Category Archives: Transitions

How Nonconformity Can Improve Your Job Prospects

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shelach – Numbers 13:1-15:41

The military values conformity. Look no further than uniforms, right? Each service branch has its values, hymn, and customs that create a cohesive identity. At times you can feel suffocated by the need to fit in.

How Nonconformity Can Improve Your Job Prospects

America’s Love-Hate Relationship with Conformity

From her earliest days, our Republic has been ambivalent about nonconformists. Despite many colonials being religious dissenters, most colonies had an official church. Only Rhode Island was founded on the principle of religious pluralism.

From such an irresolute beginning, nonconformity has seeped into the American character. Teenagers rebel against their parents. The ubiquity of tattoos speaks to a desire for individuality. Yet, because rebellion by teenagers is commonplace, non-rebellious ones feel forced to conform. Sailors feel pressured to get a tattoo since everyone else in their unit has one.

It’s like the hilarious scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Brian preaches to the people, “You’re all individuals.” To which they parrot in unison, “Yes, we’re all individuals!”

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

In the military, the penalty for nonconformity can be harsh. What about in civilian life?

The Two Ways of the Nonconformist

Humans have wrestled with the dilemma of nonconformity for millennia. Thirty-three hundred years ago, Moses faced this issue when sending men to reconnoiter the Holy Land. In Parshas Shelach:

Caleb silenced the people toward Moses…. (Numbers/Bamidbar 13:30)

In the story of the twelve spies, Moses picks a leader from each tribe. They form a group for gathering intelligence on the Land of Israel. When they return, ten of them report to Moses that the Israelites cannot conquer the Land. Only Joshua and Caleb dissent.

Throughout the spies’ forty-day mission, Joshua disagreed with the group’s conclusions. But Joshua was Moses’s faithful servant. The ten spies were confident the people would consider him biased.

Caleb was another matter. He kept his counsel during the forty-day patrol. Not until the climatic moment did he declare his dissent from the group’s opinion. Unfortunately, he does not sway the Israelites. But he solidifies himself as a man of principle.

Who was right, Joshua and Caleb?

Nonconformity in Civilian Life

After years of conforming in the military, you may feel tempted to adopt Joshua’s consistent, nonconformist posture. Caleb’s plan of going along with the group until principle is on the line seems wishy-washy or weak. But when G-d equates Joshua and Caleb, He makes both of them our models.

So how can we adopt nonconformity all the time while being nonconformist only sometimes?

Don’t make either your exclusive posture. Apply them according to the issue at hand. When deciding on the length of your hair, if you don’t care, take Caleb’s path. Feel free to conform. Don’t think you have to take the rebellious route.

But for your job-hunt, nonconformity works best. Don’t content yourself with hunting the way everybody else does. Always take steps to separate yourself from the pack. Most people rely on job boards. So create relationships to work from the inside. Since PDF resumes are the standard, make a video resume. Conformist job-hunters state their skills. Distinguish yourself by conveying the unique value you bring to the table.

While Caleb earns the Almighty’s commendation, Joshua becomes the leader after Moses dies. G-d recognized his dogged determination to serve the Israelites. Improve your job prospects by following his example.

In what area of your life are you a nonconformist?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below


Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

Do You Know the Best Factor for Predicting an Easy Transition?

Veterans Who Do This Are 50% More Likely to Reintegrate with Ease

2-½ minutes to read

What do you think would make your transition to civilian life easier? A lot of veterans think a college degree is a key ingredient. But the best factor has five times the impact of a college degree.

Do You Know the Best Factor for Predicting an Easy Transition-

The Biggest Factors

The Pew Research Center did a study. It examined the impact of 18 demographic and attitudinal factors on veteran reintegration. Six of them predict a more difficult time adjusting. They include having suffered emotional trauma or a physical injury, serving in combat or post 9/11, and knowing someone killed or injured. All present profound challenges. But you can’t erase them. Your path to a successful civilian life must travel the road of reconciliation.

The only variable negative factor is your marital status. Being married during your service reduces the chances of an easy transition by 15%. It would seem getting divorced improves your reintegration prospects. Looking deeper, the negative correlation arises from a buildup of conflict that comes to a head when leaving the military.

But don’t call a lawyer. Marriage leads to better health and higher overall satisfaction with life. Transitioning won’t improve an already strained marriage. But without constant deployments and TDYs/TADs, you have the time to repair your relationship.

Eight factors don’t impact ease of transition. They include:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Age at time of separation
  • How long the veteran was in the military
  • How many times the veteran deployed
  • Whether the veteran had children younger than 18 while serving

Three of the four positive factors had small impacts:

  • Officer – 10%
  • Understood your missions – 10%
  • College graduate – 5%

Hence, having a degree has a marginal impact on your transition.

