Tag Archives: jobs

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!

How to Fulfill Your Desire to Keep Serving

Have You Chosen the Right Role Model?

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Vayeira – Genesis 18:1-22:4

One thing military people can take pride in is our basic decency. Countless veterans have told me they want to work helping other veterans. What could be nobler than continuing a life of service? Unfortunately many don’t have the ability to follow this desire. Some lack the knowledge base. Others have to support their families and it’s hard to make a living helping veterans.

How to Fulfill Your Desire to Keep Serving

The Two Paths of Greatness

If only they could expand their view of those in need. Why not find another arena in which to serve? It comes down to choosing whether Noah or Abraham will guide you:

“And Abraham approached (G-d) and said, ‘And You will obliterate the righteous with the wicked?’” (Bereshis/Genesis 18:23)

Contrast Abraham in Parshas Vayeira with Noah.

G-d told Noah to build an ark because He was going to destroy humanity. Noah complied. For 120 years he worked on it. People came by to ask him what he was doing. When he told them about the coming flood, rather than repent they scoffed at him. Still, Noah kept working to save his family.

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In counterpoint, when G-d told Abraham He was going to destroy Sodom, Abraham did not sit idly by. He bargained with the Almighty in an attempt to save the Sodomites. He acted more like a lawyer than a shepherd. While he didn't succeed, nonetheless Abraham demonstrated his concern for all people.

Consider Service in All Its Forms

G-d noticed the difference in their approaches to impending disaster. He calls Noah a righteous man, perfect in his generations. Why only in his generations? Abraham became the father of the Jewish people and one of the most righteous people of all time.

Compared to his contemporaries, Noah was righteous. But he fell short by not pleading for the lives of the people the flood would destroy. Abraham looked beyond the information G-d gave him and chose to intervene. Even though he didn't like the people of Sodom, Abraham tried to help them.

You have the potential to be a Noah or an Abraham. You can focus on helping your family of veterans. Surely such an endeavor is valuable. But what about all the other people in our country?

We have it easier than Abraham. Your fellow citizens aren't Sodomites. And they need your assistance.   Their businesses will pay better salaries than most veteran groups can afford.

An organization doesn't need to be nonprofit to help people. Companies today have to serve their customers well. Otherwise, they’ll go somewhere else. No longer is healthcare the only sector that takes care of people. Service and products. Retail and wholesale. Commercial and industrial. Large and small. Every business must dedicate itself to service. In other words, anywhere you work you can pursue your desire to serve.

Who will be your role model: Noah or Abraham?

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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 Match Veterans to Your Job Openings

3 Qualifications All Military People Have

3-½ minutes to read

(NOTE: This is part of a series of articles for civilians who want to help veterans transition better. If you’re current or former military, pass this on to a civilian friend.)

From last week, you’ve seen that the military ingrains adaptability in its people. Now let’s look at how you can find veterans with the specific skill set you need. Most jobs require a mix of soft and hard skills. Your organization may call the first group people skills or emotional intelligence. It may refer to the latter as technical or practical skills. The names don't matter as much as understanding their military equivalents.

How to Match Veterans to Your Job Openings

Military Career Tracks

Military people have two basic career paths: enlisted and officer. About 80% of 1.3 million people on active military duty are enlisted personnel. The career paths cross when enlisted people become officers. Most warrant officers come from mid to senior level enlisted ranks. Rarely will you find enlisted people who started out as officers.

Most enlisted people join between completion of high school and age 21. Often, and for a variety of reasons, they’ve found college is not for them. Their first step is basic training, which lasts from 8-1/2 to 12 weeks. Most of the time, they’ll receive follow-on training in their specific job.

Junior enlisted work to gain technical proficiency in their military occupation. Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) develop training and leadership skills while advancing their hard skills. Senior/staff non-commissioned officers (SNCOs) train NCOs and junior commissioned officers.

By contrast, all service branches require commissioned officers to have a four-year degree. Only 20% graduate from a service academy. The rest go through a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in college or join after college and attend Officer Candidate School (OCS). (The Air Force calls it Officer Training School.) As a result, officers tend to be a little older then enlisted when they begin active military duty.

Junior officers are expected to exercise leadership while they gain greater technical proficiency in their job. Senior officers hone their leadership skills while developing command ability.

Staff officers bring hard skills to the military. They attend an abbreviated officer-training course to acclimate them to military life.

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Leadership is the key to promotion for both the enlisted and officer career paths.

