Category Archives: Finances

How to Make Sure You’re Satisfied with Your Job

The Secret to Professional Development in the Private Sector…

2 minutes to read

Advancement in the military was a straightforward process. You knew the career markers: schools, qualifications, exams, and key billets. Some jobs had less upward mobility. Usually, that was because they didn’t need more people in the senior ranks. But where opportunity existed, for the most part, you were on equal footing with everyone else. If only the private sector worked the same way.

How to Make Sure You’re Satisfied with Your Job

The Obscure Process of Career Advancement

Compared to the military, civilian organizations have a mysterious path to promotion. Often the criteria for advancing aren’t clear. You may not even know who can promote you. Coming from the military’s up or out atmosphere, it’s frustrating for your future prospects to be so cloudy.

Besides, private sector organizations and the military are competitive in different ways. Your success in the military came from being the best team player. Camaraderie meant your colleagues were genuinely happy when you advanced. Sure, there were backstabbers. But such people were rare.

In civilian life, people tend to focus on one-on-one competition. It’s much more of a zero-sum game. Companies pit their employees one against the other to get a promotion. Even when there’s no monkey business, it stills feels underhanded.

It might not be so bad if it weren’t for one thing.

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Professional advancement has a big impact on job satisfaction. Succeeding means learning to play the game while holding on to your integrity.

Get a Sponsor Not a Mentor

Research from the Center for Talent Innovation uncovered the key. Veterans lack sponsors. Transition specialists encourage you to find a mentor. Some suggest getting several. A sponsor goes beyond a mentor.

A mentor can offer you:

  • A sounding board
  • Advice
  • Perspective
  • Referral to resources

A sponsor goes further by:

  • Coaching your professional development
  • Defending you against naysayers
  • Advocating for you to senior leaders, especially behind closed doors

When they have a sponsor, 23% of male and 19% of female veterans have greater satisfaction with their job progression. They’re less likely to feel management overlooks their skills. This applies especially to soft skills like team building and transparent decision-making.

Also, they’re less likely to get penalized for exhibiting military behavior that’s misinterpreted. What we see as a straightforward approach can strike civilians as abrupt or harsh. A sponsor helps adjust communication style while mitigating any damage done.

My free guide, The Only Five Steps You Need to Take to Get High-Paying Job, explains the importance of relationships. But using them to get a job is just the beginning. You need to keep building new ones.

Look for a sponsor who:

  1. Has solid influence with senior leadership in your company.
  2. Will be direct in giving you feedback and coaching you to improve.
  3. Will advance your career by mitigating the damage done by your mistakes and highlighting your accomplishments.

You don't need to be young to be a protégé. Finding a sponsor is your first step toward success at a company. It also will help build a foundation on which your job satisfaction rests.

Do you have a sponsor at your company?

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How to Ensure Your Job-Hunt Fails Before It Begins

Do You Know Why Job-Hunting Is Like Basketball?

3 minutes to read

Basketball.  What’s the first thing you do when you want to play?  Do you put your shoes on?  Get a ball?  I’ll admit basketball isn't my favorite sport. One on the rare occasions I tried to join a game, I played left out. But I imagine it’s pretty boring shooting at the air. Confused? I’ll explain.

How to Ensure Your Job-Hunt Fails Before It Begins

Make Sure You Know the Point of the Game

Before anything else, you need a basket to shoot at.

You can perform passing drills. And you may practice dribbling using your fingertips. My dad said it gives better ball control. Talk about dull. I’d train for about five minutes and then sneak away to do something else.

Training is pointless unless it’s preparation to play the game. And the game is pointless without a goal.

In any serious play, a random basket won’t do. Regulations require the hoop to have an 18-inch diameter and its top to be 10 feet above the floor. The backboard must measure 72 inches wide by 42 inches tall. It should have an inner rectangle that is 24 inches wide by 18 inches high.

Any deviation from these standards disqualifies the game. You may have fun. But will anyone care about a slam-dunk record using a basket only eight feet above the ground? Bragging about such an accomplishment will damage your reputation not enhance it.

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Professional players won’t play basketball with a non-regulation basket. They won’t know if they’ve won. Your job-hunt works the same way.

