Any significant military training or deployment has three distinct phases. A Site Survey team goes out first to gather intelligence and report back to the group. Later an Advance Party Team is sent to set things up and if done properly, everyone hits the ground running once the Main Body arrives. Of the three phases, the site survey is often the most undervalued.
Even when we deployed to far away places like Afghanistan, key leadership would fly halfway across the world to do some fact finding about the current situation on the ground and then come all the way back to tell everyone else about what they found. In order to make this worth the time and money it was done early enough to allow for any last minute changes to training or plans prior to actually going in country. The importance of the site survey is one of those things that many only recognize when it’s done poorly (or not at all).
A successful transition to the civilian world also requires a site survey phase and to do it right means actually going where the action is, not just reading about it on the internet. My site survey actually began when I started recruiting officers here in Baltimore. The past ten years I had spent in Camp Lejuene, NC had insulated me from the rest of the country. I needed to experience a bit of the civilian world, and officer recruiting was/is the perfect opportunity to do that.
Doing this job well requires me to get out from behind the desk and meet people. Getting my message to the right people often requires working through other organizations bureaucracy. I keep in contact with career services directors and pre-medical advisers at the local colleges, and also residency coordinators and other administrative staff at the hospitals here in Baltimore. In addition to being critical components of success for my current job, this has allowed me a great deal of “site survey” opportunity for the civilian world.
I also continue to seek out and take advantage of other opportunities that allow me to be physically present in the civilian world, not as a Sailor, but as an HR Professional, as often as possible. For example, a little over a year ago I joined the local group Baltimore Area Recruiting Network. Since that time I’ve attended some of the meeting and socials sponsored by the group. I also took a day of leave last fall and paid to attend the “Recruit Baltimore” conference (a terrific conference, by the way).
I’ve been able to see the similarities and the differences between military and civilian recruiting. This has allowed me to play to my strengths now in order to establish a good reputation. At the same time, this “gap analysis” is showing me the areas of skill and knowledge I may need to brush up on before making the jump from one career to the next.
This week I attended an event called “Network After Work“. This brought together close to 200 people from the local area, put us in a nice bar, and provided name tags that were color coded by industry. I’ll admit that I was initially skeptical. I was afraid it would be simply a social outlet for the younger crowd, but I gave it a shot. It turned out to be a great night, and well worth both my time and money.
The people were all friendly and professional. During the two and half hours I was there, I strengthened my existing network in some areas and was also able to expand it into others. I was happy to see an employee from P.K.W. Associates there, an organization that I was already impressed with through another contact. This event provided me with another opportunity to learn more about her organization, while at the same time she learned more about me as a person.
I know that they are actively looking to tap into the veteran market and was able to offer some insights about that community. I’ve helped them with this in the past, and they have helped me understand more about the world I’m looking to enter. It’s truly a symbiotic relationship and I believe I can now confidently say that at PKW, I’m no longer “just a resume”.
I also had a chance to meet someone in the Leadership Development department at McCormick. I struck up a conversation about how they accomplish that task and learned that it’s a course aimed at what are termed “high potential employees” that must be nominated by their supervisors to attend. In return, I was able to give her an overview of the way Navy Leadership Training works. I told her about some of the first person video vignettes that lead to our discussion based learning at each promotion level. We also talked about their on boarding program and I was able to compare that with out command indoc programs. All in all, a short, but terrific conversation. I’m smarter about McCormick, and she’s smarter about the Navy.
It reminds me of a conversation I had a few years back with some junior Sailors who were frustrated at the disparity between working conditions of one department versus theirs. By experience I had done both of the jobs for extended periods of time. I knew that the differences were both fair, and operationally necessary, but I also knew that on the surface it could be tough to appreciate.
I asked the Sailor, “Do you think they know how difficult your job is?”
“No way”, he answered. “They don’t see all the stuff we do behind the scenes or understand just how complicated these tasks are.”
I replied. “So, if you are so certain they don’t understand your situation, what makes you think you know so much about their job?”
So it is with the military/civilian gap. The more often you can do things to expand your network into the civilian sector, the better. We need to learn about the civilian world, just as much as they need to learn about ours. In fact, it’s incumbent on us to reach out to them. Whenever we talk to people that are inside our industry (recruiting, medicine, logistics, etc), but outside the military, we increase the chances of all veterans finding employment. Each conversation helps bridge the communication and culture gap that currently exists. We owe it to ourselves and our peers to make this happen.