So what factor has five times the impact of a college degree? Religiosity. For post 9/11 veterans, 67% have an easy transition if they attend worship services at least once a week. For veterans who steer clear of religion, only 43% do. The 24% difference is five times that of a college degree. Note that Pew defines religion by action – attending services.

What’s behind this issue?

The Benefits of Religiosity

Studies have long shown that religious belief correlates with positive outcomes. These include better physical and emotional health and happier and more satisfying personal relationships. But most veterans think a successful transition means getting a good job. What does religion have to do with that?

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

Let’s peel this onion. Three things tend to hold a veteran back from finding a job: skills, mindset, and support. Attending worship services can help with all three categories:

Skills. Many veterans have poor job search skills and find it difficult to communicate with civilians. Going to church (or synagogue or mosque) creates time to practice talking with civilians. People want to help so the price of making a mistake is minimal.

Mindset. Lack of confidence and structure often hold back veterans. So does a bad attitude toward civilians. Building spiritual resilience leads to greater self-confidence. Worship service attendance imposes structure on the week. It becomes a catalyst for creating daily structure. Gratitude is central to healthy religious belief. And feeling grateful improves mental outlook and attitude.

Support. Veterans miss the camaraderie and mentorship of military life. A religious community replaces both of these losses. Like in the military, people are part of something bigger than themselves.   They share common experiences and a mission. Those with more experience mentor others and together everyone grows.

Religiosity is not a cure-all for the challenges of transitioning. But it addresses many of the areas where veterans struggle. Are you attending services on a regular basis? If so, are you taking advantage of how this can help you? If not, what’s holding you back?

Do you attend worship services?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below ↓

How to Avoid a Second Job-Hunt in a Year

Are You Prioritizing Job Satisfaction?

2-½ minutes to read

Recently I saw a post in a LinkedIn veterans group. The person asked what he should do now that he’d hit every job board. He didn’t mention the kind of job he wanted. And his scattergun approach shows he didn’t prepare much for entering civilian life. A second job-hunt looms on his horizon even though he doesn’t have his first post-military job.

How to Avoid a Second Job-Hunt in a Year

Did the Military Challenge You?

Two-thirds of veterans find the transition to civilian life difficult. Finding a job ranks at the top of the list of challenges. Forty percent of veterans experience unemployment for at least six months. Yet, almost half of enlisted people leave their first job within 12 months. Thirty-one percent do so within six months. So, in the first couple of years post-military, many veterans work about as much as they look for work.

The military challenged us to keep building our skills, knowledge, and leadership ability. It gave us meaningful work to do. And it provided a clear path for advancement and professional development.

No surprise that veterans leave jobs that lack these qualities. Other reasons for high-first year turnover include skills mismatch and inadequate compensation.

Taking all of this into account, how do you avoid a second job-hunt in a year?

Assess and Plan

Anxiety over employment runs high as the date for leaving the military gets closer. You’ll feel pressured to something, toward getting a job. First, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are my goals for transitioning? "Find a job" is too general. You’ll have much greater success and a shorter job-hunt by getting specific about the job you want.
  2. Have I done a thorough skills assessment? Most veterans assume they have to find civilian work like what they did in the military. But what do infantrymen and artillerymen do in the private sector? Use this tool to dig beyond your obvious skills. It translates them to civilian language too.
  3. What would I like to do? Have you examined what you liked about military duty? You may have hated the restrictive environment. But I bet you found some tasks enjoyable. Where else have you found meaning in work? You may feel you can’t afford to be picky. But your cash flow won’t improve by changing jobs every six to twelve months.
  4. How much do I know about what employers need? Our fellow citizens respect us because we fill a big need: keeping them safe. Employers hire veterans because they think we’ll solve problems for them. Identify where you can help employers in your field deal with their challenges.
  5. What kind of culture do I want to work in? Each service branch has a different culture. If you worked in a joint environment you saw the clash. The private sector is the same. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches, and a second job-hunt, by checking for a cultural fit before taking a job.
  6. Who do I know who can help me get the inside track for a job? Employers post on job boards because they’re having trouble filling the position. You’ll find the best jobs through someone already working at the organization. Get in touch with people you know and give them specifics about the job you want.

Notice that question 6 ties back to question 1. If you’ve gone through the questions at least once, your ready to attack you job-hunt in earnest. And, you’ve increased the odds you’ll like and stay with the job you find.

Resist the impulse to head straight for the job boards. Not only will you save time looking for your first job. You’ll avoid a second job-hunt.

Which question is hardest to answer?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below ↓

How to Have the Security of a High-Paying Job

Have You Absorbed the Most Important Lesson of Military Life?

1-½ minutes to read

Training makes our military second to none. Sometimes equipment doesn’t always measure up. Other times intelligence gaps make completing a mission tough. But rugged conditioning and practice prepare us to overcome all obstacles and prevail. It’s a shame that we don’t take the same approach when getting ready for civilian life.