Why Getting a Job Isn’t a Goal

When a service member says he’s getting out of the military I always ask about his plans. In most cases, he replies he has to get his resume together and find a job. To the question, “What do you want to do,” he answers something like, “well I was a 25 Bravo (Navy – IT, Marine Corps - 0651, Air Force - 3 Delta 1) so I guess I’ll get an IT job.”

Can you imagine Kobe Bryant saying he’s a basketball player because “I’ve got a metal ring and some wood.” These supplies don't make a basketball goal. Possessing them won't make someone a basketball player. Your military specialty (MOS, rating/NEC, AFSC, designator, NOBC) doesn’t constitute a job goal.

Did you like working in your military specialty? Yes? Then you have a good field in which to set your job-hunt goal.

If you didn't like you military specialty, you’re setting yourself up for failure by getting a similar civilian job. It may seem faster to look for such a job. But if you didn't like the field, there’s a good chance you won’t do well. Six to 12 months after getting a job you’ll be looking for another one.

To set a worthwhile job-hunting goal, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Choose. Do I like my military specialty? If not, choose another field.
  2. Research. What problems do private sector companies in the field need solving?
  3. Assess. How do I feel about working hard to solve these problems?
  4. Match. Do my skills align with those necessary to deal with the problems I uncovered?

Each question will help you refine your target job. Notice that skills are the last issue, not the first. The military taught you discipline, leadership, and problem-solving. They are more valuable than hard skills, such as IT. Technical knowledge goes out of date. Also, often it doesn’t translate well to civilian work.

Instead, figure out the basic skills that make up your technical knowledge.  An 11 Bravo (Infantryman) wouldn’t seem to have good civilian job prospects. But he has a high level of mechanical expertise. Couple that with discipline, leadership, and problem-solving. How about becoming a Mercedes Benz mechanic? The average salary for this job in Cincinnati is $62,338, with starting pay of $51,338. That’s about what an NCO makes in the military. In San Jose, California salaries are 20% to 25% higher. And you can make close to six-figures after a couple of years. Not bad if you like working on cars.

Hunting for any job is like shooting a basketball without knowing which goal is which. How do you know if you’ve scored? Did you throw it in your opponent’s basket? You may have made the shot. But if the other team got the points who cares?

Choose. Research. Assess. Match. Now you have a goal worth pursuing. When you reach it, you’ll have your first big win in civilian life.

Have you CRAMmed your job-hunting goal?

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How to Get Job Security by Improving One Skill

Four Abilities that Make You Always Employable

4 minutes to read

Technology is wonderful. Communication choices have increased. We can source purchases from around the globe. Tools such as GPS mean we’re never lost. Fishermen can track where fish hide. Cars and airplanes can drive and fly themselves. But, these same benefits have caused job skills to become outdated. Everybody is on an endless treadmill of retooling their abilities to stay competitive in the job market. Do you pine for the good old days when hard work and reasonable skills meant lifetime employment?

How to Get Job Security by Improving One Skill

Technology Targets Mid-Level Earners for Unemployment

When we returned to civilian life, my wife decided to get back into nursing. Little did she know how much the field had changed in six years. Hospitals had implemented new electronic charting programs. She had to learn about new medications, procedures, and regulations. She had to earn a masters degree to get into management.

Farming, manufacturing, service businesses, no industry is immune from technology’s impact. The pace seems only to quicken. I wrote a few weeks ago about how unmanned aerial vehicles could destroy many jobs for pilots. Think about what self-driving cars would do to taxi and Uber drivers.

What do you do to protect yourself from becoming obsolete?

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As wages for an occupation rise, the incentive to replace people with machines goes up too. Low wage jobs aren't worth the investment necessary to replace them with technology. High-paying jobs entail skills that machines can't replicate. Those in the middle, roughly $50,000 to $90,000 per year are most vulnerable. Hence, you see an enlarging gap between low and high-income earners.

Yet, for all the talk about artificial intelligence, a computer or robot can't replace every skill.

At first glance, you may think none of them relate to military work. Take a second look. Most service members used at least one of them on a regular basis. By applying it to a private sector field and improving it, you can take yourself out of the technology line of fire.

Skills that Don't Lose Their Value

You don't need to excel in all four of these skills to get a high-paying job. Master one and you are well on your way to a secure six-figure income. Stand out in two and your employment worries are over.

