Category Archives: Transitions

How to Focus Your Job-Hunt Marketing

Why You Need to Learn to Hate Vanilla

2 minutes to read

Tell me if this situation makes sense. Your car breaks down and you have it towed to your mechanic. A couple of hours later he calls and you ask, “Can you fix it?” Responding, he says, “I have 10 years experience repairing Fords and eight years experience fixing Hondas.” But that didn't answer your question. Shouldn't he have told you what the problem is and how he’s going to fix it? Most job-hunters make this same mistake.

How to Focus Your Job-Hunt Marketing

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Last week I coached a veteran who hasn't gotten any traction with his job-hunt. He’s decided to relocate because he sees better job prospects in a different place. Yet, the state where he lives now outpaces the rest of the country in job growth. His target state has had flat job growth this year.

This vet has solid skills, accomplishments, and leadership ability. At meetings to discuss jobs, hiring managers have told him he has what they need. Yet, he hasn’t received a single job offer. He says he needs a degree. But companies like Google and Ernst & Young don't require one.

His real problem: He’s forgettable.

Without an inside contact, he has no ally keeping him front of mind with the hiring manager. And he leaves out the other crucial ingredient for any job-hunt interaction.

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People remember and love stories. Yet he doesn't tell any. Nor does he use memorable language to highlight the value he’ll bring to a company. In short, hiring managers don't care if a competitor hires him. They don't feel the loss.

Resolve to Be Competitive

A person acts in one of two ways: moving toward a reward or moving away from fear. You may think this only applies to children. But adults carry a bias toward one of these throughout their lives. How do you know which one will motivate a particular hiring manager?

You don’t. So you’ll have to approach him from both. Give him an unforgettable presentation of your value to the organization. If reward drives him, he’ll hire you for how you’ll increase profits. If fear drives him, he’ll hire you so his competitor won’t.

Focus your self-marketing on answering the question: “What will make this company afraid its rival will hire me?”

The United States gathers intelligence about our enemies so we can exploit their weaknesses. It also helps us influence our allies to remain loyal. Our enemies do the same to us. Use this strategy for your job-hunt.

The answer doesn’t lie in a degree or your training and skills. All these are commonplace. Rather, know the challenges an organization and its competitors face. When you know its vulnerabilities, a company will want you on its side. If you know where its rivals struggle, it will want your help exploiting these weaknesses.

Develop relationships with people who will explain the challenges in your field. People like to talk about their areas of interest. Always stand ready with two or three questions that will enhance your industry knowledge. When you have the opportunity, ask them.

Most people won't do this hard work. Put in the time and effort. Don’t be plain vanilla. Be Moose Tracks. Then you’ll get a job you’ll love.

How do you gain intel about your chosen field?

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How to Identify the Source of Your Struggles

Who Are Your Strong Allies for a Smooth Transition?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Korach – Numbers 16:1-18:32

Unlike the military, the civilian world does not have one culture. Each service branch has distinctions. But, they're more similar than different. Many subcultures make up American society. They diverge, even clash. None of them match the military. Sometimes transitioning feels like living in a foreign country. If the stakes weren’t so high, you could be forgiven for throwing your hands up and declaring the situation hopeless. And it’s not just finding a job.

How to Identify the Source of Your Struggles

The Many Faces of Reintegration

After getting a job, the challenges keep mounting. You have to adapt to a new workplace culture. Then your marriage and family need to adjust to different dynamics. Compound that with daily strife and divisiveness. In the military, we build cohesion to grapple with the enemy. Sometimes the civilian world seems to thrive on alienation.

Not long ago, a veteran disputed my assertion that civilians face challenges as difficult for them as military life is for us. He went through a long list of troubles he faced. All related to something civilians had done to him. Anger and resentment seeped from every word.

Among his complaints, he cited potential employers who assumed he had psychological issues. Sad to say, such ranting might cause a company to draw such a conclusion. Nothing I could do would change his perspective.

Of course, people make false connections all the time. The story following the rebellion in Parshas Korach comes to mind:

Moses said to Aaron, take your fire-pan and place on it fire from the Altar and put on it incense. (Numbers/Bamidbar 17:11)

The ground swallows Korach, Dathan, and Abiram, the three primary conspirators against Moses and Aaron. Still, the other 250 insurgents won’t stand down. So G-d commands Moses to have them bring an incense offering. When they comply, fire consumes them.

