Tag Archives: leadership

4 Things You Need Besides Skills to Get a Job

3 minutes to read

You came out of the military with marketable skills. Or, you took the time to figure out how to use your military expertise in civilian life. You may have gotten a degree, even an advanced one. Then you earned additional certifications. Your resume describes every skill in detail. Yet application after application goes unanswered. And you received no or negative responses after the few interviews you’ve gotten. You’re committing job search sin #4: Believing it is or should be about having the right skills.

3 minutes to read You came out of the military with marketable skills. Or, you took the time to figure out how to use your military expertise in civilian life. You may have gotten a degree, even an advanced one. Then you earned additional certifications. Your resume describes every skill in detail. Yet application after application goes unanswered. And you received no or negative responses after the few interviews you’ve gotten. You’re committing job search sin #4: Believing it is or should be about having the right skills. Meritocracy Isn’t What You Think Coming out of the military environment, it seems like the person with the best skills should get the job. After all, if a company’s employees have the top aptitude it will be the best in its market. But consider. How many times did you have a colleague who was a genius at what it took to get the job done but was a pain in the neck to deal with? Maybe he was lazy, uncooperative, or had a bad attitude. Did you want to work with him day after day? Who would you rather have on your rifle team? An expert marksman who only thinks about himself or a sharpshooter 100% dedicated to the team? The military and businesses talk about merit. But they don’t mean a system where the person with the best skills gets the job. Both want the people who will most effectively help them meet their missions. Without solid skills, you’ll get nowhere. But at best your expertise gets your foot in the door. Beyond Skills You Need Less Tangible Qualities Besides technical mastery, employers look for four key traits: 1. Dedication to the organization’s mission and values. Given that you’ll have many civilian jobs and even careers, this may seem strange. Why should employers seek loyalty they don’t give? Notice I said to its mission and values, not to the organization itself. You’re right that you won’t stay there your whole career. The company knows that too. But while you work at an organization it wants your buy-in and commitment to its goals and how it pursues them. 2. Cultural fit. The military has a distinct culture. Indeed each branch has its own traditions, jargon, and way of doing things. The same goes for civilian businesses. Until 30 or 40 years ago the two overlapped. But as the World War II Generation moved out of the workforce, business culture changed. Today, unless an industry employs a high percentage of veterans, the culture will seem foreign. You need to learn something about a company’s way of doing things and customs before you apply there. And if you have a meeting to discuss a job you’ll have to show you fit in. 3. Commitment to teamwork. Though you may decide to be a solotreperneur, success will depend on your being a team player. Nothing lucrative happens without interaction with others. Coming from the military this shouldn’t surprise you. Even the sniper has a team backing him up and setting the stage for his success. Do prospective employers know how well you work with others? Or do you leave them guessing? 4. Understanding wealth comes from value delivered. Civilian companies don’t carry dead weight. Every employee must deliver value. You have to know how the company serves its clients. Then you need to articulate how you can improve that service when you get the job. You can learn the details once you get hired. But to get hired you must show you understand the concept and how it applies at the organization’s strategic level. Wealth comes from value delivered ↔ For the company and you. It takes time to research a company’s mission, values, and culture. You’ll have to make the investment if you want the job. We’ll confront this issue again in sin #6. Keep in mind, companies can train their employees in new or better skills. Changing their employee’s mindset is difficult at best. When a hiring manager sees you have these four traits, you put yourself far above the competition. Which mindset issue hinders your job hunt? Please comment below. 

Meritocracy Isn’t What You Think

Coming out of the military environment, it seems like the person with the best skills should get the job. After all, if a company’s employees have the top aptitude it will be the best in its market.

But consider. How many times did you have a colleague who was a genius at what it took to get the job done but was a pain in the neck to deal with? Maybe he was lazy, uncooperative, or had a bad attitude. Did you want to work with him day after day?

Who would you rather have on your rifle team? An expert marksman who only thinks about himself or a sharpshooter 100% dedicated to the team?

The military and businesses talk about merit. But they don’t mean a system where the person with the best skills gets the job. Both want the people who will most effectively help them meet their missions. Without solid skills, you’ll get nowhere. But at best your expertise gets your foot in the door.

Beyond Skills You Need Less Tangible Qualities

Besides technical mastery, employers look for four key traits:

  1. Dedication to the organization’s mission and values. Given that you’ll have many civilian jobs and even careers, this may seem strange. Why should employers seek loyalty they don’t give? Notice I said to its mission and values, not to the organization itself. You’re right that you won’t stay there your whole career. The company knows that too. But while you work at an organization it wants your buy-in and commitment to its goals and how it pursues them.
  2. Cultural fit. The military has a distinct culture. Indeed each branch has its own traditions, jargon, and way of doing things. The same goes for civilian businesses. Until 30 or 40 years ago the two overlapped. But as the World War II Generation moved out of the workforce, business culture changed. Today, unless an industry employs a high percentage of veterans, the culture will seem foreign. You need to learn something about a company’s way of doing things and customs before you apply there. And if you have a meeting to discuss a job you’ll have to show you fit in.
  3. Commitment to teamwork. Though you may decide to be a solotreperneur, success will depend on your being a team player. Nothing lucrative happens without interaction with others. Coming from the military this shouldn’t surprise you. Even the sniper has a team backing him up and setting the stage for his success. Do prospective employers know how well you work with others? Or do you leave them guessing?
  4. Understanding wealth comes from value delivered. Civilian companies don’t carry dead weight. Every employee must deliver value. You have to know how the company serves its clients. Then you need to articulate how you can improve that service when you get the job. You can learn the details once you get hired. But to get hired you must show you understand the concept and how it applies at the organization’s strategic level. Wealth comes from value delivered ↔ For the company and you.

