Category Archives: Transitions

Want Greater Success? Learn to Tolerate More of This…

What You Want Lies Beyond a Wall of Boredom

2-½ minutes to read

The military holds the promise of an exciting life. If you haven’t seen the latest recruiting commercials take a look. Think of the adrenaline rush from jumping off that airplane. Is there any chance you’ll find being a Marine boring? Both of these pale in comparison to Special Forces. There’s never a dull moment in the military. Yeah, right. If General Military Training doesn’t put you to sleep paperwork will. But hey, it’s the government. You have to expect tedium. The private sector is different.

Want Greater Success? Learn to Tolerate More of This…

The Two Types of Boredom

Growing up not far from Hollywood, the excitement of making movies enthralled me. I had to be a part of it. In the late 1980s, I got my chance. My friend needed a producer for his next project. Count me in!

It didn't take long for reality to hit. Decorating the set. Focusing the lights. Practicing camera movements. Rehearsing the actors. Often it took several hours to set up a shot that took less than a minute to film. As the producer, I had to keep people from getting bored and mischievous to protect my investment.

Since then, I joke about the “glamour” of the film business. Don't get me wrong. Premieres are exciting. But such moments punctuate long periods of tedium.

Of course, it's nothing like the boredom of cold calling. The difference between film production and sales highlights the two types of boredom.

  • Passive Boredom – Sitting around with nothing to do.
  • Active Boredom – Repetitive tasks that aren't exciting.
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Most people can tolerate the first type. You may have trouble relaxing. Still, if your job requires stretches of getting paid to do nothing you can adapt.

How to Overcome Boredom

Active boredom is another story. Having to do dull, repetitive tasks saps most people’s endurance. But you can’t reach a goal without them.

About a month ago I had to start doing abdominal work again. My stomach has gotten too flabby. It is soooooo boring doing crunches and leg lifts. I tried listening to upbeat music while exercising. It didn't help. I had to set an ironclad goal and accept the tedium.

Many job-hunting tasks are boring. Always reaching out to your contacts. Writing lots of thank you notes. Practicing your elevator pitch and what you’ll say in a meeting to get a job. All these can tax your patience. I can understand why you just want the thrill of getting the job. But these boring tasks are what will make that happen.

It won't be different on the job. You’ll have exciting moments. But you’ll spend most of your time on routine work. Yet that’s where you’ll make your biggest impact. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is what matters. That means doing and keeping track of dozens of small, everyday tasks.

Now you can see why it’s important to have a mission and objectives. You need to work in a field you love. If not, it’s too easy to stop doing the boring tasks that take you to your goal.

Don’t let slick videos seduce you into thinking success and excitement go together. If you want to succeed, prepare to buckle down and power through boredom.

What did you do in the military to keep working toward boring goals?

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How to Focus Your Job-Hunt for Best Results

Why the Best Job-Hunters Think Like Entrepreneurs…

1-½ minutes to read

Think about the last time you bought an expensive item. Was it a television or a car? Did a salesman help you decide which one to buy? If he knew what he was doing, he had you describe what you wanted. Then he asked questions and listened while you answered. When he showed you options, he talked about how the features would benefit you. Throughout the sale, he never mentioned what he wanted from the transaction. If he knew his business you left overjoyed with your purchase.

How to Focus Your Job-Hunt for Best Results

Everyone Focuses on His Own Needs

The military always seemed interested in our problems. It’s one of its choicest benefits. The command stepped in officially or shipmates offered their help. Either way, you felt supported. Many private sector companies have adopted this perk. But you don't get it until they hire you.

In civilian life, most people can’t tell you their goals. Few people are pursuing the same mission. In any event, rarely is it about helping veterans. They have their own lives to live.

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When transitioning, you zero in on your biggest need, a job. Civilians focus on their needs. Nobody is selfish. Each person lives in his own world. If you’re smart you’ll use this to your benefit.

The Common Factor

The essence of entrepreneurship lies in figuring out what people need. Then you fill that void. The product doesn’t have to be new or revolutionary. But it has to improve people’s lives.

An astute sales professional knows to focus on the client. He realizes people don't care about his commission. Nor are they concerned with his cash flow or personal problems. Mentioning any of these will turn the client off. He’ll lose any chance at a sale.

When job-hunting, your clients are organizations that make good employers. Focus on finding out what they need. Your skills and abilities (features) must benefit them. Should a salesman trick you into buying the wrong car? Of course not. If you don't have what a company needs, you shouldn’t work there.

Like all sound concepts, it’s simple. Use your job-hunting energy to figure out what companies need. Qualify them the same way a car salesman qualifies you. He won't waste his time on a bad prospect. You shouldn't either. Once you’re convinced you can deliver the benefits, close the sale.

What prevents you from job-hunting by identifying employers you can benefit?

