Career Advice From The Clash and Emily Dickinson

I doubt Mick Jones and the rest of the The Clash had any idea how much their 1981 song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” would so completely sum up the thought process many veterans go through when they contemplate whether to continue on with a military career or take the leap into the private sector.  Of course, that’s the beauty of a good song, it can be applied to many people in many situations.

As much as I have preached the value of leaving the service on your own terms, as opposed to being “politely asked to leave”, I know it can still be scary. Many times I would ask myself the very same question…”Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Punk Rock and Poetry

 

But in the end, the words of Mick Jones also reminded me that “If I go there will be trouble, but if I stay it will be double“.  Sticking around the service just because you can is often trading the security of today for the opportunity of tomorrow.  There is a shelf life to our skills and experiences.  We need to understand this in order for us to time our departure so that, when we do leave the safety of that predictable paycheck on the 1st and the 15th, we are prepared to market ourselves with skill sets that are both recent and relevant.

For example, I recently spoke with a Navy Operations Specialist who is currently on recruiting duty about his long-term (post military) career plans.  If he planned on getting out now, his experience in working with sophisticated electronic equipment would be, at a minimum, three years old.  Skills atrophy.  Equipment changes.  As each month goes by he becomes a less and less attractive candidate.  Should he stay or should he go?

It depends.

If he wants to work in electronics after the Navy, he should absolutely stay in the service a few more years. He should ensure his next set of orders takes him back to an operational job. Once on that job he needs to understand the metrics for success used by outside organizations and then look for ways inside the Navy to document similar achievements.

On the other hand, if he is enjoying working as a recruiter,  then perhaps he should investigate civilian positions in sales or recruiting.  Positions that leverage his people skills, while still working inside the electronics industry may even be a better fit.  So, if this is the direction he wants to go, that previous plan we had just spoken about is NOT the best option.  Instead he should look at either getting out of the service now and cashing in his recent/relevant experience or staying in the Navy but remaining in the field of recruiting.

His dilemma is not unique. Service members are constantly asking ourselves whether we should, in fact, stay or go.  Sticking around the military might mean more rank and more money, but if the promotions aren’t taking you towards your post-service career goals, then the short-term gain may end up causing long-term pain. Service members need workable post-career plans.

Even with a strong personal career plan, however, there will come a time that requires execution of said plan, and this can be scary.  Being scared of the inevitable is natural. The problems arise when we let the fear paralyze us. Fear of the event can become much worse than the event itself.  Enter the 19th Century Poet, Emily Dickinson to help us out.

While we were fearing it, it came – 
But came with less of fear
Because that fearing it so long
Had almost made it fair – 

There is a Fitting – a Dismay – 
A Fitting – a Despair – 
‘Tis harder knowing it is Due
Than knowing it is Here.

The Trying on the Utmost
The Morning it is new
Is Terribler than wearing it
A whole existence through.

Granted, Emily Dickinson’s poem is about death, not career change, but the point remains.  Military transition ranks right up there with death and taxes on the scale of inevitability. If we continue to be afraid of life outside the military, it will sneak up and hit us unprepared.  I’ve seen this on the faces of those in transition classes who can’t put together a good resume, not because they can’t physically produce a document using Microsoft Word, but because their career experiences don’t tell a coherent story about who they are and what they do.

These are the people who spent their time in the service enjoying the relative safety of the organization but never put together a personal career plan. They avoided thinking about the future, because it was scary and uncertain. And so long as they showed up on time, worked hard, and produced results, life was good.  And it stayed good. Right up to the end.  Then it wasn’t.

This is why it’s so important to begin thinking about life after the military early in your career.  Which assignments to take, which schools to attend, which certifications to seek out, all of these questions should lead you down a path with a clear goal in mind.  This way, when you ask yourself, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” your answer won’t be based on fear.

