Category Archives: Finances

4 Things You Need Besides Skills to Get a Job

3 minutes to read

You came out of the military with marketable skills. Or, you took the time to figure out how to use your military expertise in civilian life. You may have gotten a degree, even an advanced one. Then you earned additional certifications. Your resume describes every skill in detail. Yet application after application goes unanswered. And you received no or negative responses after the few interviews you’ve gotten. You’re committing job search sin #4: Believing it is or should be about having the right skills.

3 minutes to read You came out of the military with marketable skills. Or, you took the time to figure out how to use your military expertise in civilian life. You may have gotten a degree, even an advanced one. Then you earned additional certifications. Your resume describes every skill in detail. Yet application after application goes unanswered. And you received no or negative responses after the few interviews you’ve gotten. You’re committing job search sin #4: Believing it is or should be about having the right skills. Meritocracy Isn’t What You Think Coming out of the military environment, it seems like the person with the best skills should get the job. After all, if a company’s employees have the top aptitude it will be the best in its market. But consider. How many times did you have a colleague who was a genius at what it took to get the job done but was a pain in the neck to deal with? Maybe he was lazy, uncooperative, or had a bad attitude. Did you want to work with him day after day? Who would you rather have on your rifle team? An expert marksman who only thinks about himself or a sharpshooter 100% dedicated to the team? The military and businesses talk about merit. But they don’t mean a system where the person with the best skills gets the job. Both want the people who will most effectively help them meet their missions. Without solid skills, you’ll get nowhere. But at best your expertise gets your foot in the door. Beyond Skills You Need Less Tangible Qualities Besides technical mastery, employers look for four key traits: 1. Dedication to the organization’s mission and values. Given that you’ll have many civilian jobs and even careers, this may seem strange. Why should employers seek loyalty they don’t give? Notice I said to its mission and values, not to the organization itself. You’re right that you won’t stay there your whole career. The company knows that too. But while you work at an organization it wants your buy-in and commitment to its goals and how it pursues them. 2. Cultural fit. The military has a distinct culture. Indeed each branch has its own traditions, jargon, and way of doing things. The same goes for civilian businesses. Until 30 or 40 years ago the two overlapped. But as the World War II Generation moved out of the workforce, business culture changed. Today, unless an industry employs a high percentage of veterans, the culture will seem foreign. You need to learn something about a company’s way of doing things and customs before you apply there. And if you have a meeting to discuss a job you’ll have to show you fit in. 3. Commitment to teamwork. Though you may decide to be a solotreperneur, success will depend on your being a team player. Nothing lucrative happens without interaction with others. Coming from the military this shouldn’t surprise you. Even the sniper has a team backing him up and setting the stage for his success. Do prospective employers know how well you work with others? Or do you leave them guessing? 4. Understanding wealth comes from value delivered. Civilian companies don’t carry dead weight. Every employee must deliver value. You have to know how the company serves its clients. Then you need to articulate how you can improve that service when you get the job. You can learn the details once you get hired. But to get hired you must show you understand the concept and how it applies at the organization’s strategic level. Wealth comes from value delivered ↔ For the company and you. It takes time to research a company’s mission, values, and culture. You’ll have to make the investment if you want the job. We’ll confront this issue again in sin #6. Keep in mind, companies can train their employees in new or better skills. Changing their employee’s mindset is difficult at best. When a hiring manager sees you have these four traits, you put yourself far above the competition. Which mindset issue hinders your job hunt? Please comment below. 

Meritocracy Isn’t What You Think

Coming out of the military environment, it seems like the person with the best skills should get the job. After all, if a company’s employees have the top aptitude it will be the best in its market.

But consider. How many times did you have a colleague who was a genius at what it took to get the job done but was a pain in the neck to deal with? Maybe he was lazy, uncooperative, or had a bad attitude. Did you want to work with him day after day?

Who would you rather have on your rifle team? An expert marksman who only thinks about himself or a sharpshooter 100% dedicated to the team?

The military and businesses talk about merit. But they don’t mean a system where the person with the best skills gets the job. Both want the people who will most effectively help them meet their missions. Without solid skills, you’ll get nowhere. But at best your expertise gets your foot in the door.