Innovate. All organizations must innovate to stay alive. Even nonprofits have to find new and better ways to fundraise and deliver services. Contrary to popular belief, no one is born with an innovation gene. You learn this skill. Did you create new policies or procedures while in the military? The young aircraft maintainers I worked with did so all the time. Limited resources stimulated creativity.

Start with learning everything you can about your chosen private sector field. Identify the problems it faces. Crate an inventive solution to one of them. Now here’s where your military experience gives you the edge. Lots of people can come up with an idea. Your military training will help you work out an implementation plan. Stuck on how to get more ideas? Jack Foster’s outstanding book, How to Get Ideas, will stimulate your mind.

Negotiate. In a world where machines control humans, I suppose they’ll settle our disputes. Until then, we’ll have to resolve our own clashes. If you held a leadership role in the military, you negotiated conflicts. If you were in supply or contracting you negotiated with vendors. Does your resume list the hundreds of thousand or millions of dollars you negotiated?

No surprise most private sector organizations need this skill. Is dealmaking a part of your chosen field? Getting people to agree to a business arrangement takes the same abilities as mediating conflict. Start by learning all you can about previous deals in your industry. What made them work? What motivated the parties to come together? Oren Klaff’s Pitch Anything will give you're a primer in private sector dealmaking.

Interrelate. Technology can facilitate communication. But it can't create relationships. You’ve heard it a million times. It’s not what you know but whom you know. It’s half true today. Most organizations don't keep dead weight around. So unless your job is to develop relationships, you’ll need other skills that benefit the company. But without relationships, you won't get the chance to use them. That’s why its one of the 5 Steps You Need to Take to Get a High-Paying Job.

In the military, getting a peer or senior to help you with a task took relationship-building skills. Did you attract the notice of your commanding officer? If not, do you know someone who did? Think about the actions he took. How did he make the initial connection? How did he groom the relationship over time? In How to Be a Power Connector, Judy Robinett explains the steps you need to take.

Sell. If no one buys a company’s goods or services it won't stay in business. Whether it sells them face-to-face, through retail outlets, or online, people drive the process. Technology can aid it. But human communication and ideas close the transaction. Even nonprofits need people who can sell their message and raise money.

You may not perceive it this way, but to advance in the military you marketed yourself. Since you believe in yourself, it was an easy sale. If you were a recruiter, you did some of the toughest selling out there. In the private sector, high pressure, sleazy used-car-type selling doesn't fly today. Companies need people adept at helping clients determine the benefits of their products and services. Polish your sales skills using Tonya Reiman’s The Yes Factor.

Most veterans don't realize they have these valuable, evergreen skills. Review your career and find accomplishments that highlight them. Put them in your resume. Now get to work improving them.

Which of these skills do you have? How are you improving it?

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How to Direct Your Marketing Fire for the Job & Pay You Want

Why Intel Collection Is the Most Important Skill You Need from the Military

2-½ minutes to read

Do you want:

  • Your first post-military job,
  • A better job,
  • A higher salary and/or better position at your current organization?

Our nation begins with a national defense strategy. Combatant commanders develop operational objectives. To meet these objectives, we execute tactical missions. You can follow the same process to achieve your civilian life goals.

How to Direct Your Marketing Fire for the Job & Pay You Want

Make Sure Your Message Is on Target

The headline of a post in a LinkedIn veterans’ group says, “Why is getting hired so complicated?” The writer says he tailors each resume and cover letter. Sometimes, he’ll apply for openings that don't fit his qualifications. He’s working on another certification and will lower his expectations. Sounds like he’s committed to finding a job, right?

You’re a hiring manager. How do you see him? Willing to follow the pack? Desperate? Unqualified? It may sound harsh, but his lack of success isn't surprising. His self-marketing screams, DON'T HIRE ME!”

Most organizations want people who:

  • Go the extra mile.
  • Have confidence in their ability to deliver value
  • Strive to go beyond mere qualifications and find the competitive edge.

Asking a company “to give you a chance” means you want it to gamble. Why should it do that when it can hire someone who has taken the time to fill in all four of the diagram’s boxes? That candidate presents little risk. Rather than appealing for a chance, go out and create opportunity.

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Most candidates won't take the time to do this research and analysis. Set yourself apart from the masses. Gather and apply this intelligence.