All the Israelites had heard the law saying only a Kohen may bring an incense offering. Korach and his followers were Levites. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the rebels died. Even so, the people complained that Moses and Aaron killed them. The Almighty brings a plague to punish Israelites for their wanton misperception.

Aaron brings an incense offering to stop the plague. He shows the Israelites the false connection between incense and death. You might think at this point the people would re-examine their conclusions. But later events show they continue to make false connections.

How Civilians are Like Incense

My complaining commenter behaved like the Israelites. He connected his troubles to civilians. Yet, they are the ones who can help him change his situation.

Civilians do the hiring. Unless he intends to make no new friends, they’ll be his social circle. If he doesn't have access to a military base, they’ll provide his health care. Civilians will sell him his food, clothing, and everything else.

The Israelites falsely connected incense with death. In reality, it sustained life. Death came from taking the wrong actions. Any of the insurgents could have refused to bring the incense offering and been spared.

Civilians are the solution, not the enemy. But you have to be careful how you deal with them. If you mistreat them, they’ll burn you. Would we veterans act differently? By taking personal responsibility for all the challenges of reintegration, you’ll join forces with civilians in creating an outstanding life for you and your family.

How do you view civilians?

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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!

The Bottom Line on the Value of Your Military Skills

Do You Know Which Are More Valuable in the Private Sector?

2-½ minutes to read

Pilot or aircraft maintainer – who has the more valuable job? Most people say the pilot. After all, the cost to get a military pilot through basic flight training is $1 million. It can cost as much as $9 million to reach operational effectiveness. I’ve based these figures on a 1999 study. The most recent I could find. Since it costs perhaps $200,000 to train a maintainer, most people must be right. Except they're wrong.

The Bottom Line on the Value of Your Military Skills

Cost Doesn't Translate into Value

Early in my real estate career, I learned cost and value don’t connect. A couple had spent $25,000 remodeling their kitchen. But when I appraised their house it added only $15,000 to its value. Oops!

We want to believe that when something costs a lot it has to be more valuable. Think Armani Suits or Jimmy Choo shoes. But the cost to make such goods is a fraction of the selling price. Marketing and snob appeal create a value disconnected from the cost of production.

You see this everywhere today. Media make a compelling case for the death of consumer branding. But of the top 20 consumer brands, 17 increased their value. They have a good reason for working to do so.

A recognized brand can get a premium price for its products and services. Think Apple, Disney, and Samsung. Disney’s brand has translated into the cost to visit Disneyland outstripping inflation by a factor of 40 since the late 1970s.

Pilots carry a similar status. Top Gun became a recruiting godsend for the Navy by making aviators uber-cool. For a century, they’ve been the knights of our society. But there are signs that like the paladins of old, their sunset approaches.

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The rise of unmanned aerial vehicles has changed the game.

When Prestige Doesn’t Create Value

The high cost of training a pilot and operating manned aircraft are the very issues that make their future value uncertain.

You can buy an F-35 for $101 million. It costs $35,000 to operate it for an hour. Contrast this with a UAV. The Predator costs $13 million and $1,500 respectively. At eight times the price and 23 times the flight hour cost, the F-35 is expensive. And that doesn't count the human cost if a pilot crashes or is shot down.

As the percentage of the military’s budget for personnel and training continues to climb, you can bet it will work to reign in these expenses. Eliminating 1,000 pilots, less than 4%, would save the defense budget $9 billion in training costs alone. That amounts to a 1.5% of the DOD’s budget.

While the military has incentives to reduce the number of pilots, what about the civilian side? How much money could Fedex save by converting their small aircraft to UAVs? What about UPS? I use cargo carriers as an example because packages won't get nervous without a human in the cockpit. But airline legacy carriers struggle to survive. In the meantime, newer ones form that offer lower pilot compensation.

Many former military pilots have found their civilian job prospects less rosy than they used to be. The median pay for commercial pilots is $77,200. Salaries for new hires at regional airlines range from $50,000 to $60,000.

Enter the “lowly” maintainer. Does it matter whether he works on a manned or unmanned aircraft? Hardly. They both have to be ready to fly. The aircraft maintainer who stays ahead of the knowledge curve will always be in demand. The median pay for an aircraft mechanic is $81,862. The lowest 10% make $61,624 or less.

Examine the value of your military skills, leadership ability, and accomplishments. Don't fall into the cost versus value trap. Create your Unique Value Proposition based on a clear analysis of how you can best use them to get a job you’ll love.

Are you clear about the value of your skills?

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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!”

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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?

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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 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?

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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?

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