Last week I attended a Veterans Job Fair hosted by the Stevenson University Career Center. The event featured not only the gathering of veteran friendly employers, but also had a two hour “Dependable Strengths Workshop” that was offered immediately prior to the fair. It was a condensed version of a more in depth course, which is designed to help attendees discover the common threads that have run through their careers.
By determining what it is in your career that you have done, done well, and enjoyed doing, attendees gained clarity and focus on the direction they should be heading in the job market. The Articulation of Dependable Strengths process is designed to help people break free from job titles and look at the individual aspects of our success. This is important because there is a relative safety in a job title. It may be an easy and comfortable way we define ourselves, but it can also become a limiting factors in the job search process.
I, for example, am very proud to be a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy, but am not necessarily looking for work in the health care field. My “dependable strengths” turned out to be more along the lines of being an individual passionate about organizational success through the empowerment of individuals. You could say that I’m a “rising tide lifts all boats”, kind of guy. I’m also someone who isn’t afraid of the risks associated with trying new approaches to solve problems. Once identified, the next step was to look for specific examples of me using these strengths for the success of the organization.
I highlighted the fact that in my current role as a medical officer recruiter I have established a local network of physicians and medical school students in the Baltimore. This network has resulted in an increase in cooperation and support for individuals associated with Navy Medicine in the local area. Most importantly it has significantly advanced Navy recruiting efforts and I have the numbers to prove it.
At another time, I organized and implemented a staffing and operations plan for medical care in an austere environment. This called for non-traditional solutions to otherwise standard problems such as communication and logistics. It was through the training and empowerment of individuals that we were able to successfully execute the plan. Over the next six months many lives were saved and five of the individuals in our team received meritorious promotions.
A third example occurred as the Chief of Academics for a school house. The idea of totally revamping everything from the textbook, to the written exams, to the manner in which future updates would be made, was an idea born inside our department, not something directed from above. As a small group, we had to not only make the changes, but also guide the change process through a lot of other stakeholders. Many of which, by the way, were perfectly happy with the status quo. The process took many months, and was not without it’s bumps along the way, but in the end the project was completed on time, as promised. It also produced a quality product and greatly enhanced the learning experience of hundreds of students.
Understanding these strengths is a form of emotional intelligence. The process of focusing them for the job market is known as “branding” and should be tailored to the specific job or organization as much as possible. Service members (especially those retiring after 20+ years) will likely have far too many accomplishments to fit on a one page resume. It’s advised to establish a “career management document” of the various things you’ve done. This makes it easy to plug and play for specific scenarios.
A friend in my network recently sent me a link to a job posting at very large organization seeking a “Military Relations Team Member”. Looking closer at the job announcement it said “USMC experience preferred”. The resume I built for this position highlighted my many years serving with the Marine Corps. This went against the typical advice of de-militarizing, you resume, by the way. It was, however, highlighting a specific set of experiences that the company desires for this position.
I also had another person in my network, from PKW Associates, reach out to me and ask for a copy of my resume. She knew I wasn’t leaving the military for a few months, but wanted to keep it on file. Before doing so, I made a point to do some basic research about her company.
I looked at the company website initially to see if they had any key words or phrases I should know about. Eventually I clicked on the “What Sets Us Apart” banner. It seemed like knowing what they viewed as key to their success would be some good intel. There I found that part of their mission and value’s statement is a focus on long term relationships and “alumni placement”.
With that knowledge, the resume I forwarded in this instance took out much of the military accomplishments that were in the previous one. Instead this one focused on recent experiences such as establishing and maintaining a network of previously hired physicians/scholarship recipients for leads, referrals, and overall process improvement.
The success of this network is one of the things I’m most proud of in my current position. Until I researched the website, however, I had never put it on a resume. Here was a dependable strength lining right up with an organizations core competency.
After twenty years, and moving from not only one unit to the next, but from one position to the next, I find it particularly difficult to put together a generic, one page, resume. This is why I believe it is so important to start this process early. By doing so, I can continue to refine not only my career management document, but also the skills needed to target my strengths at organizations most likely to appreciate them.
The way ahead for me is to keep crafting resume’s for specific positions and save each one. Eventually I will have a stable documents that can be used in various situations. One for recruiting, one for training, another for health care, etc. The tweaks for each specific job opening will only get easier.
To me, a successful transition from a military career to a civilian position is much more than just finding a job, it’s about finding a position where I’m happy to get up and go to work, even on the tough days. For twenty years being in the Navy has been a way of life, not just a paycheck. That passion for the people and job, by the way, is not unique to me, it’s part of the culture. I’m hoping to land in a position where I find a similar situation. Using the dependable strengths idea to communicate my brand should help me attract interest from the organizations that are most likely to produce a good fit.
I’m sure there are organizations out there, for example, that operate on more of a “staff and forget” model, and they may even be successful organizations with good pay and benefits, but it wouldn’t align with they way I operate, and therefor, I would be less likely to be happy about going to work. I’m a big believer in person/organization fit. The right person in the right situation will produce the best results. A good resume, that reflects an honest brand, based upon sincere strengths is the first step to finding the right fit.
NOTE: I found a nice article about branding as I was working on this post. It is titled Five Ways Veterans Can Build Their Brand and is pretty much in alignment of my thoughts and experiences above..