 

 

NOTE: I’m much more of a music fan than a poetry scholar. I found the Emily Dickinson Poem, via an obscure band known as the Amygdoloids, which is actually composed of a group of Neuroscientists from NYU.  As part of my certification course to become a veteran transition coach we were having a discussion about the part of the brain that regulates fear and decision-making, known as the amygdala.  During a more lighthearted tangent  someone mentioned that there was a band named after that part of the brain.  This led me to their song “Fearing”, which was based on the poem above.

 

 

 

 

Our Greatest Strength Is Also Our Greatest Weakness

We’ve done so much, with so little, for so long, that we can anything, with nothing, forever.  

This phrase highlights the strength of the current military member, and at the same time, the weakness of the veteran job seeker.

One of the biggest issues transitioning veterans face as they prepare to move on from military service is the “jack of all trades” hurdle.  Although we prided ourselves on being able to accomplish any task given to us, we quickly discover that there are no listings on job boards for the position of, “Swiss Army Knife.”34912_3901

Yet, if there isn’t a market for this, why do so many veterans end up here?  I believe it’s because that is the only world many veterans have ever lived in.

Think about it. For the vast majority of transitioning veterans the only recruiter they knew didn’t care about what they did, they only cared about what they could do.  Enlisted recruiters in particular sell the organization, not the job.  The ideal applicant will be committed to being a Marine or an Airman, for example, well before they are offered any specific job in the organization.  In fact, there are even opportunities to come in under an open contract. This means you’re hired first and eventually we’ll figure out something to do with you. In the meantime, of course, you’ll get chance to do the much-needed, but not so desirable tasks of the organization.

Eventually, though, the services will find a job field that the applicant qualifies for and then he or she is sent off to training for a series of weeks or even months. Ultimately the service member is then given the opportunity to perform the job.  This cycle, by the way, may be repeated a number of times over an extended career.  Needs of the organization are identified, training is provided, member does the job.  This onboarding and subsequent cross training process is how we end up with so many veteran job seekers with a breadth of technical and management skills, yet no real career focus.

Unfortunately at one of the most critical times of their lives these people can’t answer the critical question, “What do you do?”

Private organization don’t operate like this.  They have specific needs that have specific requirements.  Very few, if any, will have the financial resources to hire people into a long-term training pipeline, and the ones that do, much like the military, will only do so for entry-level positions.

The “move up or out” organizational culture is pretty unique to the military. We as veterans can’t expect the real world to change for us. Today’s job seekers must be able to focus their resume, elevator speech, and personal brand around specific goals.  If you’ve had multiple tours doing different jobs, you may need to get comfortable with multiple personalities.  It’s not fake or disingenuous to portray yourself as a technician to one person and a trainer to another as needed (provided you actually have those experiences).

For those currently in the service, the best advice I can give is to learn this lesson now.  It’s true, the military does provide great training and tons of experience, but as your career moves forward you’ll eventually have to figure out where you  want to be after the military. Once you figure that out you need to make every effort put yourself into positions to succeed in that arena.  Hit the right wickets, get the right education, capture the right data, all  while you’re still in. Then, when the time is right, you can set out on a targeted job search. Believe it or not, keeping up with your own professional career can actually make you a better service member, too.

I’ve always said that you’re better off running towards something than running from something. Many people join the military because they are unhappy with their current life situation. They fact that they then find relative success in the armed forces can provide a false sense of security when it’s time to leave. The process won’t be repeated in the civilian sector.  Only the armed forces are built to make that kind of magic happen. In this regard, the military is as unique as it is awesome.

If you try to run away from the military without knowing where it is you’re going you will end up discovering that there are no private organizations for you to “join”.  You’ll need to be hired. And organization only hire because they have a specific need and they truly believe that you will be the one to perform the needed tasks. If you can’t convince them of that, someone else will.

