Category Archives: Transitions

How to Cut Through the Baloney of Job-Hunting

The Only 5 Steps You Need to Take to Get a High-Paying Job

3 minutes to read

Almost two-thirds of veterans say transition assistance programs are at best somewhat helpful for job-hunting. So you know the process is broken. Many complaints focus on a one size fits all training when veterans have a broad range of experience and needs. Others address the lack of civilian-world experience and success among the trainers. Both point to a bigger issue.

How to Cut Through the Baloney of Job-Hunting

It’s Time to Acknowledge the Truth

I’ve written before about how the process taught in transition assistance training wastes veterans’ time. But the problem is much larger.

Veteran transition experts agree on what steps you need to take to be successful in today’s job market. Yet, despite clear evidence that transition training doesn’t work, they’re reluctant to stand up and say so. Remember when humvees had insufficient armor to withstand an IED? Finally, someone had the courage to say this is wrong and must change. We’re at the same place with transition programs.

The military doesn't have the expertise to train service members to become civilians. Its skill works in the opposite direction, turning civilians into warfighters.

Another problem. I bet you hate purchasing something from a company only to be told you have to go to elsewhere when it doesn’t work. Yet the current transition system does just that. Your service branch trains you for reintegrating to civilian life. Then it hands you your DD-214 and its responsibility ends.

If the training doesn’t work, you have no recourse to the provider.

Changing the system will help our fellow veterans who are still on active duty. But until that time, or if you’re already out, you need a solution now.

You Only Need to Take These 5 Job-Hunting Steps

All carping aside, let’s get you clear on what you have to do. These are the only 5 steps you have to take if you want a high-paying job:

  1. Develop a clear, compelling purpose and mission for your life and make goals to execute them.
  2. Establish your Unique Value Proposition. It will turn your military service into high-paying, meaningful work.
  3. Evaluate the depth and quality of your network. Then use and expand it to create the relationships you need.
  4. Target employers where you can maximize your UVP and effectively market to them.
  5. Properly prepare for meetings and negotiations.

You control every one of these job-hunting steps. You…

  • Decide what you want to do and why.
  • Figure out the most lucrative place to put your skills, knowledge, and experience to work.
  • Develop relationships with people who can and want to help you.
  • Choose the companies you want to work for.
  • Go into a meeting to discuss a job as a professional.

There’s no guesswork involved. You don’t need to spam the Internet with your resume and pray you’ll get an interview. People who follow these 5 steps and are part of a group that has proper mentorship usually get a job they want in 90 days. Did you learn this in transition assistance? I didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying these steps are easy to do. You can’t behave the way most job-hunters do, search for work an hour a day and watch television for three or more. You’ll have to stretch yourself. And, the process spirals so as you complete each step you learn how to do a previous step better.

The sad fact is your service branch let you down. But you wouldn’t expect a deep-sea fisherman to train you in computer network troubleshooting. It makes no sense to task commanding officers with something they don't know how to do. Since the military didn’t train you in these job-hunting steps you’ll have to find another source that will. I’ll get you started. Download my 5-Steps Checklist.

At least now you know what to look for. If an organization or coach wants to help you but doesn’t start by outlining these five steps, move on. Since this SOP works for 86% of civilians, it’ll work for you.

How are you getting the training you need to find the job you want?

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You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bo – Exodus 10:1-13:16

Back during the first week of 2013, I injured my back, got bronchitis, dropped and broke my computer, and rear-ended another driver. Like other times when everything went haywire, I started wondering what G-d wanted from me? If He would let up I could get back on track. Then it hit me. I had become Pharaoh in Parshas Bo:

So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: ‘So said the Lord, G-d of the Hebrews, for how much longer will you refuse to be humbled before Me?’ (Shemos/Exodus 10:3).

You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the final three plagues that convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. G-d makes Nissan the first month of the year. He commands the Children of Israel to perform the Pesach, the Passover Offering.

Then, the Almighty brings the Exodus.

The parsha ends with the mitzvahs of consecrating first-born animals, redeeming a first-born son, and tefilin.

Arrogance Is the Root of Most Evil

Come with me on a tour of the wreckage of Egypt. Pharaoh and his people lived through:

  1. All their water turning into blood.
  2. Frogs swarming their homes, even in their bread.
  3. Lice infesting their bodies.
  4. Hoards of wild beasts overrunning their land.
  5. Pestilence killing their livestock.
  6. Agonizing boils all over their bodies.
  7. Hail devastating their orchards and crops.

