Tag Archives: veterans

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!

How to Make Sure You’re Satisfied with Your Job

The Secret to Professional Development in the Private Sector…

2 minutes to read

Advancement in the military was a straightforward process. You knew the career markers: schools, qualifications, exams, and key billets. Some jobs had less upward mobility. Usually, that was because they didn’t need more people in the senior ranks. But where opportunity existed, for the most part, you were on equal footing with everyone else. If only the private sector worked the same way.

How to Make Sure You’re Satisfied with Your Job

The Obscure Process of Career Advancement

Compared to the military, civilian organizations have a mysterious path to promotion. Often the criteria for advancing aren’t clear. You may not even know who can promote you. Coming from the military’s up or out atmosphere, it’s frustrating for your future prospects to be so cloudy.

Besides, private sector organizations and the military are competitive in different ways. Your success in the military came from being the best team player. Camaraderie meant your colleagues were genuinely happy when you advanced. Sure, there were backstabbers. But such people were rare.

In civilian life, people tend to focus on one-on-one competition. It’s much more of a zero-sum game. Companies pit their employees one against the other to get a promotion. Even when there’s no monkey business, it stills feels underhanded.

It might not be so bad if it weren’t for one thing.

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Professional advancement has a big impact on job satisfaction. Succeeding means learning to play the game while holding on to your integrity.

Get a Sponsor Not a Mentor

Research from the Center for Talent Innovation uncovered the key. Veterans lack sponsors. Transition specialists encourage you to find a mentor. Some suggest getting several. A sponsor goes beyond a mentor.

A mentor can offer you:

  • A sounding board
  • Advice
  • Perspective
  • Referral to resources

A sponsor goes further by:

  • Coaching your professional development
  • Defending you against naysayers
  • Advocating for you to senior leaders, especially behind closed doors

When they have a sponsor, 23% of male and 19% of female veterans have greater satisfaction with their job progression. They’re less likely to feel management overlooks their skills. This applies especially to soft skills like team building and transparent decision-making.

Also, they’re less likely to get penalized for exhibiting military behavior that’s misinterpreted. What we see as a straightforward approach can strike civilians as abrupt or harsh. A sponsor helps adjust communication style while mitigating any damage done.

My free guide, The Only Five Steps You Need to Take to Get High-Paying Job, explains the importance of relationships. But using them to get a job is just the beginning. You need to keep building new ones.

Look for a sponsor who:

  1. Has solid influence with senior leadership in your company.
  2. Will be direct in giving you feedback and coaching you to improve.
  3. Will advance your career by mitigating the damage done by your mistakes and highlighting your accomplishments.

You don't need to be young to be a protégé. Finding a sponsor is your first step toward success at a company. It also will help build a foundation on which your job satisfaction rests.

Do you have a sponsor at your company?

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How to Take Advantage of Not Fitting in

Employers Value What Makes You Feel Uncomfortable

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Pinchas Mattos-Masei – Numbers 30:2-36:13

Transitioning to civilian life can seem like walking in a barren wilderness. Few of the familiar touch-points of daily life exist. Nobody asks you to verify your identity to access your workplace or computer. You don’t hear the recording of the Star Spangled Banner each morning. Lack of a muster might even make you feel nostalgic. At least it seemed like someone cared if you showed up for work.

How to Take Advantage of Not Fitting in

How You Benefitted from Rootlessness

When I first left active duty, I found civilian life devoid of meaning. Part of it stemmed from my working from home and being alone much of my workday. In the military, you're never by yourself. There’s always someone to meet with or check on. Counterintuitively, the nomadic nature of military life builds roots. They aren’t place-based. They’re deeper, in the people and mission that require constant attention.

At 2.1 million active and reserve duty personnel, we’re similar in size to another famous, nomadic group. During their wanderings, summarized in parshas Mattos-Masei, the Israelites found meaning amidst upheaval:

“…and these were their journeys, according to their goings forth.” (Numbers/Bamidbar 33:2)

Events, at each location the Children of Israel visited, had meaning. In the Wilderness of Sinai, they learned G-d would fill their needs when He gave them manna from heaven. But most of the gifts they received were spiritual.

Kivros Hataavah is a case in point. There, many Israelites died because they gave into their craving for meat. Kivros refers to the word kever, a grave. Hataavah means desires. A person who gives into his desires gets rewarded with an early burial.

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The sum total of their wanderings was an enduring set of values. These would see them through their transition to a settled life in the Land of Israel.

Tweak Your Presentation to Be More Effective

While in the military you moved every two or three years. But each new duty station reinforced the values you learned in basic training. On time is late and ten minutes early is on time. Stand at attention no matter where you are when the National Anthem plays. Address superiors respectfully.

Rarely do you see these values in a civilian workplace. That we continue to hold them post-military is part of what makes us feel out of place. Yet private sector companies prize our punctuality, dedication to duty, and respectful treatment of others.

Learn to convey your work ethic and mission commitment in a way that engages civilians. Show up ten minutes early. But rather than waiting for latecomers, help the meeting organizer get set up. Don’t criticize millennials’ lack of commitment. Be the employee who helps them learn the value of mission. Speak with respect to every colleague. Leave off the sir and ma’am. It’s not too different from what you did in the military, is it?

The Israelites had to adapt from a nomadic to a settled life. Many faced culture shock. They had to give up longstanding practices, like bringing sacrifices on private altars. But their values remained steadfast. Only the way they expressed them changed.

The same plan will work for you. Alter your behavior a little. Learn to express your values in a way that doesn't shame your civilian colleagues. You’ll always feel a little uncomfortable. But that tension is your greatest asset. Use it to build a successful civilian life.

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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