Career Services For Active Duty Is The Key To Long Term Success

Veteran hiring is an important issue and it’s rightly on the the minds of a lot of people and organizations.  But in reality, it’s only a symptom of a larger disease.  Instead of veteran hiring initiatives, what we really need is better career services programs aimed at those on active duty.  In comparing active duty service members and college students it’s easy to find many similarities, as well as differences.  One big thing they have in common is that, eventually, they will need to leave their present organization in search of gainful employment.  The manner in which they prepare for that jump, however, is in no way the same.

Colleges and universities exists not to produce students, but to produce successful alumni. Students pay a lot of (mostly borrowed) money for an organization to prepare them for the next stage of their life. Good colleges understand this. They know that a diploma only validates the worth of a student so long as the graduates continue to validate the worth of the diploma with their productivity. It’s a symbiotic relationship and the department of career services is the catalyst in this equation.

The military on the other hand exists to harvest your skills while you are inside the system.  Yes, you will be trained to do a job. You will then be given all (or at least some) of the tools needed to perform said tasks and expected to get the job done. That’s how the military operates. It’s mission driven.

Military career planners are tasked with assisting active duty members on how to navigate their internal careers. They ensure career wickets are met, forms are completed, and classes are attended. They let you know if, and when, you can reenlist and, if so, under what circumstances. They must know how their particular service works in order to advise a member how to best navigate his or her individual career. But make no mistake, they work for the organization, not the individual.

This is the reality of the situation and the sooner an active duty member accepts it as such, the better their chances for long term success.  I’ve seen too many  mid-level service members get comfortable with the idea that the skills they’ve acquired will enable them to walk right into a similar job once they decide to leave the military.

Service members should learn early on that value in the civilian world is based upon supply and demand. Not only are there a lot of other individuals coming out of the military with your same skill set, but there are also others that may have attained the same level of proficiency through the traditional education system.

The decision to leave the military (voluntarily or not)  means we  are entering the job market and now must compete for those coveted things we call jobs. Fortune favors the prepared.small_8072539635

This is why smart college students are engaging their career services offices early and often in their academic careers.  Admittedly, not all college students take advantage of this opportunity, but then again not all college graduates are getting jobs either.

Unfortunately for those in the military though, there isn’t a true “career services” center as readily available, even if they wanted one. The closest thing are the various  Transition Assistance Programs, but while these programs have some great individuals working there, the focus is often retrospective.  The task is more about sorting through previous experiences and certifications to try to piece together a plan. Often times this is too late.

What service members need is no different than what their peers need. They need to figure out who they are, where they want to go, and how to get there.  The sooner anyone, college student, service member, or entrepreneur can answer these questions, the sooner they can move forward on their life journey.

I know that it’s unrealistic to expect the military to develop and fund a career services department in the same manner that colleges operate. It’s not the job of the military to do that, and to be honest, I doubt it would be effective, cost efficient, or well received.

This is why it’s incumbent on the service members who truly want to succeed after the military to become their own career services center.  Service members must let go of the notion that this lack of a dedicated career services department is an obstacles too difficult to overcome.   There is very little that a career services center does that can not be done by an individual service member, particularly in the age of the internet.

The most important part of the career services puzzle is to network early and find mentors in fields that interest you.  This means keeping up with people you work with in order to have strong network. It means using the military alumni network the same way universities do, not to ask for a job after graduation, but to learn about a job, career field, organization early.

Early engagement leads to knowing what it takes to get there, and it provides opportunities to become a known entity. When people talk about getting a job from someone in their network, it’s rarely a close friend.  On the contrary, it’s typically from the weak connections, the people you used to work with, or the civilian individual in the same field that you only see every few months.  Strong networks are only built over time,and  luckily that’s one thing the military offers in abundance. It’s up to us how we use it.

I’m not advocating for people to spend their entire military career schmoozing.  Just as the first job for those in college is to be a student, the primary mission of a service member is always to be a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine.  It is very possible, though, to be great at your job while simultaneously preparing for life after the military, especially if you keep up with your industry.

