Category Archives: Finances

How to Improve Your Company by Hiring Veterans

25 Benefits Military People Bring to the Table

2-½ minutes to read

(NOTE: I wrote this for civilians who want to help veterans transition better. If you’re current or former military, pass this on to a civilian friend.)

You want to help veterans make a smoother transition to civilian life. But you don't know any or know just a handful. You’d like to make an impact. But you’ve got your job and family responsibilities. So it can't be a full-time endeavor. Everyone is so busy these days. What can you do that has a limited time commitment?

How to Improve Your Company by Hiring Veterans

A Quick Assessment of Your Knowledge

Last week I mentioned three things you can do to shrink the military-civilian divide:

  1. Understand military culture.
  2. Identify the benefits of hiring veterans.
  3. Use the military personnel structure.

Start by assessing what you know about the military and its culture. If your knowledge comes from movies and television it’s not accurate. Take this online course on the basics of military structure and culture. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Though it’s geared to mental health professionals, you’ll find it useful. Ninety-five percent of what it covers applies to anyone who wants to know more about the military.

Having figured out what you know, you can fill in the gaps. Check out these resources for learning military language and service specific values:

Summary of core value for each service branch

List of military terms and acronyms

Military lingo

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After an hour or two, you’ll be better prepared to understand military people. Keep the terms and lingo cheat sheets on your cell phone for easy access.

Qualities and Soft Skills

Now that you can communicate with veterans better, you’re ready to take the next step. To help military people find the right job, determine how they can help an organization. Start by the learning how military training and service benefits them. Not every service member gains these 20 qualities and skills. But by and large, you’ll find a high correlation between the list and what they bring to the table as prospective employees.

Other benefits of employing military people are:

  1. Mission-Focused. No organization is more mission-focused than the military. Service members learn to keep that end goal in sight. Hence they exercise creativity when bureaucracy makes reaching it more difficult.
  2. Respect Policies & Procedures. Military people know how to work within policies, even when they disagree with them. They find ways to finesse them from time to time. But they won't violate them, especially when they understand their rationale.
  3. Intuitive. Much of military training inculcates the ability to respond with little thought. Intuition takes over. Given the speed of commerce, such a skill has great value to a company.
  4. Candor. Hidden problems in the military cost lives and valuable equipment. When something is wrong, service members learn to speak up. They’re direct but respectful. In the private sector, such candor can be off putting. Veterans need to tone it down. At the same time, organizations have to get such input to survive.
  5. Leadership. Even junior enlisted people have leadership ability. Especially if they were in a community like aviation or submarines. On an aircraft carrier, an 18-year-old plane captain decides whether a $50 million airplane leaves the deck. It doesn't matter that the pilot outranks him.

These qualities and soft skills enhance technical proficiency and experience. Don't rely on a resume. Often service members struggle to capture their skills and experience on paper. Ferret out their qualifications using these lists.

You may choose not to use the military personnel structure to find the hard skills you need. Even so, knowing the benefits military people bring to an employer can help you find the ones that best fit into your organization. In doing so, you can substantially improve the quality of your hires.

How have you helped veterans transition?

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Want Greater Success? Learn to Tolerate More of This…

What You Want Lies Beyond a Wall of Boredom

2-½ minutes to read

The military holds the promise of an exciting life. If you haven’t seen the latest recruiting commercials take a look. Think of the adrenaline rush from jumping off that airplane. Is there any chance you’ll find being a Marine boring? Both of these pale in comparison to Special Forces. There’s never a dull moment in the military. Yeah, right. If General Military Training doesn’t put you to sleep paperwork will. But hey, it’s the government. You have to expect tedium. The private sector is different.

Want Greater Success? Learn to Tolerate More of This…

The Two Types of Boredom

Growing up not far from Hollywood, the excitement of making movies enthralled me. I had to be a part of it. In the late 1980s, I got my chance. My friend needed a producer for his next project. Count me in!

It didn't take long for reality to hit. Decorating the set. Focusing the lights. Practicing camera movements. Rehearsing the actors. Often it took several hours to set up a shot that took less than a minute to film. As the producer, I had to keep people from getting bored and mischievous to protect my investment.

Since then, I joke about the “glamour” of the film business. Don't get me wrong. Premieres are exciting. But such moments punctuate long periods of tedium.

