Category Archives: Transitions

How to Get Trapped Doing Work You Hate

Do You Think You Deserve a Great Job?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayeitzei – Genesis 28:10-32:3

You never have to negotiate your military salary. For that matter, all the terms of employment are set. In the private sector, almost everything is open for discussion. Many veterans get fooled into thinking if they get a great compensation package, civilian life will be outstanding. Others take the first job offered them out of desperation. Then reality hits…

 How to Get Trapped by Work You Hate

Employers Will Entice You

The “if they pay me enough I can put up with anything” attitude is seductive. Even the wisest people have taken the first job offered them. In Parshas Vayeitzei, Jacob falls into this trap:

“And he [Laban] said, specify your wage to me and I will give it.” (Beresheis/Genesis 30:28)

After working seven years so he could marry Rachel, Jacob found Laban had tricked him. The morning after his wedding he woke up with Leah. Still hopelessly in love with Rachel, he agreed to work another seven years to earn her. You would think that would have been all the proof he needed to leave his father-in-law’s employ.

But when Laban told Jacob to name his price, he took the bait. The next six years required constant vigilance so he didn't get cheated. Finally, he couldn’t take any more. He gathered up his wives and children and fled.

Continuing to work for Laban may have seemed like the smart or easy play. Why take the risk of having to find another employer or going out on his own? Maybe his wives pressured him. After all, what could be more secure than having their husband work for daddy?

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But after 20 years, Jacob had had it. And when Laban confronted him, he exploded with indignation.

Rationalizing Taking a Crummy Job

Let’s be honest, money can buy happiness. Or at least you can get enough stuff so you overlook being miserable. But money can't buy a sense of purpose, mission, or fulfillment. If your job pays well but offers nothing else, you’re in a test of wills with your employer. How much will you put up with before you can’t stand another minute and quit?

Taking the first post-military job offered may seem like the right move. But half of veterans quit their job during the first year. They feel no sense of mission, especially compared to the military. Is it any wonder they hate what they’re doing?

Do you still have lots of time before you leave active duty? Are you struggling after leaving your first civilian job? Or are you somewhere between? The stage of your transition doesn't matter.

Consider…

  1. How important is finding meaningful employment?
  2. What kind of work fits with your revised purpose and mission as you enter the private sector?
  3. How do your answers to the first two questions impact your thinking about compensation?

If decide to maximize your income at the expense of meaning:

  1. How much will you need to earn to put up with the drudgery and maltreatment?

Jacob thought he had good reasons for working for Laban. It’s true he got to marry the woman he adored. But he never had a good relationship with Leah. Numerous stories attest to the contentiousness of his later life. Jacob had to learn how to outwit Laban instead of engaging in more satisfying pursuits.

You don't need to work for an unscrupulous employer doing mind-numbing work. Take the time to think through your responses to these four questions. Have the patience to figure out your Unique Value Proposition that will lead you to a job you love.

Are you doing work you hate for a supervisor who’s a jerk?

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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. 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 How to Ace a Meeting for a Job?

How to Get Hiring Managers on Your Side

2-½ minutes to read

Last week I took my redeployers (the people who come to WTP) to Koblenz. Before the Nazis came to power, 800 Jews lived there. Only twenty-two survived the war. I felt some trepidation as I walked the streets of the city. While window-shopping, I found a store with solid wood hangars at less than a Euro each. I went inside…

Do You Know How to Ace a Meeting for a Job_

Connecting Can Entail a Bit of Risk

The shopkeeper hovered over me as I looked around his shop. He spoke to me in German when I picked up a VW Beetle keychain. No sprechen sie Deutsch, I replied. When I settled in front of the hangars, he struggled to explain the price to me.

At the register, I bent forward to reach my wallet. That’s when he saw my yarmulke. Juden? he asked. I froze for a moment, unsure what to do. But what choice did I have? Ya, Juden, I said. A huge smile came over his face. Pointing to himself he declared, “Me Juden!” A wave of relief flooded over me.

For the next twenty-five minutes, we conversed. My new friend was from Italy. He spoke German, Italian, and some of French. I spoke English, ten words of German, a bit of French, and some Spanish. At times we pantomimed. Despite the language gap, Enrico and I understood each other.

Having connected, we weer glad to help each other. We covered substantive and trivial issues. He told me the best places to see the Rhein and the Moselle rivers. He let me know the safe places to travel in France. I helped him learn a little Hebrew. He seemed to draw confirmation of his identity from this Navy rabbi showing up in his store.

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All this grew out of our risking making a connection.

4 Four Ways to Create Rapport

You have the same primary task at a meeting for a job. Connect with the hiring manager. If you cannot do so, nothing else that happens will matter much. It can seem daunting to relate to someone so quickly. A few simple techniques will make it easier:

1. Starting Points. Geography, previous employment, alma maters, cultural touch points, life stages, and interests. All create connections. Are you from the same state or town? Were you both in the military? Did you go to the same school or were you crosstown rivals? Do you share the same religious denomination? Are your children similar in age?

