Tag Archives: veteran

Do You Improve Resilience with Every Task?

How Botched Undertakings Lead to Success

4 minutes to read

Guten tag. You may not have heard. But a couple of weeks ago the Navy deployed me to the Warrior Transition Program in Sembach, Germany. My last active duty time was two years ago. A funny thing happened on the way to reintegrating to military life…

Do You Improve Resilience with Every Task-

My Bungled Cross-Country Run

Reservists and individual augmentees who have been in AFRICOM and CENTCOM come to WTP on their way home. The Navy calls our program a Third Location Decompression point. Sailors can catch up on sleep, learn about the transition process, and make plans for the future.

Among other duties, I go with the participants on trips off base. One trip takes place on Saturday, for me the Sabbath. So I can’t ride the bus there. I also can't ride a bike or horse. In other words, I have to walk.

Kaiserslautern is 13 kilometers from the base. Now I often run 8 miles. So last Tuesday I decided to make a test run there. I printed out a map and hit the road. The weather was great – cool with the sun shining. After three miles I had run through the villages of Sembach and Melighen. The trouble began.

German roads aren't marked. So I had no idea that when I hit the outskirts of Melighen I was already off course. A short time later, the road turned into a wide dirt path. Crops and paddocks of horses lined both sides. Rain the night before meant concentrating on avoiding huge mud puddles.

At the six-mile mark, I came to a crossroads. Realizing I was off my mapped course, I decided to ask for directions. Then I realized my German was limited to what I learned watching Hogan’s Heroes.

I came up with a plan. I’d interrupt a hiker with bitte (please). Then I’d name my destination and point in a direction. If the person responded yah, that’s the direction I’d go. If he said nein, I’d point toward the other one and repeat, “Kaiserslautern?” Soon a lady came walking toward me.

Me: “Bitte, Kaiserslautern?” pointing the way she had come. A quizzical look came over her face.
Her: “Yah, Kaiserslautern,” pointing behind her. Bingo, I was on the right track.
Me: “Danke!” (Thank you!) Off I ran confidently.

Two more crossroads necessitated further exercises of my limited German. The third was with a man walking four big dogs that eyed me hungrily and barked so loud we could hardly hear each other. He appeared perplexed as he tried to figure out how to direct me. Finally, he pointed me down the road at what I realized was a town.

Since my Fitbit showed eight miles, I thought this had to be Kaiserslautern. But I wondered at his confusion. Once there, I realized it was too small to be Kaiserslautern. Half a mile down the road, back on a main highway, I came to a sign that read, “Kaiserslautern 11 km.” It pointed to a leaf-covered dirt path blocked by a heavy chain. Discretion got the better of valor. I headed back to the town I had just passed.

Soon, I realized where I was. I had made a huge circular run through the countryside and was back in Melighen. Essentially, I was back to where I’d started.

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It hit me then. I was living the transition nightmare.

4 Takeaways to Apply to Your Transition

My two and a quarter hour run showed me:

1. Get the most precise map available. I’m still not sure where I got off course. The map I downloaded didn't give me enough detail to know. When you travel through new territory you can make a wrong turn without realizing it. You have to get pretty far down the road before you realize your mistake. With lots of waypoints marked on your map, you’ll have a better chance of catching an error sooner.

2. Make sure you can communicate with the people you ask for help. None of the people I asked for directions misled me. After all, I found the road to Kaiserslautern. But I couldn't ask them how far it was or if a pedestrian could traverse the road. A couple of phrases like “How far to Kaiserslautern?” and “Is there a footpath to Kaiserslautern?” would have helped me. Make sure you learn some “civilian” or find a veteran who can translate for you.

3. Learn from not reaching your goal. Though I didn't reach Kaiserslautern, the run was useful. I realized that by car the trip was 13 km. But by foot, it was much longer, even without getting lost. And, I would have to travel on a road with no sidewalk. I won’t meet my goal of walking to Kaiserslautern on the Sabbath. But that’s okay.