Some of the same advice being offered to current college students is easily adaptable to young service members.  When a career services professional like Rich Grant writes about about how to use Twitter as a networking tool those tips can be just as relevant to the service member as they are to the college student.  When a recruiter like Steve Levy offers tips on how to improve career services at the college level, many of these ideas can be individually applied to the needs of today’s service members. Even better, Levy’s blog has posts specifically aimed at veterans, including a terrific one about active duty people using LinkedIn.

Spoiler alert- he encourages you to get active now, as opposed to waiting until it’s time for transition…..are you sensing a trend?

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sirwiseowl/8072539635

LinkedIn Groups….Who Are You Hanging Out With?

You need to be on LinkedIn…..that drum gets beat into every separating service members head during their transition classes.  Unfortunately, though, LinkedIn is not something a lot of people in the service use during their time on active duty, so it can be daunting to just jump right in.  A lot of people establish profiles under duress, not believing they will do any good.  Without any direction on how to make the platform work for them, their profile sits there in cyberspace with very few connections, only reinforcing the service members original thoughts on its lack of value.

So, what can service members do to break out of their shell and quit being a wallflower at the Post Military Employment Prom?  Just like any other social event, if you don’t already have a date, you need to hang with a group.  And just like High School, who you hang with is critical. Unlike High School, however, LinkedIn recognizes that people are complex, so there is no need to feel like you have to declare your allegiance to one clique. LinkedIn allows you to be a member of up to 50 groups.

The tips below can help you make the most out of LinkedIn Groups.

 First, you need to diversify. There are always certain groups that we will feel more around than others.  LinkedIn has a good number of military oriented affinity groups and these are the ones service members typically join first.  I’m a Navy Chief….there’s a group for Navy Chiefs…..I know I’ll be among friends…..easy choice.  There’s nothing wrong with joining a group like this, but if this is a far as you go, you’re not likely to grow or expand your network much beyond the military community.

To broaden your horizons and really expand your network, look for affinity groups based upon your actual job in the military.  For example, if you’re an electrical engineer, perhaps you’d find some benefit from joining the over 6,000 members of the Business Industrial Network who’s group page states, “Engineers, Electricians, Mechanics, Maintenance Welcome”.  Those currently on active duty can use this to keep up with the current issues of their industry which is critical for ensuring you’re prepared to jump into the private sector.  And if you’re transitioning from the service, perhaps one of over the 200 job postings in the group may interest you.

In addition to industry affinity groups there are a number of groups that were formed for the purpose of assisting transitioning service members, but be advised, not all of these are created equal.  Some are location-based, such as the Fort Meade Military Transition networking Group and the Camp Lejeune Transition Readiness Seminar Group. The Fort Meade group has over 200 members (about 1/3 are recruiters) and over 850 jobs listed, while the Camp Lejeune group has 89 members (only one with the word Recruiter in their title) and zero jobs. I’m not saying that one group is inherently better than the other (I’m a member of both), but it’s important to know the make up of each, in order understand what they offer.

Other groups with a focus on transitioning veteran have a global audience.  Although the following is not all-inclusive, the following are just three in particular that I’ve found helpful as far as actionable advice: Military-Civilian Career Coaching Connection (MC4), Boots To Loafers, and Recruiters 4 Veterans. Sites like these are less likely to have jobs posted, but will instead be more focused on offering genuine tips on the transition process.

There are two ways to find these niche groups. The easiest method is to use the search field at the top of the LinkedIn page and type in key words by either title or location (engineer, recruiter, nurse, Baltimore, San Diego, Austin).  Another way (and I think more effective method)  is to look at the bottom of the profiles of your connections to see which groups they are a member of.  No matter how you do it, being active in even a few LinkedIn groups from the different categories will set you up for success.