2. Inside Contact. Ask your inside contact for some basic information about the hiring manager. After greeting each other and sitting down, bring up something that interests you in his background. The phrase, “I understand that…” is useful when asking for details. Say he rides a motorcycle. Try, “I understand you ride a motorcycle. What kind of bike do you have?”

3. LinkedIn and Online Biography. Check his profile on LinkedIn and the organization’s website. Look for information on schools, causes, and interest. Where do they intersect with yours?

4. Look for Connection Points in His Office. If you can't find any information in advance, give a quick glance around his office. What do you see that sparks your interest? Are there photographs of a fishing trip? Try this phrase. “Oh, I see you're into fishing. Where were these pictures taken?”

People like to talk about their passions. Make a connection by showing genuine interest. Once you’ve created some rapport, you stand a much better chance of having a successful meeting.

 

Do you have trouble breaking the ice at a meeting?

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What Do You Do When Someone Disrespects You?

How to Handle a Hostile Civilian

1-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Toldos – Genesis 25:19-28:9

The sailors who come to WTP Sembach agree that civilians appreciate our sacrifices. When they say, “Thank you for your service,” they mean it. But what do we make of the small numbers who attack us?

What Do You Do When Someone Disrespects You-

Fear Hinders Advancement

People who hate service members like to get into your face. Such disrespect shows can’t reason with them. But if you understand one of their motivations, you can learn to ignore them. Parshas Toldos explains:

“And Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us for you have become much mightier than we!’” (Bereshis/Genesis 26:16)

A famine forced Isaac to go live in Abimelech’s kingdom in Gerar. There his wealth increased a hundredfold. He bought huge flocks of sheep and goats. He acquired many businesses. As a result, the Philistines chose to envy him.

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They didn't have to be jealous. They could have learned from Isaac. Had they adopted his practices or faith, G-d might have enriched them too. Fear caused them to overlook the path to a better life.

Fight Your Anger with Pity

Watching a movie or TV show that portrayed actual military life would bore most people to tears. So unless you’re in it, you don't know what it's like. Nonetheless, most civilians choose to treat us respectfully. They may be atoning for the way Vietnam veterans were treated. We still benefit.

For a minority of civilians, the unknown creates fear. They know what we do is hard. Sometimes it’s dangerous. They can’t do what we do. Rather than learning about our work, they treat us like Abimelech treated Isaac. “Go away!” Without saying we’re mightier than them, they expose their weakness. Their attacks have nothing to do with us. They’re an expression of self-doubt.

Instead of getting angry, consider how sad these people are. Too afraid to learn something new, they lash out. We’ve never hurt them. But they seek to demean us and our service. We should pity them. Like the Philistines, fear has caused them to overlook the path to a better life. From that perspective, you can ignore them.

Has a civilian accosted you?

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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. 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 Improve Resilience with Every Task?

How Botched Undertakings Lead to Success

4 minutes to read

Guten tag. You may not have heard. But a couple of weeks ago the Navy deployed me to the Warrior Transition Program in Sembach, Germany. My last active duty time was two years ago. A funny thing happened on the way to reintegrating to military life…

Do You Improve Resilience with Every Task-

My Bungled Cross-Country Run

Reservists and individual augmentees who have been in AFRICOM and CENTCOM come to WTP on their way home. The Navy calls our program a Third Location Decompression point. Sailors can catch up on sleep, learn about the transition process, and make plans for the future.

Among other duties, I go with the participants on trips off base. One trip takes place on Saturday, for me the Sabbath. So I can’t ride the bus there. I also can't ride a bike or horse. In other words, I have to walk.

Kaiserslautern is 13 kilometers from the base. Now I often run 8 miles. So last Tuesday I decided to make a test run there. I printed out a map and hit the road. The weather was great – cool with the sun shining. After three miles I had run through the villages of Sembach and Melighen. The trouble began.

German roads aren't marked. So I had no idea that when I hit the outskirts of Melighen I was already off course. A short time later, the road turned into a wide dirt path. Crops and paddocks of horses lined both sides. Rain the night before meant concentrating on avoiding huge mud puddles.

At the six-mile mark, I came to a crossroads. Realizing I was off my mapped course, I decided to ask for directions. Then I realized my German was limited to what I learned watching Hogan’s Heroes.

I came up with a plan. I’d interrupt a hiker with bitte (please). Then I’d name my destination and point in a direction. If the person responded yah, that’s the direction I’d go. If he said nein, I’d point toward the other one and repeat, “Kaiserslautern?” Soon a lady came walking toward me.

Me: “Bitte, Kaiserslautern?” pointing the way she had come. A quizzical look came over her face.
Her: “Yah, Kaiserslautern,” pointing behind her. Bingo, I was on the right track.
Me: “Danke!” (Thank you!) Off I ran confidently.

Two more crossroads necessitated further exercises of my limited German. The third was with a man walking four big dogs that eyed me hungrily and barked so loud we could hardly hear each other. He appeared perplexed as he tried to figure out how to direct me. Finally, he pointed me down the road at what I realized was a town.