4. Be open to new possibilities. My commanding officer got a big laugh at my adventure. She gave me a good-natured “I told you so.” But she respected that I put the program first and made the effort. In the end, since some people don't go on the trip, I’ll spend time with those who stay behind. I’m living one of my most cherished aphorisms.

No doubt they’ll be more amusing lessons coming from the next ten months in Germany. You can be sure I’ll pass them on for your benefit. I’ll also write a few posts about the places I visit. In the meantime, if you're struggling with any of the issues above, or a different one, get in touch. I may not know my way around Germany. But I can help you navigate the transition from military to civilian life.

Where are you stuck or think you’ll get stuck in your transition?
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How to Avoid a Second Job-Hunt in a Year

Are You Prioritizing Job Satisfaction?

2-½ minutes to read

Recently I saw a post in a LinkedIn veterans group. The person asked what he should do now that he’d hit every job board. He didn’t mention the kind of job he wanted. And his scattergun approach shows he didn’t prepare much for entering civilian life. A second job-hunt looms on his horizon even though he doesn’t have his first post-military job.

How to Avoid a Second Job-Hunt in a Year

Did the Military Challenge You?

Two-thirds of veterans find the transition to civilian life difficult. Finding a job ranks at the top of the list of challenges. Forty percent of veterans experience unemployment for at least six months. Yet, almost half of enlisted people leave their first job within 12 months. Thirty-one percent do so within six months. So, in the first couple of years post-military, many veterans work about as much as they look for work.

The military challenged us to keep building our skills, knowledge, and leadership ability. It gave us meaningful work to do. And it provided a clear path for advancement and professional development.

No surprise that veterans leave jobs that lack these qualities. Other reasons for high-first year turnover include skills mismatch and inadequate compensation.

Taking all of this into account, how do you avoid a second job-hunt in a year?

Assess and Plan

Anxiety over employment runs high as the date for leaving the military gets closer. You’ll feel pressured to something, toward getting a job. First, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are my goals for transitioning? "Find a job" is too general. You’ll have much greater success and a shorter job-hunt by getting specific about the job you want.
  2. Have I done a thorough skills assessment? Most veterans assume they have to find civilian work like what they did in the military. But what do infantrymen and artillerymen do in the private sector? Use this tool to dig beyond your obvious skills. It translates them to civilian language too.
  3. What would I like to do? Have you examined what you liked about military duty? You may have hated the restrictive environment. But I bet you found some tasks enjoyable. Where else have you found meaning in work? You may feel you can’t afford to be picky. But your cash flow won’t improve by changing jobs every six to twelve months.
  4. How much do I know about what employers need? Our fellow citizens respect us because we fill a big need: keeping them safe. Employers hire veterans because they think we’ll solve problems for them. Identify where you can help employers in your field deal with their challenges.
  5. What kind of culture do I want to work in? Each service branch has a different culture. If you worked in a joint environment you saw the clash. The private sector is the same. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches, and a second job-hunt, by checking for a cultural fit before taking a job.
  6. Who do I know who can help me get the inside track for a job? Employers post on job boards because they’re having trouble filling the position. You’ll find the best jobs through someone already working at the organization. Get in touch with people you know and give them specifics about the job you want.

Notice that question 6 ties back to question 1. If you’ve gone through the questions at least once, your ready to attack you job-hunt in earnest. And, you’ve increased the odds you’ll like and stay with the job you find.

Resist the impulse to head straight for the job boards. Not only will you save time looking for your first job. You’ll avoid a second job-hunt.

Which question is hardest to answer?

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How to Have the Security of a High-Paying Job

Have You Absorbed the Most Important Lesson of Military Life?

1-½ minutes to read

Training makes our military second to none. Sometimes equipment doesn’t always measure up. Other times intelligence gaps make completing a mission tough. But rugged conditioning and practice prepare us to overcome all obstacles and prevail. It’s a shame that we don’t take the same approach when getting ready for civilian life.