Beyond Skills You Need Less Tangible Qualities

Besides technical mastery, employers look for four key traits:

  1. Dedication to the organization’s mission and values. Given that you’ll have many civilian jobs and even careers, this may seem strange. Why should employers seek loyalty they don’t give? Notice I said to its mission and values, not to the organization itself. You’re right that you won’t stay there your whole career. The company knows that too. But while you work at an organization it wants your buy-in and commitment to its goals and how it pursues them.
  2. Cultural fit. The military has a distinct culture. Indeed each branch has its own traditions, jargon, and way of doing things. The same goes for civilian businesses. Until 30 or 40 years ago the two overlapped. But as the World War II Generation moved out of the workforce, business culture changed. Today, unless an industry employs a high percentage of veterans, the culture will seem foreign. You need to learn something about a company’s way of doing things and customs before you apply there. And if you have a meeting to discuss a job you’ll have to show you fit in.
  3. Commitment to teamwork. Though you may decide to be a solotreperneur, success will depend on your being a team player. Nothing lucrative happens without interaction with others. Coming from the military this shouldn’t surprise you. Even the sniper has a team backing him up and setting the stage for his success. Do prospective employers know how well you work with others? Or do you leave them guessing?
  4. Understanding wealth comes from value delivered. Civilian companies don’t carry dead weight. Every employee must deliver value. You have to know how the company serves its clients. Then you need to articulate how you can improve that service when you get the job. You can learn the details once you get hired. But to get hired you must show you understand the concept and how it applies at the organization’s strategic level. Wealth comes from value delivered ↔ For the company and you.

It takes time to research a company’s mission, values, and culture. You’ll have to make the investment if you want the job. We’ll confront this issue again in sin #6.

Keep in mind, companies can train their employees in new or better skills. Changing an employee's mindset is difficult at best. When a hiring manager sees you have these four traits, you put yourself far above the competition.

Which mindset issue hinders your job hunt? Please comment below.

How to Get a Job Without Being an Egomaniac

3 minutes to read

After your tenth call goes unreturned or the 50th time you’re overlooked for an interview, it’s easy to think civilians don’t care. It’s demoralizing when a non-veteran gets a job that fits you perfectly. A few months of such striking out makes maintaining a positive attitude tough. You start thinking HR people and hiring managers just talk a good game about hiring vets. They don’t come through when it counts. You’re committing job search sin #3: Treating civilians as liars when they say they support veterans.

How to Get a Job Without Being an Egomaniac

The Path to Egomania

A veteran I’ll call Steve (not his real name) told me about his search. He’d been trying to get a job for almost a year. One HR person told him he didn’t have the right qualifications. Another for a similar job said he was overqualified. Time after time he got passed over. In the end, he concluded that civilians were liars. “They don’t want to help us. They just say that to make themselves feel good.”

I asked, “Do you think you’ve successfully hidden your attitude toward civilians?” He admitted they likely picked up on it. “What do you think about a civilian who considers all service members are PTSD time bombs? Would you want to work with such a person?” He told me no. “Why would civilians want to work with you when you have such a bad attitude toward them?”

Steve’s response explained why he hadn’t gotten a job. “Because I’m right and they’re wrong.”

You may think Steve is an extreme example. But replace the word liar with dishonest, lazy, or another derogatory term. Can you honestly say that you’ve never thought or said such a thing about civilians? The military held you to a high standard of conduct. Appalling cases of civilian misconduct make the news. But don’t get fooled into thinking this reflects on the typical non-veteran.

Once you let your ego convince you to scorn the people you’ll have to work with you’re doomed.

Put Your Self-Confidence in the Right Place

You need to gain perspective to solve this issue. Step back and look at the broader picture. Veterans haven’t been as well respected and treated since the end of World War II. And maybe not even then. Plenty of people in the late 1940s complained about service members coming home and stealing their jobs and girls. Have you heard such complaints?

Think about it this way. Suppose you go to China to get a job. No matter how clearly you speak English, the Chinese hiring manager person won’t understand you (unless he does too). If he hasn’t spent any time in the military how can he know how to evaluate your skills and experience?

Americans want to help veterans. But since so few have served in the military they don’t understand what you did. Most of what they know comes from movies and television. How realistic is that?

Instead of complaining about civilians, consider having empathy for them. Help them help you.

  • When a civilian thanks you for your service, thank him back for being supportive. Taxpayers paid your salary and for your equipment. What were you fighting for if not the wellbeing of your fellow citizens?
  • Take the time to tell civilians about your experiences. Okay, not the bonehead who asks you if you killed anyone. Tell them about something they never saw on TV, like the flight deck of your ship freezing over. Or what it was like providing humanitarian assistance after a disaster.
  • Drop the military jargon, or explain it. When you’re meeting with someone about a job, don’t expect the person to understand what a NCO. Most people your age in civilian life don’t have the opportunity to shoulder the level of responsibility you did. You need to explain the value of the equipment you looked after and/or the lives for whom you were responsible. Some civilians love to learn military terminology. Share a couple of your (clean) favorites.

