 if they attended the Wisconsin Employment Resource Connection workshop in Brookfield, Wis.

The workshop, held at Westmoor Country Club, featured nationally renowned LinkedIn expert Wayne Breitbarth, who donated his time and spent two hours sharing tips on how to master the online professional networking website. Breitbarth’s tutorial also aimed to help service managers who assist veterans in finding employment.

“It’s important because LinkedIn is the premiere job seeking tool, and it’s not an easy site to navigate on your own,” Breitbarth said.

“I just care about these guys,” he said of the veterans and service members he hoped to assist. “They helped us, right? So if I can give back a little…”

Returning veterans and service members have faced high unemployment numbers in recent years. Reservists and National Guardsmen have dealt with frequent deployments that pulled them away from employers, and other service members have had difficulty articulating how the skills they learned in the military can translate into the civilian workforce.

The unemployment picture for National Guardsmen has improved as the economy has gained traction and service members have taken advantage of programs like those offered by WERC, which helps coach veterans and service members on resume writing and finding employment. But as more jobs are filled, fewer opportunities exist for those still seeking employment. That’s where networking and job marketing tools like LinkedIn can prove to be of great assistance.

“I believe that we have the best skills that this country has to offer,” Staff Sgt. Jeff Baldovin told the more than 60 people who turned out for the event in Brookfield. “But some of us have been punched in the face a few times. We’ve had some difficulties and tough transitions from military to civilian.”

Baldovin is an employment assistance case manager with the Wisconsin National Guard’s WERC program. He helped organize the event and found Breitbarth, who authored his own book on how to master LinkedIn as a resource for both job seekers and employers.

Baldovin said that veterans face two major obstacles. One is knowing how to translate military experience and training into the civilian workforce.

“Most skill sets out there are transferrable,” he said. “It’s just knowing how to do that in the interview and on the resume.”

The other obstacle, he said, is building a strong local network.

“Sometimes veterans, especially if they’re recently returning overseas veterans, they don’t have a strong local network,” Baldovin explained. “So people oftentimes get their jobs through who they know, and LinkedIn is another one of those tools that can help build your network. People have always found jobs through who they know.”

Breitbarth provided a wealth of information on how to connect with recruiters and how to expand personal networks on the site. He also explained the importance of translating military skills into civilian ones, using keywords in online profiles and including information that delineates one’s profile from the millions of other users on the site.