How to Have the Security of a High-Paying Job

Training Trumps Information

Imagine you’ve just arrived at Fort Benning, MCRD, Great Lakes, or JBSA-Lackland. After checking in, the drill instructors tell you to jump on the Internet. It’s time to learn how to become a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman. You’d think they were nuts, right?

Adapting to military life took more than information. There’s a world of difference between reading a manual on firing the M4 Carbine and actually training in its use. Without enough live fire exercises, you’d expect failure in combat.

Civilian life is no different.

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You don’t face life or death when reintegrating to the private sector. But getting the security of a high-paying job takes more than information.

Security Comes from Superior Conditioning

Basic training lasted seven to twelve weeks. Follow on schools lasted from a few weeks to a year. You trained full time. You still weren’t ready for duty. When you got to your unit you received OTJ (on the job) training.

Now learning how to get a high-paying job may not be as complex as becoming a medic or submarine nuke. But one week of transition instruction, while keeping up with regular duties, won’t cut it. You need at least two months of dedicated training to learn the ropes.

Start by assessing where you need to improve. Have you adjusted from a military to a civilian mindset? Do you know how to:

  1. Set a mission and goals?
  2. Build a unique value proposition?
  3. Target employers and create relationships?
  4. Market yourself?
  5. Meet and negotiate?

Until you have these capabilities, a successful job-hunt will prove elusive. Like in basic training, drill to gain proficiency. You’ll make mistakes. So make sure you have a mentor with military and civilian life success. That way he can help you improve. Then you can achieve mastery through on the job… hunt training.

My free guide will help you get started. The military taught you how to prepare for a new challenge. Follow its guidance. Train for the challenges of reintegration and finding a high-paying job.

Which step is giving you the hardest time?

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How to Negotiate Salary Using Your Military Pay

2-½ minutes to read

Stories of service members needing food stamps abound. I’m not downplaying people with financial struggles. But there seems to be a view that poverty in the military is widespread. This lowers expectations about the salaries veterans should get in the private sector. People think someone using government help to make ends meet should be happy to make $15 per hour. How do you turn this handicap to a benefit when you negotiate salary?

How to Negotiate Salary Using Your Military Pay

Knowing Your ECS - Equivalent Civilian Salary Can Get You Higher Pay in the Private Sector

The Truth About Military Pay

Most people outside the military don’t understand how our pay works. For junior enlisted, often base pay represents only half or two-thirds of their cash compensation. So even if an HR person checks military pay tables, she’s likely to come up with too low a figure.

Let’s take an example. A married E-3 with two years of service has two children. He lives off base or on a base with privatized housing. His compensation for 2017 looks like this:

Base Salary $2,004.30
Basic Subsistence Allowance 368.29
Basic Housing Allowance 1,179.00
TOTAL – MONTHLY $3,551.59
TOTAL – ANNUAL $42,619.08

Now to be sure, that’s below the $56,516 median income for a family of four. Yet, because the allowances aren’t taxable, he’ll pay no income taxes.

Exemptions and the standard deduction mean $28,800 of his income wouldn’t be taxable even as a civilian. If the other $18,000 were taxable, he’d have to pay $1,057 in FICA and $1,410 in federal income taxes. To stay even with his military pay, his Equivalent Civilian Salary (ECS) would have to be:

$42,619.08 + 1,057 + 1410 = $45,086.08

If he had to pay state income taxes the amount would be higher. That works out to over $22 per hour based on a 40-hour week. That’s three times the federal minimum wage and double California’s higher rate.

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This doesn’t include family separation allowance and incentive pay.

Use Your Military Pay as a Base to Negotiate Salary

I tried several websites that translate from military to civilian pay. For example, USAA has one available to members. But, it calculated lower figures than what I got. I’m guessing it doesn’t adjust for allowances being non-taxable. So I put together my own that you can access here. If you have any questions let me know.

Once you have your ECS you can see how it compares to salaries for the types of jobs want. For example, let’s say you were a 91B – Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic in the Army. The median salary for a similar position in the private sector, diesel mechanic, is $50,865. Salaries range from $43,776 to $55,844.   This data came from Salary.com.