This group of catastrophes makes the worst day I’ve ever had seem outstanding. So it seems inconceivable that Pharaoh remained stubborn.  Only one force in nature could do it. Arrogance. Pharaoh refused to humble himself.

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Letting the Israelites go out into the desert meant submitting to G-d’s will. This takes humility. Time and again Pharaoh remained arrogant. All he had to do was say go and stand by his decision. Instead, his vanity destroyed his people and himself.

Use Humility to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Arrogance takes many forms including:

  • Power trips
  • Rude behavior
  • Brooding about minor insults
  • Know it all attitude
  • Refusing to adapt

You’ve met people who suffer for their arrogance. They must retaliate for even the slightest indignity. By contrast, someone who has internalized humility treats insults like water on a duck’s back. They roll off unnoticed.

You may have a friend or colleague who insists on winning every disagreement. He rarely if ever apologizes for giving offense. The humble person asks forgiveness even for an unintended slight or wrong. Who has the better life?

When you accept inappropriate behavior or limits you’re saying:

  • I’m so smart (or stupid) no one can teach me anything.
  • I’m perfect the way I am.

A modest person recognizes his shortcomings and seeks out ways to overcome them. False modesty is a form of arrogance. It denies the inherent ability of every human being to change.

Alan Axelrod’s biography on General George Patton relates an incident when Patton was a young 2nd Lieutenant. He used the word damn to curse a soldier who had not done a job properly. A short while later he thought better of it. He gathered all the people who might have heard the curse and apologized to the soldier. This was the first of many instances for which he won the respect and loyalty of his men.

Patton voluntarily, publicly, and sincerely apologized for the infamous slapping incidents. Because he believed in G-d, Patton worked all his life to restrain his arrogance.

Arrogance closes you off from solutions to the challenges you face. It destroys relationships. But I have good news for you. If you’ve read this far you met my arrogance challenge. Some people will react to the headline by saying, “You’re right. I’m not even going to read it.” You took the road of learning and growth. Next time you confront a challenge, you won’t sabotage yourself. You know the road of learning and growth is open to you.

Question – What techniques do you suggest for curbing arrogance?

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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. It is named after 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!

How to Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Make Growth in These Two Areas Your Obsession

2-½ minutes to read

Feeling bombarded with advice on becoming more successful? I’m hip. With Christmas and New Year over, ‘tis the season for personal development. And that’s fine. But so much of the guidance contradicts itself. These days you’re told to set goals rather than make New Year’s resolutions. But others say setting goals will demoralize you. Here’s my favorite dilemma. Should you focus on building up your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses? Allow me to cut through the static so you have simple, actionable steps to apply to your life now.

How to Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Distinguish Among the Realms of Your Life

Have you seen the movie Nuns on the Run? Eric Idle and Robbie Coltrane play thieves masquerading as nuns to hide from a gang who wants to kill them. In one priceless scene, Coltrane tries to answer the question of how G-d can be One and also a Trinity. It’s like how you are one person embodying physical, mental, and spiritual domains.

As a runner, I’ve learned to achieve top performance by combining hard physical training with a determined attitude. At times, with mind and body integrated, I reach a spiritual connection to my surroundings. I remember the transcendent experience of a late summer run along Puget Sound. Running in the snow at Camp Fuji in the shadow of Japan’s highest mountain gave me a similar sense.

At the same time, there are different ways to train for physical and mental resilience.

You can increase your physical stamina without improving your mental focus. Think about the last time you did a boring activity like running on a treadmill. Likewise, you can create a distraction-free environment that will increase your focus. But it won’t increase your physical strength or endurance.

You could practice mindfulness while on the treadmill. But the need to be aware of not falling off tends to interrupt your focus. You could stand on a balance board while working at a standup desk. But staying balanced will intrude on your work.

Even though they’re not integrated, you will benefit from training that isolates the physical and mental domains.

Keep this principle in mind as we simplify personal development.

Perpetually Reach Greater Success

Perhaps as an offshoot of science, coaches seem to be looking for a unified theory of self-improvement. Some recommend you build only on your strengths. Others insist you work solely on overcoming your weaknesses. Each applies his theory to the physical, mental, and spiritual domains. By following either one, you sacrifice gains in one domain for no gains in another.

Two main areas will impact your professional success:

  1. Skills, knowledge, and experience
  2. Character

The first one is obvious. The second one includes issues such as punctuality, relationship building, and maintaining your reputation.