Since my Fitbit showed eight miles, I thought this had to be Kaiserslautern. But I wondered at his confusion. Once there, I realized it was too small to be Kaiserslautern. Half a mile down the road, back on a main highway, I came to a sign that read, “Kaiserslautern 11 km.” It pointed to a leaf-covered dirt path blocked by a heavy chain. Discretion got the better of valor. I headed back to the town I had just passed.

Soon, I realized where I was. I had made a huge circular run through the countryside and was back in Melighen. Essentially, I was back to where I’d started.

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It hit me then. I was living the transition nightmare.

4 Takeaways to Apply to Your Transition

My two and a quarter hour run showed me:

1. Get the most precise map available. I’m still not sure where I got off course. The map I downloaded didn't give me enough detail to know. When you travel through new territory you can make a wrong turn without realizing it. You have to get pretty far down the road before you realize your mistake. With lots of waypoints marked on your map, you’ll have a better chance of catching an error sooner.

2. Make sure you can communicate with the people you ask for help. None of the people I asked for directions misled me. After all, I found the road to Kaiserslautern. But I couldn't ask them how far it was or if a pedestrian could traverse the road. A couple of phrases like “How far to Kaiserslautern?” and “Is there a footpath to Kaiserslautern?” would have helped me. Make sure you learn some “civilian” or find a veteran who can translate for you.

3. Learn from not reaching your goal. Though I didn't reach Kaiserslautern, the run was useful. I realized that by car the trip was 13 km. But by foot, it was much longer, even without getting lost. And, I would have to travel on a road with no sidewalk. I won’t meet my goal of walking to Kaiserslautern on the Sabbath. But that’s okay.

4. Be open to new possibilities. My commanding officer got a big laugh at my adventure. She gave me a good-natured “I told you so.” But she respected that I put the program first and made the effort. In the end, since some people don't go on the trip, I’ll spend time with those who stay behind. I’m living one of my most cherished aphorisms.

No doubt they’ll be more amusing lessons coming from the next ten months in Germany. You can be sure I’ll pass them on for your benefit. I’ll also write a few posts about the places I visit. In the meantime, if you're struggling with any of the issues above, or a different one, get in touch. I may not know my way around Germany. But I can help you navigate the transition from military to civilian life.

Where are you stuck or think you’ll get stuck in your transition?
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How to Communicate with Private Sector Employers

Can You Speak So Civilians Will Listen?

2 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Chayei Sarah – Genesis 24:29

Many civilians consider the way we speak to people to be too formal and stiff. What military people think of as respectful can make non-military people uncomfortable. For veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and even Vietnam this divide was small. How do we handle its widening?

How to Communicate with Private Sector Employers

Everyone Used to Speak Formally

The conversational divide didn’t start 40 years ago. For millennia, people have broken the customary rules. Parshas Chayei Sarah records an early example:

“Laban ran to the man, outside to the spring.” (Beresheis/Genesis 24:19)

Abraham sent his servant, Eliezer, to Haran to find a wife for Isaac. When he arrived there, Eliezer encountered Rebecca. Soon he realized G-d had chosen her to marry Isaac. So he gave her valuable gifts of jewelry. Then Rebecca took him to her father’s home to stay overnight. When her brother Laban saw the expensive adornments, he ran to greet Eliezer.

Laban appeared to show hospitality and honor to a guest. But by craving to get close to the wealthy stranger, he disrespected his father. As the leader of his home, Bethuel had the privilege of greeting Eliezer. His son took that away.

You can see military rules come from these ancient roots. Among them, a junior defers to a senior when speaking. This tradition of respect and deference continues. People outside the military used to follow such rules out of politeness. The two realms differed because service members were more direct and used profanity.

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Since the 1970s, fewer people defer to age, education, or other norms when addressing another person. Conversely, civilians swear more than ever before. But these patterns vary by industry and company. How can you figure out what to do?

Know a Company’s Level of Formality

To find out an organization’s manner of speaking, do a little intel gathering. Focus on:

  1. How did the receptionist address you? Did she use your first name or Mr./Ms. and your last name? How was the person you’ll be meeting referred to? Gather clues about the organization’s level of formality by listening to the receptionist.
  2. How do others at the company speak? Don't rely solely on how the receptionist speaks. When you conduct informationals, collect information on what people say and HOW they say it.
  3. Review the organization’s website. How formal is the language? On the pages telling about people who work there, are they referred to by their first name?
  4. Ask your inside contact. If you got the meeting to discuss a job through an insider, talk to the person about how formal the company is.

None of these steps will take you very long. But they’ll provide you with the intelligence you need to know what to do. You may not have to alter your manner of speech. Or you may have to be on your guard to talk in a less formal way.

In general, start by speaking a little more formally than you assess the organization to be. That way, if you’ve assessed the level too informally you can tighten up. Otherwise, plan to relax into a less formal manner as the meeting progresses.

Are you comfortable talking to civilian employers?

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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. 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!

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