Category Archives: Transitions

How to Enjoy Your Job-Hunt and Career

Do You Want Passion in a Career?

3 minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Balak – Numbers 22:2-25:9

Most job-hunting tasks aren’t fun. And, many private sector careers don't provide the enjoyment that we found in the military. So when employment experts talk about finding your passion in a civilian career, I see lots of veterans’ eyes glaze over.

How to Enjoy Your Job-Hunt and Career

Many of our parents taught us to believe work has nothing to do with fun. For them, work meant survival. Enjoyment was beside the point. Today, we see two powerful forces colliding. Most of us still have to work to afford to live. In this respect, nothing has changed.

But the rapidity at which industries and jobs evolve has surged in the last decade. Keeping a job requires constant upgrading of your knowledge and skills. Maintaining your motivation to stay abreast of new developments presents a challenge. All the same, you’ll have to meet it or lose your income.

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Twenty years ago, people used time after work for leisure. Now, they use it to stay competitive in their jobs. If you don't like what you do, how will you stay motivated?

The Difference Between Passion and Lust

In his superb book, No Fears, No Excuses, Larry Smith makes an irresistible case for passion being an essential part of the work you choose to do. He doesn’t define what passion means, so let’s unpack it ourselves. No surprise, it has ancient roots.

Pharaoh had passion for Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Such lust seems to be the image that comes to mind at the word passion. But this type is too easily sated to have relevance to a lifelong career.

We see another kind of passion in the story of Abraham and the near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac. He rises early in the morning to saddle his donkey. Then he rouses Isaac and his two young men. The four leave on their fateful journey. This story counterpoints another tale of passion in this week’s parsha, Balak:

And Balaam arose early in the morning and saddled his she-donkey… (Numbers/Bamidbar 22:21)

Balaam was a great prophet. The Moabite king, Balak, wanted him to curse the Israelites so he could defeat them in battle. But G-d refused to let Balaam go. Finally, seeing Balaam’s yearning to help Balak, the Almighty relents. Balaam wants to get an early start. So he doesn't bother to call a servant to saddle his she-donkey.

Balak knew of Balaam’s deep passion for wealth and honor. He catered to it by sending ever-higher officials to plead with Balaam. Though he pooh-poohed the huge sums of money offered him, Balaam’s desire for it almost leads him to his death. His passion for wealth and honor evinces lifelong self-interest.

Abraham also has a lifelong passion. His legendary hospitality to family, friends, and strangers shows he sought meaning from serving others. On this path, he never wavered. He lived for the next opportunity to take care of the Almighty’s children.

How to Find What You’ll Enjoy

Two men’s passions motivated them to rise early and saddle their donkeys. Both had many servants who could have done this work. Balaam had passion for self-aggrandizement. Abraham had passion for service.

Follow Abraham’s model. You’ve already started along this path in the military. You defended the Constitution, and hence your fellow citizens, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Build on this legacy in civilian life. Consider these questions:

  1. How can your leadership ability better help people meet life’s challenges?
  2. What team building skills do you have that can help an organization meet its mission?
  3. Where can you bring the unifying spirit of the military to bridge divides in our society?
  4. How can you use the idea of mission command to help a private sector company operate better?
  5. What organization can benefit from your ability to inculcate a sense of purpose in its people, the way your service branch did for you?

These represent a few ways to find passion in your civilian work. Too often, I see veterans grab at the first opportunity. Later, they regret it only to take other, passionless jobs. Not motivated to go the extra mile to develop themselves, their civilian prospects get dimmer each year.

Take the time to find a field of rich interest. Ponder the questions above. Come up with others that help you probe what you'll enjoy. Talk to veterans who found passion in their work. How did they do it? Make the investment in finding a field that captures your interest. It will pay huge dividends over the coming decades.

What prevents you from having work you’ll enjoy?

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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!

How to Direct Your Marketing Fire for the Job & Pay You Want

Why Intel Collection Is the Most Important Skill You Need from the Military

2-½ minutes to read

Do you want:

  • Your first post-military job,
  • A better job,
  • A higher salary and/or better position at your current organization?

Our nation begins with a national defense strategy. Combatant commanders develop operational objectives. To meet these objectives, we execute tactical missions. You can follow the same process to achieve your civilian life goals.

How to Direct Your Marketing Fire for the Job & Pay You Want

Make Sure Your Message Is on Target

The headline of a post in a LinkedIn veterans’ group says, “Why is getting hired so complicated?” The writer says he tailors each resume and cover letter. Sometimes, he’ll apply for openings that don't fit his qualifications. He’s working on another certification and will lower his expectations. Sounds like he’s committed to finding a job, right?

You’re a hiring manager. How do you see him? Willing to follow the pack? Desperate? Unqualified? It may sound harsh, but his lack of success isn't surprising. His self-marketing screams, DON'T HIRE ME!”

Most organizations want people who:

  • Go the extra mile.
  • Have confidence in their ability to deliver value
  • Strive to go beyond mere qualifications and find the competitive edge.

Asking a company “to give you a chance” means you want it to gamble. Why should it do that when it can hire someone who has taken the time to fill in all four of the diagram’s boxes? That candidate presents little risk. Rather than appealing for a chance, go out and create opportunity.