The above E3 can make a strong case for higher than the minimum salary based on past compensation alone. Depending on his level of skill he may do much better.

If you were an E6, your ECS is almost $62,600. That’s higher than the maximum for a diesel mechanic. Your leadership ability qualifies you as a foreman or supervisor. So knowing your ECS will help you determine your Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

You qualify for a private sector salary similar to or higher than your military pay. If you’ve been told otherwise, re-examine your UVP. Get started now!

Were you surprised by your ECS?

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How to Be Creative Matching Your Skills to a Job

3 Trends that Can Lead to Work You’ll Love

3 minutes to read

For corpsmen and information services technicians, similar civilian jobs are obvious. But if you were an 11B (infantry) or 13B (cannon crewmember), what can you do for the private sector? Input your MOS at Vets.gov Military Skills Translator. You get skills such as contingency planning, team coordination, and hands-on training. All good, but what do you do with them?

How to Be Creative Matching Your Skills to a Job

Look Beyond Your First Post-Military Job

Even for a 68W or HM (or a 25B or IT) job prospects may not be clear. You may want to change your line of work.

From navigating your military career, you know some MOSs and ratings have better potential than others. Maybe you got out because your military specialty had no room for advancement. You don’t want to get into the same situation with a civilian job. So how do you avoid a dead-end position?

Predicting the future can be tricky at best. No matter how well you assess trends, unexpected developments can upset your plans. Luck plays a part in selecting one that will pan out. So you’ll do best by choosing a trend that interests you and matches your skills.

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Below are three trends that don’t involve technology. For each one, I suggest a couple of related jobs. Think about what your daily life would be like doing such work. Then look at how your skills might fit. If you haven’t done so yet, read my post on assessing your skills.

Get Creative Matching Your Interest and Skills

I’ve found a lot of veterans like to work with their hands. If that includes you, these trends play into your strengths:

1. Analog. People aren’t throwing away their iPods and Kindles. But, vinyl record sales hit a 25-year high in 2016. Print book sales grew over 3% last year, the third consecutive annual increase. By contrast, e-books sales declined 4% after being flat the year before. With the return of records, people have bought turntables and album storage racks. They need bookcases for their hardcovers and paperbacks.

11Bs and 13Bs maintain rifles and howitzers. As a result, they have a high level of mechanical ability. CBs build stuff. Do you like working with motors and mechanical gadgets or carpentry? You may find a home in the emerging analog world.

2. Disintermediation. Middlemen have been eliminated from many categories of consumer transactions during the last 25 years. Travel agents got wiped out by the Internet. Uber and Airbnb have continued this trend through more sophisticated technology. But other companies are less high-tech. Imperfect Produce has removed food wholesalers and grocery stores from the supply chain. It sources fruits and vegetable from farmers and delivers them to customers’ homes.

Personal chefs cut out restaurants. They plan, cook, and deliver meals to busy professionals who want healthy food tailored to their likes. Are you a 92A, LS, or YN? You may find a home at companies like Imperfect Produce. 92Gs and CSs might like life as a personal chef.

3. Craft and Local. If you like beer, you know about the return of craft. The U.S. has over 4,000 craft breweries. Craft distilleries will soon top 1300. Part of the attraction of craft is it’s local. And booze isn’t the sole home of craft. Over the last decade, Ohio has become home to more than 200 furniture makers. Most building custom-made pieces. Other states, like California with its “Made in CA” program, have joined the trend.

Craft has made big inroads in food production. Made-to-order has captured a growing segment of the clothing business. Was your MOS 91 or 92 or your rating LS, SH, or CS? Consider working in a craft and local.

None of these trends are carved in stone. But they all harken back to a time of greater human contact and authenticity. Embodying such timeless needs, they might be the ideal place for you to spend the rest of your working life. Check them out now.

Where can your job-hunt fit into one of these trends?

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