It takes time to research a company’s mission, values, and culture. You’ll have to make the investment if you want the job. We’ll confront this issue again in sin #6.

Keep in mind, companies can train their employees in new or better skills. Changing an employee's mindset is difficult at best. When a hiring manager sees you have these four traits, you put yourself far above the competition.

Which mindset issue hinders your job hunt? Please comment below.

Are You Using Authority Wisely?

Parsha Nugget Vayechi – Genesis 47:28-50:26

My seven-year-old daughter surprised me not long ago with the depth of her perceptiveness. Now, I have to revise my thinking about her as too young to wrestle with complex issues. Parshas Vayechi gives me the model:

“And I buried her there on the road to Ephrath, it is Bethlehem.’” (Bereshis/Genesis 48:7)

Are You Using Authority Wisely?

This Sabbath’s parsha, concluding the book of Genesis, begins with Jacob becoming ill. With death imminent, he appeals to Joseph not to bury him in Egypt, but back in Canaan with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah in the cave of Machpelah. Jacob blesses Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim, elevating them to the status of his sons. Then he blesses his own sons, though some of the blessings sound more like rebukes.

All of Egypt mourns Jacob, testifying to his greatness. The immenseness and grandeur of his burial procession impress and scares the Canaanites. After his father’s death, Joseph assures his brothers he forgives them. He lives to see his great-grandchildren. Before he dies, Joseph asks his brothers to bring his bones with them when G-d brings them out of Egypt.

The stage is now set for the enslavement of the Children of Israel and their redemption.

The greatest power of the time, Egypt, acknowledged Jacob’s greatness, evidenced by his funeral. So why did he feel compelled to insist Joseph swear to fulfill his burial arrangement? To be sure his son was the second most powerful man in Egypt, and hence the world. Undoubtedly he was a busy man. Still, why would this cause Jacob to think Joseph could violate the commandment to honor his father?

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Rachel’s burial holds the key.

Rather than burying her where he and Leah would eternally rest, Jacob interned her in a tomb outside Bethlehem. As he confesses, he did not even bring Joseph’s mother into the town. Jacob sensed his son harbored lingering resentment over Rachel’s burial.

By way of apology, Jacob informs Joseph that G-d directed the location of Rachel’s tomb. The Almighty showed him a prophecy that at the time of the Babylonian exile future generations of Israelites would pass by it. As told in Jeremiah 31:15-17, Rachel wept for their plight, eliciting G-d’s mercy.

On death’s doorstep, Jacob could have laid down the law, knowing Joseph would obey. Instead, he took the time to convey his wish compassionately, seeking understanding and reconciliation.

Tweet this: Wise People Use Authority to Strengthen Relationships

In the military, intelligent commanding officers rarely order their subordinates around outside of combat. They know such behavior is counterproductive to encouraging the initiative, resourcefulness, and loyalty necessary for unit success.

You can require obedience from your children. In a dangerous situation, this may be appropriate. But creating a lifelong, loving relationship requires openness and engagement. Equipping them with the tools they need for success in life means addressing their needs and feelings. Even when the stakes for you are high, and your time is short.

Question – What suggestions do you have for instilling parental respect in your children while creating mutual understanding?

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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. It is named after 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!

If You’re Wise You’ll Be Inconsistent

Recently I read Stephen Asma’s book Against Fairness. Intrigued by the title, I hoped to get some ideas for explaining to my seven-year-old why life is not fair. While this need went unsatisfied, it caused me ponder the nature of fairness and how it relates to wisdom.

If You’re Wise You’ll Be Inconsistent

Fairness seems to be part of the American character. But as Asma points out, other cultures, in particular, many in Asia, favor family ties above all. Abandoning nepotism in favor of a stranger is shameful.

But if we dig below the surface, fairness flies in the face of another cherished American societal value: individualism.

The rabbi of my community is admired by all as a wise, humane man. Beset by requests for guidance, he could spend 25 hours a day dispensing advice. While under his tutelage, one day I questioned him about a particular issue in the Jewish dietary laws. His answer astounded me. He told me it depended on several factors:

  1. Who is asking the question? Specifically, where on life’s journey was the person? How extensive were her knowledge and expertise?
  2. To what spiritual level is the person aspiring? Is the person seeking to stretch herself and increase her level of observance?
  3. What day of the week and time of day was it? Was it late on a Friday close to the start of the Sabbath?

There were others but you get the idea.

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This seemed consummately unfair. Essentially, as an aspiring rabbi, I would get a strict answer but someone less knowledgeable would be treated more leniently. The rules should be the rules. Of course, if everyone got the same answer, why do you need to speak to a human? A computer would be much more efficient and fair.