How to Have the Security of a High-Paying Job

Training Trumps Information

Imagine you’ve just arrived at Fort Benning, MCRD, Great Lakes, or JBSA-Lackland. After checking in, the drill instructors tell you to jump on the Internet. It’s time to learn how to become a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman. You’d think they were nuts, right?

Adapting to military life took more than information. There’s a world of difference between reading a manual on firing the M4 Carbine and actually training in its use. Without enough live fire exercises, you’d expect failure in combat.

Civilian life is no different.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

You don’t face life or death when reintegrating to the private sector. But getting the security of a high-paying job takes more than information.

Security Comes from Superior Conditioning

Basic training lasted seven to twelve weeks. Follow on schools lasted from a few weeks to a year. You trained full time. You still weren’t ready for duty. When you got to your unit you received OTJ (on the job) training.

Now learning how to get a high-paying job may not be as complex as becoming a medic or submarine nuke. But one week of transition instruction, while keeping up with regular duties, won’t cut it. You need at least two months of dedicated training to learn the ropes.

Start by assessing where you need to improve. Have you adjusted from a military to a civilian mindset? Do you know how to:

  1. Set a mission and goals?
  2. Build a unique value proposition?
  3. Target employers and create relationships?
  4. Market yourself?
  5. Meet and negotiate?

Until you have these capabilities, a successful job-hunt will prove elusive. Like in basic training, drill to gain proficiency. You’ll make mistakes. So make sure you have a mentor with military and civilian life success. That way he can help you improve. Then you can achieve mastery through on the job… hunt training.

My free guide will help you get started. The military taught you how to prepare for a new challenge. Follow its guidance. Train for the challenges of reintegration and finding a high-paying job.

Which step is giving you the hardest time?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below

How to Negotiate Salary Using Your Military Pay

2-½ minutes to read

Stories of service members needing food stamps abound. I’m not downplaying people with financial struggles. But there seems to be a view that poverty in the military is widespread. This lowers expectations about the salaries veterans should get in the private sector. People think someone using government help to make ends meet should be happy to make $15 per hour. How do you turn this handicap to a benefit when you negotiate salary?

How to Negotiate Salary Using Your Military Pay

Knowing Your ECS - Equivalent Civilian Salary Can Get You Higher Pay in the Private Sector

The Truth About Military Pay

Most people outside the military don’t understand how our pay works. For junior enlisted, often base pay represents only half or two-thirds of their cash compensation. So even if an HR person checks military pay tables, she’s likely to come up with too low a figure.

Let’s take an example. A married E-3 with two years of service has two children. He lives off base or on a base with privatized housing. His compensation for 2017 looks like this:

Base Salary $2,004.30
Basic Subsistence Allowance 368.29
Basic Housing Allowance 1,179.00
TOTAL – MONTHLY $3,551.59
TOTAL – ANNUAL $42,619.08

Now to be sure, that’s below the $56,516 median income for a family of four. Yet, because the allowances aren’t taxable, he’ll pay no income taxes.

Exemptions and the standard deduction mean $28,800 of his income wouldn’t be taxable even as a civilian. If the other $18,000 were taxable, he’d have to pay $1,057 in FICA and $1,410 in federal income taxes. To stay even with his military pay, his Equivalent Civilian Salary (ECS) would have to be:

$42,619.08 + 1,057 + 1410 = $45,086.08

If he had to pay state income taxes the amount would be higher. That works out to over $22 per hour based on a 40-hour week. That’s three times the federal minimum wage and double California’s higher rate.

Like what you're reading? Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I'll send you a FREE gift as a thank you. Click here to subscribe.

This doesn’t include family separation allowance and incentive pay.

Use Your Military Pay as a Base to Negotiate Salary

I tried several websites that translate from military to civilian pay. For example, USAA has one available to members. But, it calculated lower figures than what I got. I’m guessing it doesn’t adjust for allowances being non-taxable. So I put together my own that you can access here. If you have any questions let me know.

Once you have your ECS you can see how it compares to salaries for the types of jobs want. For example, let’s say you were a 91B – Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic in the Army. The median salary for a similar position in the private sector, diesel mechanic, is $50,865. Salaries range from $43,776 to $55,844.   This data came from

The above E3 can make a strong case for higher than the minimum salary based on past compensation alone. Depending on his level of skill he may do much better.

If you were an E6, your ECS is almost $62,600. That’s higher than the maximum for a diesel mechanic. Your leadership ability qualifies you as a foreman or supervisor. So knowing your ECS will help you determine your Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

You qualify for a private sector salary similar to or higher than your military pay. If you’ve been told otherwise, re-examine your UVP. Get started now!

Were you surprised by your ECS?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below ↓

Get More Ideas Like These for Firing Up Your Life and a FREE Bonus!


  • The wisdom of Scripture
  • Battle-tested ideas from the military
  • Profitable business concepts

to design a better life for you and your family!

Plus, you'll get a FREE bonus, my 49 Day Challenge to Refine Your Character!