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3 Qualities to Highlight When Job-Hunting

Why It’s Not Enough to Want a Job

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Va’eschanan – Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

If I had to sum up Navy aircraft maintainers in one word it would be tenacious. Day and night, they toiled to make sure planes were ready to launch. They missed meals and skipped doing laundry. “No fly days” didn't mean no maintenance days. Often they didn't have free time until a port call. My Marine Corps fighter squadron had some of the oldest jets in the fleet. Yet they kept them flying. I called them the MacGyvers of the Air Wing.

3 Qualities to Highlight When Job-Hunting

Perseverance Not Perfection

Despite their resolve, most squadrons rarely had 100% of their planes ready to fly. Some matters were beyond their control. Material control struggled to get parts to repair older airplanes. One jet spent our deployment in the hangar. We couldn't get the parts to fix it.

I felt bad for the sailors of its squadron. Everyone on the ship walks through the hangar. They couldn’t disguise this symbol of their seeming defeat. Their plight reminded me of how G-d refused to let Moses enter the land of Israel. In Parshas Va’eschanan he makes a final, poignant plea:

“Let me cross, please, and see this good land that is on the other side of the Jordan…” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 3:25)

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Yet because of one error, the Almighty decreed he would not take His people into the Promised Land. Moses didn't want to die with his mission unfulfilled. He made clear the depth of his desire in this last-ditch appeal to G-d. The answer was no. So Moses soldiered on. He did his utmost to prepare the Children of Israel for their new life even though he would not be part of it.

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The aircraft maintainers in my Air Wing inherited Moses’s determination. They turned the downed jet into a symbol of tenacity by using its parts to keep other planes flying. I’ve seen the same level of commitment among all service members. I cannot say the same thing about any other group.

Don’t Tell Hiring Managers, Show Them

Private sector employers value veterans’ perseverance. They know it’s a rare trait among today’s employees. Embedded in it are two other qualities they want:

  • Self-Disciplined. An integral part of tenacity, you’re not going to call in sick or slacken your effort when the going gets tough.
  • Overcome obstacles. You don't see them as hurdles. They’re what you have to do to get the job done.

You can tell employers you have these qualities. But you’ll have greater impact if you come up with two or three short stories highlighting them. Make them no more than two minutes long. Use this format:

Problem → Consequence of Not Solving It → Your Solution

Make sure at least one of the qualities is obvious. Here’s an example:

We’re in the Persian Gulf flying combat missions into Iraq. We couldn’t fix a fighter jet because there were no spare fuel pumps on the ship. With that plane down our squadron wouldn't be able to execute its part in flight operations the next day. That meant another squadron would have to pick up our slack. We spent the entire day contacting shore-based aircraft maintenance depots and finally found the part we needed. I coordinated with my squadron commanding officer to have it flown to the ship by 8 PM. They I worked with my crew through the night to install, test the jet, and ensure it was ready to fly by launch time.

It doesn't matter if you’re hunting for an aircraft maintenance job. The point of the stories is to prove you have the qualities an employer wants.

Take some time now to think about the times you came through in a clutch situation. Write them out as short stories. Practice saying them until your delivery is smooth but doesn't sound rehearsed.

Unlike Moses, you can attain your ultimate goal. A high-paying job is well within your reach. Companies are desperate for employees with the qualities you developed in the military. Rather than pleading for a job, give vivid proof you have them. Such confidence in your abilities will make a company scared you’ll go to work for its competitor.

When did you exhibit perseverance, self-discipline, and overcoming obstacles?

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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!

3 Reasons Companies Find It Difficult to Hire Veterans

How to Bridge the Military-Civilian Divide

2-½ minutes to read

Imagine upon leaving active duty you go live in China. Only 0.75% of people there speak English. You’d expect some communication problems. You wouldn’t dive into writing your resume. First, you’d learn some basic Chinese so you could speak to hiring managers. Next, you’d gain some cultural knowledge to help people get more comfortable with you. Well, China isn’t the only place where less than 1% of people understand you.

3 Reasons Companies Find It Difficult to Hire Veterans

Most Civilians Don't Know the Real Military

Let’s be honest for a moment. Before joining the military, did you know what a 12Y, 0261, AG, or 3E5X1 did? Even now are you aware they all have similar expertise? Telling a private sector hiring manager their skills relate to Geographic Information Systems won't do much. Proficiency and accomplishments vary by years of service, pay grade, and specific jobs.

A company’s HR people and hiring managers have, at best, a rudimentary understanding of the military’s personnel structure. With five different service branches using five different systems, the complexity becomes overwhelming. Unless a company hires a lot of veterans, it may not feel it can justify the investment to become proficient.

As well, you know the statistics. At any given time, less than 1% of the American population serves in the armed forces. After several rounds of BRAC, the number of bases has shrunk by about 25%. So locations where civilians interact with service members have decreased. Where can private sector hiring managers learn anything significant about the military?