Unless you have a glaring omission in your skills, knowledge, or experience, focus on building your strengths. The job market pays a premium for expertise. Strive for top-level ability in what you’re best at now. This will benefit you more than middle-level ability in more skills.

With character, usually shortcomings are what hold back your career progression. If you have trouble getting to work on time or you procrastinate you need to overcome these weaknesses to succeed. Conquer them with action-taking and learning to network well.

Become obsessed with growing your professional strengths and overcoming character weaknesses. Your success will spiral ever higher each time you make ground with one or the other.

Which do struggle more to deal with - Growing your professional strengths or overcoming character weaknesses?

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The Truth Is Logic Prevents Success

How to Break Through the Confines of Rational Thinking

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shemos – Exodus 1:1-6:1

My mom spent her career in bookkeeping and accounting. Even as a kid, I knew she didn’t like it. Now retired, she feels she can pursue her passion. My mom has always wanted to be a writer. Her father taught art at Yale University. His paintings adorn the walls of all the families’ homes. Her younger sister has published a book. But logic dominated her work life. She had to support a family. Maybe if I’d understood Parshas Shemos sooner I could have convinced her to take a different path:

"Now the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives…and the second one’s name Puah." (Shemos/Exodus 1:15)

The Truth Is Logic Prevents Success

This Sabbath’s parsha begins the second book of the Torah. A new Pharaoh reigns over Egypt and enslaves the Israelites. He declares all male infants will be killed. Moses is born and Pharaoh’s daughter raises him, nursed by his own mother. He flees to Midian after killing an Egyptian to save a fellow Hebrew’s life. There he meets and marries Zipporah, the daughter of Reuel, also known as Jethro, the priest of Midian.

Moses encounters an angel in a burning bush. G-d appoints him as His messenger to obtain the release of the Children of Israel. Reluctant, Moses bows to the Almighty’s will. He leaves Midian for Egypt. Aaron, his older brother, meets him on the way and becomes his partner in dealing with Pharaoh. They have their first meeting with him. Rather than agreeing to their demands Pharaoh makes the enslavement harsher.

Logic Can Be Harsher Than Reality

The Israelite men despaired over Pharaoh’s decree requiring their newborn sons be thrown into the Nile. Amram, the leader of the Hebrew judicial system and Moses’s father, felt hopeless. He concluded logically they should stop procreating since this only would cause needless death. Amram divorced his wife and became celibate.

Because of his stature, the Israelite men followed suit. Despite the miraculous population increase during the initial phase of the enslavement, reason dictated to the men that they stop having children rather than letting half of them be killed.

Along comes Puah, who we later meet as Miriam, Moses’s older sister. She respectfully reproves her father. Pharaoh, she notes, only wanted to destroy their sons. Her father’s example, followed by all the men, means no daughters either.

Perhaps, says Puah, the people will keep their faith in G-d. If so, they may not listen to the evil Pharaoh. But as a righteous leader, they will follow Amram’s precedent.

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To his credit, Amram accepts Puah’s rebuke and remarries his wife. The procreative lives of the Israelites restart.

Constraining Yourself Through Logic

G-d will let you construct a rational argument to limit yourself. We see this when the Israelites are at the Reed Sea. Trapped between an impassable body of water and the Egyptian army they cry in despair. G-d stands by and lets them remain in their “prison” built from logic.

Then Nachshon decides to take action. He walks into the Reed Sea up to his nose. Against all logic, the Almighty parts the water. The Israelites escape annihilation.

You can constrain yourself using logic to:

  • Avoid hard work. Aspiring to a more successful life takes soul searching and tremendous effort. It’s much easier to employ logic to convince yourself you’ve reached your limits.
  • Protect yourself from disappointment. Reaching for success means at times you’ll fail. You can shelter yourself from pain by building a rational case for not trying.
  • Justify a pessimistic view. If you have challenges that held back relatives or friends you may reason success will evade you too.
  • Reinforce negative belief. You may believe that dreams only come true for a select few. And you’re not among them. People will be happy to support this disempowering belief with “facts.”

Hopefully, you have a Puah who will reframe your life. If not, do it yourself.

Whether you strive for success or not, unshackle yourself by knowing:

  • You can work for someone else’s dream or your own. You get to choose.
  • Setbacks are unavoidable. Confront them on your terms.
  • You are unique. No one else’s experience can dictate the results of your life.
  • Motivation comes in many forms. When you were a kid, remember how committed you were to doing something your parents prohibited?