Instead of letting your self-confidence turn into non-productive egotism, use it to your advantage. Project self-assurance when you talk about your knowledge, skills, and leadership ability. When you show a civilian the image of what he thinks a service member ought to be you’ll get the job you want.

What can you do to convey the right attitude during your job search? Please comment below.

If You’ll Take Any Job… You’ll Be Rejected for Every Job

2 minutes to read

You submitted dozens or hundreds of resumes. You got called for few if any interviews. Your savings have dwindled to the point where an AT&T Mobile settlement check looks like a lot of money. (I got one today for 7¢.) You broaden your search. Still, don’t have any luck. You just want a job! I’ll give it to you straight. The fewer jobs you exclude from your hunt, the more likely you’ll be rejected for every job you apply for. You’re committing job search sin #2: Not having clear objectives for your search.

If You’ll Take Any Job… You’ll Be Rejected for Every Job

What You’re Saying When You’ll Take Any Job

I understand your frustration. You want to work.

You want to support your family and maintain your dignity. By broadening or even lowering your sights, you intend to send a message of flexibility. You want to prove you’re committed to doing what it takes. Can you make it any plainer? “Just give me a chance to show you what a great worker I can be.”

I commend your dedication to getting a job. But you’re shooting yourself in the foot. The message you intend to send is not the one employers receive. They hear:

  • Desperation. Taking any job makes you sound like a loser. So although you may be a great, even the best candidate, employers wonder why you sound so needy.
  • Lack of Skills. If you really have the skills the job demands you’d be confident. Since you’re not, you must lack the skills despite what you and your resume say.
  • No In-Depth Knowledge. If you will take any job, how can you have a comprehensive view of their specific industry? Realistically you can’t and don’t.
  • Not Focused. Lack of clear-cut job search goals may signal an inability to focus. Civilians think service members have discipline. Your shotgun approach is incongruent with this belief. Their warning signals go off.
  • Can’t Commit. Turnover costs businesses a lot of money. If you can’t commit to yourself why would you be loyal to their organization? Instability may be tolerated for low salary jobs. Can you live on minimum wage?

It seems that by broadening your search you create more opportunity. In reality, all you’re doing is lowering your value in the job market.

You Don’t Want Any Job

You left the military for one of three reasons:

  • You retired.
  • You didn’t like military life or your work anymore.
  • You involuntarily separated.

As a retiree, you may have loved your military job. Now, do you want to do work you hate? Likewise, whether you chose to leave or not, unless you get a job you enjoy you’re likely to suffer the same fate. Rather than chasing hundreds of marginally appropriate jobs, start by setting goals for what you want. The process has three steps:

  1. Perform an in-depth skills assessment.
  2. Define what you love doing and why.
  3. Identify jobs that are in demand.

Find the nexus where these meet. The image above illustrates what you need to do. Now you have your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). From it, establish your job-hunting objectives and focus your time and energy where they will be most productive. As counterintuitive as it may seem, the more jobs you exclude, the more likely you are to get the job you want.

Which of the steps are you struggling to figure out? Please comment below.

Are You Committing Any of the 8 Deadly Sins of Job Hunting?

3 minutes to read

I’ve spent the last four years helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Despite all the resources the military has put into transition assistance programs, half of veterans struggle. You may know what I mean. It’s not just disabled vets or those with PTS who have a hard time. The unemployment rate for veterans remains higher than civilians. Young male vets fare the worse. As well, veterans report being underemployed at double the rate of non-veterans. So many who get a job feel lucky. And in fact, often it was just dumb luck. As a result, you don’t want to leave a job for fear you won’t get lucky a second time. Civilian life was supposed to be great. But when you’re stuck doing work you hate it isn’t. While you got solid skills in the military, you didn’t learn to take advantage of them.

Are You Committing Any of the 8 Deadly Sins of Job Hunting?

Transition Assistance Programs Don’t Work

The programs go by many names, as if updating nomenclature modernizes content. But the classes remain outdated or counterproductive. They emphasize resume writing. In order of importance, this skill ranks no higher than 8th in priority. Training dealing with social media profiles leaves out the most important issues. Alternative career paths such as entrepreneurship are hardly mentioned.

You’re told to apply for a disability rating even if you’re perfectly healthy. Had I taken this advice, joining the reserves would have been difficult to impossible. And to boot, I would have lost out on the best health insurance plan out there.

The military has its hands full turning civilians into warriors. It has neither the resources nor the ability to turn warriors back into civilians. Although your fellow citizens will help you, you must take the initiative.

Through training and coaching over 1,600 veterans, I noticed eight ways they shoot themselves in the foot when job hunting. Several relate to mindset. None are dealt with in transition programs.