Of course, it's nothing like the boredom of cold calling. The difference between film production and sales highlights the two types of boredom.

  • Passive Boredom – Sitting around with nothing to do.
  • Active Boredom – Repetitive tasks that aren't exciting.
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Most people can tolerate the first type. You may have trouble relaxing. Still, if your job requires stretches of getting paid to do nothing you can adapt.

How to Overcome Boredom

Active boredom is another story. Having to do dull, repetitive tasks saps most people’s endurance. But you can’t reach a goal without them.

About a month ago I had to start doing abdominal work again. My stomach has gotten too flabby. It is soooooo boring doing crunches and leg lifts. I tried listening to upbeat music while exercising. It didn't help. I had to set an ironclad goal and accept the tedium.

Many job-hunting tasks are boring. Always reaching out to your contacts. Writing lots of thank you notes. Practicing your elevator pitch and what you’ll say in a meeting to get a job. All these can tax your patience. I can understand why you just want the thrill of getting the job. But these boring tasks are what will make that happen.

It won't be different on the job. You’ll have exciting moments. But you’ll spend most of your time on routine work. Yet that’s where you’ll make your biggest impact. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is what matters. That means doing and keeping track of dozens of small, everyday tasks.

Now you can see why it’s important to have a mission and objectives. You need to work in a field you love. If not, it’s too easy to stop doing the boring tasks that take you to your goal.

Don’t let slick videos seduce you into thinking success and excitement go together. If you want to succeed, prepare to buckle down and power through boredom.

What did you do in the military to keep working toward boring goals?

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3 Reasons Companies Find It Difficult to Hire Veterans

How to Bridge the Military-Civilian Divide

2-½ minutes to read

Imagine upon leaving active duty you go live in China. Only 0.75% of people there speak English. You’d expect some communication problems. You wouldn’t dive into writing your resume. First, you’d learn some basic Chinese so you could speak to hiring managers. Next, you’d gain some cultural knowledge to help people get more comfortable with you. Well, China isn’t the only place where less than 1% of people understand you.

3 Reasons Companies Find It Difficult to Hire Veterans

Most Civilians Don't Know the Real Military

Let’s be honest for a moment. Before joining the military, did you know what a 12Y, 0261, AG, or 3E5X1 did? Even now are you aware they all have similar expertise? Telling a private sector hiring manager their skills relate to Geographic Information Systems won't do much. Proficiency and accomplishments vary by years of service, pay grade, and specific jobs.

A company’s HR people and hiring managers have, at best, a rudimentary understanding of the military’s personnel structure. With five different service branches using five different systems, the complexity becomes overwhelming. Unless a company hires a lot of veterans, it may not feel it can justify the investment to become proficient.

As well, you know the statistics. At any given time, less than 1% of the American population serves in the armed forces. After several rounds of BRAC, the number of bases has shrunk by about 25%. So locations where civilians interact with service members have decreased. Where can private sector hiring managers learn anything significant about the military?

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Most of what civilians know comes from television and movies. How realistic are their impressions of the military?

Take the Time to Educate Hiring Managers

Other issues hamper private sector companies’ inclination to hire veterans. Much of the publicity about the military revolves around combat deployments. So people think most of us were trigger pullers. They know other jobs like pilot and tank commander exist. But their image of us comes down to a disciplined, fit soldier carrying an M-16. They find it hard to imagine how such a person fits into their business.

They also think most veterans have PTSD. Never mind that a similar percentage of civilians suffer from it. Some people fear veterans will exhibit violent behavior. But the majority doesn't know what it means. Like most of us, they hesitate to act when there are things they don’t understand. The message hasn't gotten out that among even those who do have PTSD, most function fine.

Seventy years ago, at the end of World War II, it seems like veterans had it easy. Eight to ten percent of Americans had been in uniform. Almost everyone knew someone in the service. And, private sector business was not as complex as it is today.

But our forebears had their challenges. People making good wages were afraid competition would reduce their pay. Many civilians didn't like the special treatment given by the GI Bill. Others wanted to forget the war.

In a way, transitioning to civilian life has always been like moving to a foreign country. Get fluent explaining your Unique Value Proposition to people who don't speak your language. Prepare to educate your fellow citizens about the military. Be proactive, but subtle, in helping people handle their concerns or fears.

Never doubt that private sector companies want and need you. They just need some help understanding you.

Where else do private sector hiring managers need educating?

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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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