How to Build Your Strategy and Tactics Based on Intel 

Until you can fill in each of the four boxes, you’re flying in the dark without instruments. Build your strategy as follows:

How you see yourself – Most private sector organizations want to hire veterans. But they need you to operate in the civilian workplace. This requires revising your identity. Military command and control won't work. Imagine adapting. How can you alter your military persona to better mesh with civilians? Write down your new purpose.

How the company sees you – In the military, people often based their perceptions on your ribbon rack. At higher levels, your reputation preceded you. Neither may have matched your self-perception. When a civilian organization considers hiring you, it assesses your ability to deliver value. In the absence of self-marketing, where will the hiring manager get accurate information? Plan what you’ll say and do during phone calls, meetings, and in written communications.

How the company sees itself – Like people, organizations have self-images. One may see itself as being forward thinking. Another identifies as being military friendly. By understanding how a company sees itself, you have crucial intelligence for presenting how you'll deliver value. Research the organization’s culture. Determine how you align with and enhance its mission. Do you sound like someone the organization wants to hire? Now, look at your resume and cover letter. Re-calibrate your self-marketing with the company’s perspective in mind. Make the company feel compelled to hire or promote you.

How you see the company – How an organization sees itself and how you perceive it may differ. Your job satisfaction will rest on how well you’ll fit it. Having researched the organization’s culture, assess whether it's a place you can thrive. If there’s a match, create a self-marketing plan that highlights connection points. Move on if you don't fit in. Spend your valuable time targeting a better prospect.

Stop treating your professional prospects like roulette. Separate yourself from the pack. Get clarity on you and the company. Use it to prove your value. You’ll get the job or promotion.

What will prevent you from following this process?

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How to Focus Your Job-Hunt Marketing

Why You Need to Learn to Hate Vanilla

2 minutes to read

Tell me if this situation makes sense. Your car breaks down and you have it towed to your mechanic. A couple of hours later he calls and you ask, “Can you fix it?” Responding, he says, “I have 10 years experience repairing Fords and eight years experience fixing Hondas.” But that didn't answer your question. Shouldn't he have told you what the problem is and how he’s going to fix it? Most job-hunters make this same mistake.

How to Focus Your Job-Hunt Marketing

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Last week I coached a veteran who hasn't gotten any traction with his job-hunt. He’s decided to relocate because he sees better job prospects in a different place. Yet, the state where he lives now outpaces the rest of the country in job growth. His target state has had flat job growth this year.

This vet has solid skills, accomplishments, and leadership ability. At meetings to discuss jobs, hiring managers have told him he has what they need. Yet, he hasn’t received a single job offer. He says he needs a degree. But companies like Google and Ernst & Young don't require one.

His real problem: He’s forgettable.

Without an inside contact, he has no ally keeping him front of mind with the hiring manager. And he leaves out the other crucial ingredient for any job-hunt interaction.

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People remember and love stories. Yet he doesn't tell any. Nor does he use memorable language to highlight the value he’ll bring to a company. In short, hiring managers don't care if a competitor hires him. They don't feel the loss.

Resolve to Be Competitive

A person acts in one of two ways: moving toward a reward or moving away from fear. You may think this only applies to children. But adults carry a bias toward one of these throughout their lives. How do you know which one will motivate a particular hiring manager?

You don’t. So you’ll have to approach him from both. Give him an unforgettable presentation of your value to the organization. If reward drives him, he’ll hire you for how you’ll increase profits. If fear drives him, he’ll hire you so his competitor won’t.

Focus your self-marketing on answering the question: “What will make this company afraid its rival will hire me?”

The United States gathers intelligence about our enemies so we can exploit their weaknesses. It also helps us influence our allies to remain loyal. Our enemies do the same to us. Use this strategy for your job-hunt.

The answer doesn’t lie in a degree or your training and skills. All these are commonplace. Rather, know the challenges an organization and its competitors face. When you know its vulnerabilities, a company will want you on its side. If you know where its rivals struggle, it will want your help exploiting these weaknesses.

Develop relationships with people who will explain the challenges in your field. People like to talk about their areas of interest. Always stand ready with two or three questions that will enhance your industry knowledge. When you have the opportunity, ask them.

Most people won't do this hard work. Put in the time and effort. Don’t be plain vanilla. Be Moose Tracks. Then you’ll get a job you’ll love.

How do you gain intel about your chosen field?

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  • The wisdom of Scripture
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