Job Hunting Deadly Sins

Veterans who smoothly reintegrated didn’t make these mistakes:

  • Thinking you’re entitled to a job and its corollary that your job search is all about you.
  • Not having clear objectives for your search.
  • Treating civilians as liars when they say they support veterans.
  • Believing it is or should be about having the right skills.
  • Considering what you post on social media to be off limits from employers.
  • Thinking all you have to do is post your resume on job boards.
  • Applying for a job at a company where you don’t have an internal advocate.
  • Not asking for the job if you want it and not following up properly or at all.

Take sin #1. Contrary to popular belief, America doesn’t owe you anything. You volunteered to serve our country. You were paid, fed, housed, given healthcare, and trained. If you were in the enlisted ranks you were clothed, at least partially.

Sure, sometimes life was hard. You spent a lot of time away from your family. If you were in combat, you faced danger and may have taken human life. Most civilians don’t do anything like this. But if you joined post-9/11, you knew what you were getting into.

How do you feel about working with people who have a chip on their shoulder? Annoying to say the least, right? Why would a civilian employer want to hire you if you have an entitlement attitude?

Your job search isn’t about you alone. You need to focus on finding an organization that can benefit from what you bring to the table. When an employer sees the value you deliver he’ll hire you. Embed this mutuality into your mindset.

If you feel entitled, you need to examine your attitude. Realize how you damage your relationships with others and yourself. The cure comes from gratitude and service. Write a list of the things to be grateful for. Read your list every day. Add new items. Keep building it. If you cannot think of anything, have a friend with a positive outlook give you some ideas.

Go help some people less fortunate than yourself. A man sits out in front of my synagogue almost every day asking for money. From what he collects he puts money in the charity box. He understands service. You can do the as well or better.

Over the next seven weeks, I’ll go through the other deadly sins and how to deal with them. By learning to avoid them, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Which of these is preventing you from getting the job you want? Please comment below.

You Need to Be a Salesperson

2-½ minutes to read

Any lucrative career opportunity will require some type of selling. You may sell a product or service. But minimally you have to effectively market your abilities to get a good job. Yet, when I speak with veterans most will not consider learning to sell. The moment they hear the word they think of shady methods, abuse of customers, or just plain sleaze. It’s a shame. In today’s civilian world you cannot escape having to sell yourself. Lack of this valuable skill closes many doors.

You Need to Be a Salesperson

The Misperception about Sales and the Military

Recently I was talking with a friend about differences between military and civilian life. I told him civilians sell their qualifications to get the job they want. But service members don’t. On further reflection, I oversimplified the situation.

The military’s massive recruiting effort shows you don’t need to market yourself to get in. But beginning with basic training, your ability to sell how well you’ve adapted to military life impacts the rest of your career. One of my first counselees is a case in point.

Days after arriving in Okinawa, I was asked to speak with a young, female Marine. She had gotten drunk the night before and showed up for duty unable to work. Unfortunately, this was not her first infraction. She had a reputation as a troublemaker during boot camp and follow-on training. Once I learned all the facts I saw her situation was not her fault alone. But we could not overcome the poor way she had presented her character. She sold the Marine Corps on the idea she wouldn’t accept its ethos. In the end, she got kicked out.

The need to sell yourself in the military doesn’t stop with character. Through a well-defined career path, you can show your willingness to develop new skills and leadership ability. Then you have the opportunity to prove mastery on the job. Your success determines the quality of the jobs you’re offered next time you comes up for orders. There’s not a lot of room to market yourself directly to the detailer. (Note: The detailer determines a service member’s next billet.) That’s because he learned about your performance from the supervisors of your last job.

Like with any pyramid structure, those who make it to the top have superior sales ability. They bring the attention of decision makers to their skills and achievements. This is as it should be. Senior enlisted people and officers lead. This duty requires mastery of using influence to meet a desired outcome. At the pinnacle, general and flag officers interact with civilian leadership to determine and implement national defense strategy. If they are not adroit at selling their ideas, the defense of our nation would break down.

Intentionality as a Salesperson

For both civilians and service members, the best salespeople advance. The difference lies in how aware each is of this process. Since it’s part of the system, many in the military don’t realize their performance determines their future employment prospects. As a result, they don’t develop the skill of intentionally selling themselves. Worse, they get the idea that it’s not necessary. “I didn’t have to do this in the military. Why should I have to do it in civilian life? It’s not fair. It’s wrong!”

Organizations need astute marketers and self-marketers more than ever. You need to learn how to sell yourself. You’ll need to be assertive yet humble. Rather than staying stuck in the military model, work to gain the skills to make yourself standout. You took off the uniform that made you look like everyone else in the military. Now unmask the inner you so employers and customers can see your true value.

What keeps you from selling yourself well? Please comment below.

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