Second, you need to participate. You build your network by meeting people, and meeting people on LinkedIn occurs when you join in on some discussions.  See an article you like? Share it with a group.  Did someone in the group post something you find relevant? Share it with your connections.  Have a thought? Add your two cents in the comments section.  These are the things that bring people together.  Participation is the catalyst to check out the profiles of other individuals (which is a great way find ways to improve your own).  This is what leads to connections and allows your network to grow exponentially.

Third, know your audience. Preaching to the choir might be safest way to communicate, but it never really changes anything.  We need to understand our place in relation to the rest of the group and ensure the things we share are likely to benefit those who will see our message.  A great example of this centered around a recent Forbes.com  article about the value of Non Commissioned Officers. The piece has a different meaning when shared with other military members than if it is shared by/with private sector recruiters and hiring managers.

In fact, one of the coaches, (Joseph Paschal) in the MC4 discussion thread put it very well saying, “this article has resonated well on many other veteran sites because it tells veterans what they want to hear. However, it is a grossly obtuse analogy that really does not help veterans because it may lead NCOs (and others) to believe that they can make the case for being qualified for positions simply because they have such solid experience as NCOs (or veterans).”

 Joe wasn’t saying anything bad about the content of the article, but I think his point about how the message was being perceived was spot on. (See the full discussion thread here.)

We need to tell private industry about the military and, at the same time, tell the military about private industry.  These are two distinct conversations and the way we have those conversations on LinkedIn is to be active in many groups, and to share the appropriate message with each.

Veteran participation in industry specific groups helps us all. By sharing relevant articles and making insightful comments we can knock down the walls of misperception.  Even more to the point, we do far more good for our own post military employment chances by participating in the civilian networking groups than we do by simply hanging out with our closest friends telling each other how great we are.

Its time to quit holding up the wall and get out there on the dance floor.

Five Things I Know (So Far)

When I began this blog seven months ago the purpose was to document my thoughts and experiences during the last year (or so) of my active duty time in the Navy.  As we draw down on 2013, I wanted to take some to reflect on my experience thus far.

First of all, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on the project as a whole.  I’m particularly grateful whenever I hear from my friends that are still years away from retirement/separation.  The original purpose of this was to provide a platform to capture information in order to share it so that others may  succeed and I hope I’m accomplishing that.

 Back in my second post I described this transition process as trying to pull off a trapeze stunt without having the benefit of practice, seven months later that feeling remains. I’ve committed to the process and let go of the first swinging bar, and look forward to catching another.  It’s not a very comfortable feeling.  It’s a stage we all have to go through, though.

For those that have followed this blog from the beginning you may have noticed that the posts have become more advice oriented and less on personal reflections.  Getting some of my posts picked up by other organizations has been a big reason for this.  My article about the American Corporate Partnership was picked up by their website, and I’ve also had pieces shared by the local job board ClearedJobs.net as well as the recruiter organization RecruitDC.

This success, though very moderate and with zero financial gain involved, has validated for me that my real passion lies in helping organizations succeed by recruiting, training, and retaining veteran talent.  Over the years I’ve come to see that making this happen is a two way street. We as veterans need to market ourselves correctly and organizations should continue to proactively seek out military members for employment.  I’ve seen first hand that there is good stuff happening on both sides of this equation.

I’m also convinced that there is room for improvement.  Hence, some of my posts have offered advice to veterans, and other posts have been aimed at exposing civilian organizations to the unique challenges of engaging a military audience. Working to bridge this gap is what I truly love to do and I look forward to helping individuals and/or organizations succeed by helping to get the right people into the right jobs.

Since it’s been a while since I wrote anything “personal” about my experience, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what I’ve learned.

1 Networking early and often is the key.  I can not stress enough how thankful I am to the many civilian individuals that I’ve come into contact with who have helped me.  They have provided great mentorship and even better they have always been quick to introduce to me to others.  Networking really is exponential and there are a ton of very good people in the world. As scary as it is now, I can’t imagine where I’d be without these individuals. Every success I’ve had in this process can be directly traced back to someone in my network.