Amram left faith out of the equation. Don't make the same mistake.

G-d will allow logic to prevent your success. The Almighty will also help you transcend rationality on your way to building a brilliant life.

What logical argument are you using to restrain your success?

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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. It is named after 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!

How to Gain the Edge Presenting Your Skills to a Civilian

The Best Free Tools for Bridging the Language Barrier

3-½ minutes to read

When you talk to civilians about your military experiences do you feel like a foreigner? You say something and you get that head nod. It’s the one indicating comprehension while the eyes tell you the person doesn’t know what you’re talking about. That’s what you face when job-hunting after military service. The vast majority of civilians have never heard of a military occupation code (MOC). They have no idea what you did.

How to Gain the Edge Presenting Your Skills to a Civilian

You Have to Learn “Civilianese” for Presenting Your Skills

Some military jobs, like hospital corpsman and medic, have clear private sector equivalents. But most, like infantryman and boatswain’s mate, have nothing similar in the civilian world. And, just because you served in a medical capacity doesn’t mean you want to continue doing so.

Like civilians not knowing military terminology, most service members can’t convert a skill, such as breaking down and cleaning an M-16, into valuable private sector expertise. Yet your ability to get a high-paying job will in large part come from just that process.

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To help you, I looked at the most prominent military skills translators. Here’s my assessment of if and how they can help you.

Tools for Bridging the Language Barrier

Skills translators break down into four types from least to most useful:

  1. Job board
  2. Occupation matcher
  3. Occupation matcher with detailed information
  4. Skills translator

They’re all free and easy to use. But, as I discuss below, those in categories 1 and 2 have little practical value.

Category 1 - Job Board:

Military.com Military Skills Translator asks for your service branch and MOS, AFSC, or rating. It returns a list of related jobs.

TAOnline.com MOS Code to Civilian Occupation Translator and Stars and Stripes MOS Code to Civilian Occupations Translator are identical. I don’t know if they’re using the same software vendor or one has licensed the other’s. Suffice to say they request the same input, MOC, and give you the same output, a list of available jobs. These two have an interim step confirming your military job whereas Military.com goes straight to the jobs.

All are better than a regular job board where you would have to input a job description. But other than that, like all job boards, they’re a waste of time. Only a small percentage of people get a job using job boards. As well, they treat everyone in a MOC the same.

Category 2 – Occupation Matcher:

Department of Labor CareerOneStop Military to Civilian Occupation Translator asks for your MOC and returns a list of occupations. Because it gives such limited information don’t waste your time using it.

Category 3 – Occupation Matcher with Detailed Information:

O*Net Online Military Crosswalk Search asks for your service branch and MOC. It returns occupation matches. When you click on one of the occupations, you get:

  • Detailed Tasks – a list of the duties you would perform
  • Tools & Technology – that you’ll use
  • Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities - required for the job
  • Work activities
  • Work Context – the environment in which you’ll work
  • Job Zone - the preparation you need to qualify for the job including an SVP Code summarizing the level of preparation difficulty
  • Education – typical education level of people holding the job
  • Credentials – you need
  • Interests – the characteristics of a person the job will satisfy
  • Work Styles
  • Work Values
  • Related Occupations - note those with a “Bright Outlook”
  • Wage & Employment Trends
  • Sources of Additional Information

Such comprehensive data gives you a broad and deep picture of a particular job. Spend some time using this tool. The biggest negative comes from not treating you as an individual. You’ll have to research various jobs and decide which ones your unique skills and experiences best qualify you for.

Category 4 – Skills Translator:

Vets.gov Military Skills Translator is the only actual skills translator. You input your service branch, MOC, code status, and code category. It gives you a group of skills in civilian language. You can use this group, and ones you add to it, in the Resume Builder function on the website.

O*Net gives you a lot of information. But think about what happens when you’re in a meeting to discuss a job (a.k.a. interview). When asked why you’re qualified, do you say, “Because I plugged my MOC into O*Net and out popped this job”? Vets.gov gives you crucial data you need to create your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), which is the heart and soul of your self-marketing effort.

One caution, I input the same MOC into the skills translator three times and got three different groups of skills. You should do the same thing. Have it generate several sets of data. Then analyze each skill to determine whether it applies to you.

Next Step

O*Net and Vets.gov give you powerful free tools for constructing your UVP. Combine them with what you’re passionate to do. Now you have a path to the kind of job you’ll love. Get started now.

Where are you stuck figuring out your Unique Value Proposition?

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