Education, Soft Skills, and Experience

With the above in mind, you can begin to match job openings to military qualifications. What education level and mix of hard and soft skills does a position need?

1. Education Level. Contrary to the stereotype, military people are better educated than the population as a whole. They are 1.5 times more likely to have graduated high school. Over 90% of enlisted people have their diploma. Officers are three times more likely to have a college degree. Eighty-four percent of officers have at least bachelor’s degree. Over 40% have an advanced degree.

2. Mix of Soft and Hard Skills. The more a job entails the former, the more senior the military person you should target. NCOs provide hands-on leadership. The civilian equivalents include foreman, team leader, or supervisor. SNCOs provide daily operational leadership. They have responsibilities similar to managers or directors in civilian organizations. See last week’s post for more on leadership levels.

A service member’s job determines his hard skills. I’ll cover military occupational specialties in my next post.

Time in service (TIS), how long someone stays in the military, varies by category, job, and contract. Most enlisted people serve for one or two active duty periods, lasting a total of four to six years. Officers have to serve at least eight years. Several of these years can be in the reserves.

To be eligible for a pension, a person must serve at least 20 years. Service members separated early for medical reasons may qualify for pension-like payments.

Broken down by category, TIS is as follows:

The higher the pay grade, the longer the TIS. And, with greater TIS comes multiple deployments. This gives a service member the opportunity to put his skills to use under the most adverse conditions.

As with any organization, many people do not fit into the general patterns outlined above. Nonetheless, they give you the guidance you need to figure out which group of military people has the basic qualifications you need for a particular job.

Next post, I’ll cover military occupations. Then I’ll give you an example of how to use this information to create a detailed job description tailored directly to the veterans you want to recruit.

What do you find most confusing about how the military personnel structure works?

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How to Mine Veterans to Find the Best Employees

2 Problems Solved by Hiring Military People

3 minutes to read

(NOTE: This is part of a series of articles for civilians who want to help veterans transition better. If you’re current or former military, pass this on to a civilian friend.)

Unemployment is at its lowest rate in ten years. So you’d think it would be easy to find a job. Yet veterans and civilians struggle despite 7.1 million openings. What gives? Many business owners, economists, and government officials agree a skills gap hampers hiring. Economist James Bessen wrote the most lucid explanation I’ve found. He identifies two problems: 1. Finding people with certain specific skill sets and 2. Recruiting employees who can adapt their skills at the pace of industry change. Both describe military people.

How to Mine Veterans to Find the Best Employees

The Military Trains in Adaptability

Take the second issue first. Have you seen the movie, Heartbreak Ridge? Clint Eastwood inculcates his Marines with the ethos of “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.” The Marine Corps embeds these values in its people.

I saw it in action when my air wing deployed. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, the legendary Death Rattlers, had some of the oldest fighter jets in the fleet. Yet ingenuity and tenacity maintaining their planes kept them flying as much as those of squadrons with much newer equipment.

And I’ve seen Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen as resourceful as Marines. With today’s undermanned units and equipment older than maintenance crews, you have to be creative to get the job done.

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Veterans don't think to mention this skill. It’s so much a part of them it would be like saying they know how to breathe. And you don't see it in information on veterans, such as this summary by the VA. Not every veteran has it in equal amounts. But if you ask about their experience, you’ll soon find the level of their adaptability.

The Basics of Military Personnel Structure

With resourcefulness a given, you need to find military people with specific skill sets you need. Here’s the challenge. Many veterans don't know how to translate their military training and experience into language civilians understand. But if you make a small investment in learning the military personnel system, you can use terminology they know.

Consider that veterans have little or no experience finding a civilian job. They don't know the process, language, or how to market themselves. The people who train them in such skills mean well. But they don't have much job-hunting experience either.

If you have a growing business, you need to expand your workforce on a regular basis. So it makes sense to have one or two people at your company learn the military personnel structure. Then they can find quality employees with your required skills sets among the many resourceful veterans looking for work.

I’ll explain the basic structure here. Then, over the next few weeks, I’ll deal with:

  • How pay grade relates to education, experience, and leadership ability.
  • Military job codes and how you can use them to unearth the skills you need.
  • Questions you can ask veterans to help them uncover their true abilities.