Therein lies the crux of the matter. Each person is unique. So any question requires the context of that person’s specific situation in order to come up with the right answer. Similar to doing an act of kindness, insight into a person’s character and circumstances are necessary to find the proper solution to his challenges.

Such is the nature of wisdom. It requires knowledge and experience, but most importantly good judgment.

Inevitably, from the outside, it will appear inconsistent since when two people have the same issue, the solutions will in all likelihood be different.

I suspect you want to be dealt with in the context of your own life challenges, not those of society or other people. Not only is such a desire reasonable, it is the only way to support a realistic path of personal growth.

Would you rather be treated by a societal standard of fairness or as an individual

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Why Your Ambition Isn’t Egotistical

July 1 I became a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy.  Despite this being my first real promotion (becoming a lieutenant is automatic unless you really mess up) I asked for an understated ceremony.  It seems improper for a chaplain to make a big deal about rank.  After all, my authority should come from my behavior and what I stand for.

Why Your Ambition Isn’t Egotistical

Image from iStockPhoto.com

Do not get me wrong.  I am not opposed to ambition.  My wife will tell you I am driven to succeed.  And I admire ambitious people, provided their pursuit of power and accomplishment benefits humanity.  Remember Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol?  Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly accumulation of wealth served no purpose other than self-aggrandizement.  Thankfully in America affluence often leads to philanthropy.

Through my work I find that too often the people most fit to fill high positions are the ones reluctant to strive for them.  Genuine modesty impedes them from considering entering the fray.  If you find yourself in this group, I hope you will take these ideas to heart:

  1. Great people seek power so as to serve others.  Although both had towering ambition, leaders as different as George Washington and Winston Churchill devoted their lives to improving the lot of their countrymen and allies.  By contrast, Benedict Arnold and Josef Stalin, while at one time positioned for greatness, squandered their opportunity through egotism and in Stalin’s case inhumanity.
  2. Great people’s lives rest on a foundation of values.  By the time he was 16, Washington had devoted himself to his 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.  Churchill spent years in the political wilderness because his antipathy to fascism and determination to rearm to fight it militarily if necessary was at odds with contemporary public sentiment.  Neither treason nor mass murder was too abhorrent to Arnold and Stalin, respectively, in their pursuit of power.
  3. Great people relentlessly improve their fitness to lead. Washington’s mastery of his Rules of Civility, along with his self-education as a surveyor, soldier, and leader, qualified him for the lofty positions he sought.  Churchill spent time in combat, built wealth, learned to glean knowledge from other people, and developed his oratorical skills all to prepare him to lead.  While Arnold developed some command ability as a soldier, he was not a student of men or leadership. Stalin had great political skill but in the end he substituted brutality for personal development.
  4. Great people at heart are humble. Washington shunned a perpetual presidency for the good of a young America.  Churchill, during the days of his “back fog,” questioned his ability.  Both Arnold and Stalin thought the world owed them recognition and power.
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I hope you will seek ever-greater challenges: professionally, personally, and spiritually.  The world can never have too many people dedicated to serving their fellow human beings.  If you question your fitness for a more prominent position, greater wealth, or increased influence you are on the right track.  The answer lies in honing your ability, clarifying your values, and committing to use these gifts to serve others.

How do you feel about ambition as a character trait?

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An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons

Recently I commented to a friend that I admired his reading business books. Although they have valuable ideas, the writing is less than enthralling. You probably don't have nearly as much time to read as you'd like. But having come across a series of short books containing practical leadership lessons embedded in captivating narratives I knew I had to tell you about them. I mentioned one of them, Patton in my list of the 10 best books I read last year.

I've read five of the 14 biographies in Palgrave Macmillan’s Great Generals series. Written by some of the best military historians, such as Alex Axelrod, Donald A. Davis, H. Paul Jeffers, and Jim Lacey, all were outstanding. Each takes about 7 hours to read or listen to. They cover the subject’s early life, military career, and civilian life after the army if he had one, emphasizing the qualities each general groomed in himself, how he worked with mentors, the significant mistakes he made, and how he overcame them.

Leadership and Personal Development

While its goal is leadership development, the series is equally valuable as a personal development tool.

Rather than proclaiming their subject’s greatness, each general’s eminence becomes self-evident as his story unfolds.

Having read these, I personally recommend:

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Marshall (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Bradley (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Pershing (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Stonewall Jackson (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Patton: A Biography (Great Generals)

I plan to read the other nine, which are:

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Custer (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Washington (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Sherman (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Andrew Jackson (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons LeMay (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons MacArthur (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Grant (Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership Lessons Robert E. Lee (The Great Generals)

An Indispensable Resource on Military Leadership LessonsEisenhower: A Biography (Great Generals)

My email to Palgrave Macmillan wasn't answered, but it appears the series is ongoing so hopefully it will come to include General Henry “Hap” Arnold, General Winfield Scott, and General Matthew B. Ridgway.

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I'm curious to know if you have read any of these already and if so what you think about them.

What is your biggest challenge to reading more?

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