Tag Archives: jobs

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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How to Help Military Veterans Find a Job

3 Things You Should Learn About the Military

2 minutes to read

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

I spent a lot of time traveling the last five weeks. Airlines work hard to show their appreciation for service members and veterans. None charge bag check fees, even for personal travel. All let military people pre-board. Though they're small, I welcomed them nonetheless. But what do you do if you don't work for an airline?

How to Help Military Veterans Find a Job

It Takes Two to Create a Gap

For most military people, re-entering civilian life seems a bit like moving to a foreign country. A couple of examples will show what I mean.

Daily interactions change. For example, military courtesy requires extending a greeting. You say good morning or good afternoon to everyone who passes by. In the civilian world, older people like when I do this. Young women give me a dirty look. They must think I want to pick them up.

It’s not because I live in a big, anonymous city (Los Angeles). Veterans in smaller towns have the same experience. It’s just one way the structure of day-to-day life gives way to disorder.

Another culture shock comes from the attitude toward work. In the military, commitment to job completion is near universal. Hours worked have nothing to do with it. You stay until the task is done. But civilian work is not life or death. (Health care professionals and a few others are exceptions.) So the work ethic looks different.

Barring a major war and mass military mobilization (G-d forbid), civilian life is not going to become more like the military. So as much as veterans might want things to change, they won’t. Still, many could use a boost as they leave active duty and become a part of your community.

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What can you do besides thanking them for their service?

Take on a Bit of the Transition Burden

Through my work with employers who want to hire veterans, I’ve identified three ways you can help.

  1. Understand military culture. Helping someone requires understanding. By learning about military culture, you can enter a veteran’s world. But forget movies and television. No matter how much they claim to be genuine, they're not. I mentioned a couple of issues above. Ask someone in the military to familiarize you with how it works. Keep in mind, everyone’s experience is a little different.
  2. Identify the benefits of hiring veterans. Many veterans, especially young ones, can't tell an employer why hiring veterans is good. People seem to know that military people have self-discipline and skills. But these benefits are too general. Check next week’s post for more on this issue.
  3. Use the military personnel structure. Anyone with even moderate success in civilian life has learned to market himself. Military people don't have this skill. We work in a structured personnel environment. Each service branch trains its members then codes their skills. Crack this code and you can pinpoint hiring for your organization.

Think about the last time you made a transition. Didn’t it feel good when someone reached out? Veterans appreciate straight talk and encouragement. If you want to move beyond these, you now have a road map.

How have you helped veterans transition?

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3 Ways Excellence Is More Achievable than Ever Before

How the Barriers to Preeminence Have Collapsed

2-½ minutes to read

America was built on the idea that success comes from working hard and staying out of trouble. But there were always barriers to attaining elite status. Those who went to an Ivy League University had certain doors open for them. Wealth conferred privileges unavailable to people of lesser means. Large companies used their financial power and political muscle to stifle competition. If you follow the news it appears that not much has changed.

3 Ways Excellence Is More Achievable than Ever Before

The Military as a Path to Excellence

During the 20th century, the military provided the means to excel. As a result, men such as Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley could be born in poverty and reach the pinnacle of success. Most people know of Eisenhower’s rise from poor Kansas farm boy to President of the United States.

Bradley grew up as the son of a Missouri county schoolteacher. His father died when he was 15. He won an appointment to the Military Academy. During World War II, he led the 900,000 men of 12th Army Group. He rose to the rank of General of the Army (5 Stars) and became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After retiring from the Army he was Chairman of the Board of Bulova Watch Company.

Average GIs found success too. The GI Bill made college available to millions of service members who could not have afforded it. The world needed engineers, accountants, and other professionals in huge numbers. The World War II generation took the grit they developed during the Great Depression and the war, combined it with education, and pursued excellence.

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But Americans who hadn't worn the uniform lacked this advantage. For them, the path to excellence remained a struggle at best.

Changes that Benefit Your Future Success

Seventy years after the end of World War II, the world has changed. It has enough lawyers and accountants. It needs more doctors. But the economics of medicine have altered the profession for the worse. College no longer provides a sure route to success.

Yet, today there are opportunities to achieve excellence that never existed before. At least three factors drive this trend:

  1. A degree provides no guarantee you’re on a path to excellence. But education is available like never before. Someone teaches whatever skills you lack. Take valuable abilities like marketing and coding. Community college classes and online programs abound. Anyone can afford these courses. I’ve mentioned before all the large companies that no longer require a degree. Is there any doubt organizations such as Google, Ernst & Young, and Hilton want employees who pursue excellence?
  2. Social media has broken down barriers to the point that you have access to almost everyone. Derek Halpern at Social Triggers has a free video and download explaining how to email influential people and get a response. In his book, The 2-Hour Job Search, Steve Dalton gives you a more in-depth explanation. Here’s a summary. View the whole slide deck then focus on 27-32. Using my status as a veteran, well over 80% of the people I’ve contacted have responded.
  3. The Internet and social media have shrunk the cost to access potential clients. They have driven intermediaries out of the sales chain and robbed large companies of market dominance. Marketing and entrepreneurship gurus offer training on targeting a niche market. You can beat even the biggest multi-nationals. Check out Amy Porterfield and Pat Flynn.

Add these three factors to your advantage as a veteran and you can be unstoppable. Don't get me wrong. It will still take a lot of hard work. You’ll make mistakes and have setbacks. But the hurdles that past generations faced are gone. It’s now up to you to take advantage of this opportunity. Wading in mediocrity means your financial future will erode. Embracing the quest for excellence puts you on the path to the highest level of success…

What is holding you back from striving for excellence?

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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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