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Most candidates won't take the time to do this research and analysis. Set yourself apart from the masses. Gather and apply this intelligence.

How to Build Your Strategy and Tactics Based on Intel 

Until you can fill in each of the four boxes, you’re flying in the dark without instruments. Build your strategy as follows:

How you see yourself – Most private sector organizations want to hire veterans. But they need you to operate in the civilian workplace. This requires revising your identity. Military command and control won't work. Imagine adapting. How can you alter your military persona to better mesh with civilians? Write down your new purpose.

How the company sees you – In the military, people often based their perceptions on your ribbon rack. At higher levels, your reputation preceded you. Neither may have matched your self-perception. When a civilian organization considers hiring you, it assesses your ability to deliver value. In the absence of self-marketing, where will the hiring manager get accurate information? Plan what you’ll say and do during phone calls, meetings, and in written communications.

How the company sees itself – Like people, organizations have self-images. One may see itself as being forward thinking. Another identifies as being military friendly. By understanding how a company sees itself, you have crucial intelligence for presenting how you'll deliver value. Research the organization’s culture. Determine how you align with and enhance its mission. Do you sound like someone the organization wants to hire? Now, look at your resume and cover letter. Re-calibrate your self-marketing with the company’s perspective in mind. Make the company feel compelled to hire or promote you.

How you see the company – How an organization sees itself and how you perceive it may differ. Your job satisfaction will rest on how well you’ll fit it. Having researched the organization’s culture, assess whether it's a place you can thrive. If there’s a match, create a self-marketing plan that highlights connection points. Move on if you don't fit in. Spend your valuable time targeting a better prospect.

Stop treating your professional prospects like roulette. Separate yourself from the pack. Get clarity on you and the company. Use it to prove your value. You’ll get the job or promotion.

What will prevent you from following this process?

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How to Rally Your Spirits When Job-Hunting

Will You Burn a Cow to Get a High-Paying Job?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Chukas – Numbers 19:1-22:1

Veteran reintegration mystifies people, even big supporters of the military. Last week, a civilian told me PTSD is the biggest reason we struggle to find a job. He didn’t know that PTSD affects 11% to 20% of OIF and OEF veterans each year. That’s double the rate for civilians. But it doesn't represent a majority of veterans who find transitioning difficult.

How to Rally Your Spirits When Job-Hunting

Another told me it’s a simple matter of setting up a website that matches a veteran’s skills to an employer’s needs. But such job boards have existed for years. If it were that easy, veteran unemployment would never have risen above the civilian rate.

The real problem is less obvious and more complex to solve. Not having engaged in a civilian job-hunt before, a lot of veterans don’t know what to do. TAP instructors say write a resume and network. But veterans don't know how.

Borrow a Page from the Military Playbook

Civilians also find the military’s culture of risk avoidance surprising. Many don't realize the penalties for mistakes can be huge. The military reduces the passivity this might create through training. No such process exists for veterans transitioning to civilian life. You have to learn to job-hunt by doing it.

Meet fear of making mistakes with faith that you will overcome obstacles. But how do you proceed with confidence when the process remains a mystery? The Israelites in Parshas Chukas faced the same dilemma:

The one who gathered the ash of the cow will immerse his clothing and remain spiritually contaminated until morning. (Numbers/Bamidbar 19:10)

A kohen (priest) burns a completely red calf with cedarwood, hyssop, and a crimson thread. The ash that remains will purify the spirit of someone who touches a human corpse. That being the case, why does the kohen who gathers the ash become spiritually impure? The parsha's name, Chukas, explains. A chuk is a rule beyond human comprehension. G-d wants the Israelites to follow the process despite not understanding how it works. He intends that it be mysterious.

The transition process shouldn't be mysterious. But the military doesn’t have the knowledge base to train civilian job-hunting skills. You have to handle the vagaries of civilian job-hunting on your own. Take two actions:

Action 1: Get training from somewhere other than the military. This will help. But you’ll still need to put it into practice

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Action 2: Use faith to move forward with your job-hunt.

Inaction Is Riskier than Initiative

Like military training, quality civilian job-hunting training will give you procedures to follow. You’ll gain the tools to create contingencies for when your plan goes awry. Having drilled in these new skills, you can proceed with confidence.

No matter how good the training, you’ll suffer setbacks. Some hiring managers are jerks. A few may dislike veterans. Even so, they can’t stop you from getting a high-paying job doing meaningful work. But you can. Let your faith slip and you’ll stop taking action. Once you give up your hunt, the game’s over.

So keep trying new methods. If one tactic doesn't work, figure out another. Try it. If that one bombs too, go on to the next one. No matter what, don't do what most job-hunters do: hunt for an hour a day and watch television the rest of the time.

If you feel your faith start to waiver, try something outlandish. What have you got to loose? Cleanse your spirit with the ashes of a cow burnt with some fragrant wood, herbs, and red string. (Metaphorically of course) Who cares that there’s no logical reason it will work? Use it to replenish your faith. Then move forward once more.

Have you lost faith that you’ll find a high-paying job doing meaningful work?

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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!

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?

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!

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