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Most of what civilians know comes from television and movies. How realistic are their impressions of the military?

Take the Time to Educate Hiring Managers

Other issues hamper private sector companies’ inclination to hire veterans. Much of the publicity about the military revolves around combat deployments. So people think most of us were trigger pullers. They know other jobs like pilot and tank commander exist. But their image of us comes down to a disciplined, fit soldier carrying an M-16. They find it hard to imagine how such a person fits into their business.

They also think most veterans have PTSD. Never mind that a similar percentage of civilians suffer from it. Some people fear veterans will exhibit violent behavior. But the majority doesn't know what it means. Like most of us, they hesitate to act when there are things they don’t understand. The message hasn't gotten out that among even those who do have PTSD, most function fine.

Seventy years ago, at the end of World War II, it seems like veterans had it easy. Eight to ten percent of Americans had been in uniform. Almost everyone knew someone in the service. And, private sector business was not as complex as it is today.

But our forebears had their challenges. People making good wages were afraid competition would reduce their pay. Many civilians didn't like the special treatment given by the GI Bill. Others wanted to forget the war.

In a way, transitioning to civilian life has always been like moving to a foreign country. Get fluent explaining your Unique Value Proposition to people who don't speak your language. Prepare to educate your fellow citizens about the military. Be proactive, but subtle, in helping people handle their concerns or fears.

Never doubt that private sector companies want and need you. They just need some help understanding you.

Where else do private sector hiring managers need educating?

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How to Get Respect from Civilians the Easy Way

Do You See Nonmilitary People as the Enemy?

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Devarim – Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22

Some veterans tell me civilians hate them. When somebody thanks them for their service it’s a lie. Private sector companies don't care about hiring veterans. It’s hard to argue the point. Some civilians despise the military and people who served in it. I don't know the people a veteran has met. Maybe they do hate service members.

How to Get Respect from Civilians the Easy Way

Do Civilians Really Hate Service Members?

I couldn’t find a study that quantifies the percentage of Americans who hate the military. I read posts on Quora (an example) and Yahoo Answers (another example) that discuss this issue. Some of the language is crude. But those who expressed negative attitudes rarely directed them at service members.

Have you ever had to tell a friend something he didn't want to hear? It puts the friendship at stake. Still, there comes a point when you have to say something. You wait for the right time. And struggle over the words you’ll use.

Even Moses had to plan for how and when to set the Children of Israel straight in Parshas Devraim:

“You grumbled in your tents and said, ‘Because of G-d’s hatred for us did he take us out from the Land of Egypt, to put us in the hand of the Emorite to destroy us.’” (Deuteronomy/Devarim 1:27)

As he approached death, Moses pointed out the Israelite’s mistakes. Among them, they said their troubles came from the Almighty hating them. But, the charge doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. G-d took them out of slavery. He split the Reed Sea to prevent their annihilation. He fed them in the desert with manna and water. G-d helped them defeat Sihon and Og. And he promised them the land of Israel.

That’s quite a record of generosity.

The Israelites’ complaint stemmed from their hatred of G-d. As good as they had it, life was still painful at times. A child who doesn't get his way will scream at his parent, “I hate you.” The Children of Israel were too sophisticated for such immature behavior. But no matter his age, a person can project feelings onto someone else. It’s a matter of self-protection. Face responsibility, which is difficult, even painful. Or blame someone else. The second course of action is easier.

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Steel yourself. I’m pulling off the Band-Aid, NOW. Unless a civilian has said he hates you, he doesn’t. His failure to hire or promote you doesn't mean he hates veterans. You’re projecting your frustration onto him.

Get Candid Feedback on Your Performance

It’s tempting to blame others when after twenty meetings you still didn’t get a job. Or you’ve seen younger people with less time at the company get promoted. It sure can seem like there’s some anti-military conspiracy keeping you down.

Believe that and you’re sunk.

The military has taught you a lot of valuable skills and lessons. Among them is you’re responsible for the safety of your colleagues and success of the mission. Somehow it seemed easier to accept that responsibility when you could take for granted being respected. Now, when you can't be certain people respect you, it’s harder.

Don’t give into the urge to point the finger at civilians. Recognize they want to help you. Often they don't know how. They’ve learned through experience to navigate civilian life. But that doesn't mean they can explain it to you. Much of how they behave is instinctive.

The Israelites projected their negative feelings on G-d. It led to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Avoid their mistake. Get to know some civilians well so you can see firsthand they respect veterans. Instead of blaming them, ask for their help. They may be reluctant to tell you the way you interact with people feels wrong. Assure them you’ll take critical input positively. When you project that you respect civilians you’ll feel they respect and want to help you.

What makes you feel like you don't fit in?

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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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