There are three categories of personnel or pay grades in the military:

Enlisted people (E1 through E9 pay grades). Technical skill and leadership ability increase with pay grade. They break down into three groups, though variations exist among the service branches:

  1. Junior Enlisted (E1 through E3). Rank and file employees, such as technicians, mechanics, and analysts.
  2. Non-Commissioned Officers - NCOs (E4 through E6). High skills level and first level supervision, such as team leaders.
  3. Senior or Staff Non-Commissioned Officers - SNCOs (E7 through E9). Skill mastery and leadership from managers to lower level C-Suite capability.

Warrant Officers (W1 through W5 pay grades). Combine the expertise and training ability of SNCOs with the operational leadership of commissioned officers.

Commissioned Officers (O1 through O10 pay grades). Leadership ability and command authority increase with pay grade. They break down into two broad categories and three levels. The categories are:

  1. Line Officers. Exercise command authority.
  2. Staff officers. Professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, and chaplains who advise commanders.

The three levels are:

  1. Junior Officers (O1 through O3). Tactical and small unit leadership, equal to mid level management to lower level C-Suite.
  2. Senior Officers (O4 through O6). Operational and administrative unit leadership, equal to mid to senior C-Suite level.
  3. General and Flag Officers (O7 through O10). Generals and admirals who form the uniformed senior leadership of each service branch. Equal to senior C-Suite executives and directors.

Like with any organization, abilities vary based on the individual. But with this basic structure in mind, you can begin to target the skill and leadership level you need.

What is the biggest hiring problem you face?

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How to Improve Your Company by Hiring Veterans

25 Benefits Military People Bring to the Table

2-½ minutes to read

(NOTE: I wrote this for civilians who want to help veterans transition better. If you’re current or former military, pass this on to a civilian friend.)

You want to help veterans make a smoother transition to civilian life. But you don't know any or know just a handful. You’d like to make an impact. But you’ve got your job and family responsibilities. So it can't be a full-time endeavor. Everyone is so busy these days. What can you do that has a limited time commitment?

How to Improve Your Company by Hiring Veterans

A Quick Assessment of Your Knowledge

Last week I mentioned three things you can do to shrink the military-civilian divide:

  1. Understand military culture.
  2. Identify the benefits of hiring veterans.
  3. Use the military personnel structure.

Start by assessing what you know about the military and its culture. If your knowledge comes from movies and television it’s not accurate. Take this online course on the basics of military structure and culture. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. Though it’s geared to mental health professionals, you’ll find it useful. Ninety-five percent of what it covers applies to anyone who wants to know more about the military.

Having figured out what you know, you can fill in the gaps. Check out these resources for learning military language and service specific values:

Summary of core value for each service branch

List of military terms and acronyms

Military lingo

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After an hour or two, you’ll be better prepared to understand military people. Keep the terms and lingo cheat sheets on your cell phone for easy access.

Qualities and Soft Skills

Now that you can communicate with veterans better, you’re ready to take the next step. To help military people find the right job, determine how they can help an organization. Start by the learning how military training and service benefits them. Not every service member gains these 20 qualities and skills. But by and large, you’ll find a high correlation between the list and what they bring to the table as prospective employees.

Other benefits of employing military people are:

  1. Mission-Focused. No organization is more mission-focused than the military. Service members learn to keep that end goal in sight. Hence they exercise creativity when bureaucracy makes reaching it more difficult.
  2. Respect Policies & Procedures. Military people know how to work within policies, even when they disagree with them. They find ways to finesse them from time to time. But they won't violate them, especially when they understand their rationale.
  3. Intuitive. Much of military training inculcates the ability to respond with little thought. Intuition takes over. Given the speed of commerce, such a skill has great value to a company.
  4. Candor. Hidden problems in the military cost lives and valuable equipment. When something is wrong, service members learn to speak up. They’re direct but respectful. In the private sector, such candor can be off putting. Veterans need to tone it down. At the same time, organizations have to get such input to survive.
  5. Leadership. Even junior enlisted people have leadership ability. Especially if they were in a community like aviation or submarines. On an aircraft carrier, an 18-year-old plane captain decides whether a $50 million airplane leaves the deck. It doesn't matter that the pilot outranks him.

These qualities and soft skills enhance technical proficiency and experience. Don't rely on a resume. Often service members struggle to capture their skills and experience on paper. Ferret out their qualifications using these lists.

You may choose not to use the military personnel structure to find the hard skills you need. Even so, knowing the benefits military people bring to an employer can help you find the ones that best fit into your organization. In doing so, you can substantially improve the quality of your hires.

How have you helped veterans transition?

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