2- There are some outstanding programs out there  and American Corporate Partners is a great one.  My mentor has given me a fresh perspective about career paths and the organization has been truly top notch.  I look forward to attending a specific ACP Networking event at the end of January.

One thought that continues to bounce around inside my head is the idea of striking out on my own. I’ve found the Small Business Administration has great information. I have also learned about an organization known as Score that provides local mentors for service members starting their own business. For those that are service disabled and looking to start your own business please check out the Entrepreneur Boot Campthis looks like an amazing program. (I don’t qualify, but it’s worth passing along.)

3- The amount of helpful outlets can be overwhelming. For example, LinkedIn has a ton of groups that offer career advice, many of them are very good, but there are so many it can be tough to keep up.  I was told that these are the key to building your network on LinkedIn and I should pick a couple and be active in the discussions forums. I’ve done that and it’s worked out just as I was told. I’m establishing myself as a “content creator” with “virtual footprint“, but sometimes I know that can get lost down the rabbit hole of LinkedIn.  There’s a lot of people, on a lot of sites, saying the same things,  to the same people.  Sometimes I just  need to remind myself I don’t need to be everywhere, all the time. I can’t read everything on the internet.  I also hope that this blog doesn’t fall into that category of just regurgitating the same information.

4- I know more than I think I do.  In all honesty, having the blog posts picked up by other organizations has been an ego boost. So has the feeling that I’ve become a subject matter expert, at least to some degree, for veterans and recruiters alike.  This has given me a lot of confidence. The more people tell you that you can do something, the more likely you are to succeed, and as an active duty person it’s very nice to get that validation from those in the private sector.

5- I don’t know everything. Despite point #4 above, there are still some things that I need to learn and experience.  Knowing this has led me to ask a lot of questions of a lot of people.  It’s what motivates me to attend professional events and do a lot of professional reading.  I think there is such thing as healthy amount of self awareness and that knowing our shortcomings is a critical component in preparing for the jump from Sailor to Civilian.

Over these past few months it’s become obvious that the transition process can happen very quickly, and yet at the same time seem painfully slow. I’ve always believed that you’re better off leaving the military because you are running to something, as opposed to running away from something and at this point I feel like I have found my focus in terms of what I want to do. For that I’m thankful.

Although the manner and location I ultimately do the work of connecting organizations with veteran talent is still undecided, I remain confident that it will all work out.  Terminal Leave starts in June of 2014 and my last day getting paid on active duty is August 31st, so I still have some time.

I hope that my thoughts thus far have been helpful to at least a few people and I look forward to continuing to share this experience with those so inclined to follow.

Seven months into this project, has anything been helpful?  Is there anything else you’d like to see addressed?  Let me know in the comments section.

Sell Your Talent, Not Your Title

There’s a lot of PR going on right now around the topic of veteran hiring.  Private organizations are picking up on the terrific talent pool coming out of the armed forces and many even have specific outreach programs designed to attract recently separated military personnel.  Let’s be clear though, no one will hire us because we are veterans, they will hire us because we have something to offer their company.

If you’re still on active duty, look around your unit (if you’ve recently separated think back to your last one).  Do you believe everyone in that group was equally talented?  We as veteran job seekers can be quick to point out things like “NCO’s make great managers”, which is true.  But can you really say that every NCO you worked for was great? Can you even say that all of them were even adequate?  The same goes with every job and billet in the military. Not every Commanding Officer is an awesome leader. Not every Supply Officer can handle logistics in an exceptional manner. Not every technician is trusted to work on the most critical of equipment.

By definition, everyone in your unit is a veteran.  But not all of them are talented.

Veteran (adj) Talent (n)

In the military we focus on mission accomplishment for the unit, not necessarily the individual. This is why you may see a unit or staff function succeed even despite the obvious inadequacies of certain individuals.  I’ve seen officers that would never survive without their subordinates going above and beyond their job description. I’ve also seen officers put in ungodly amounts of extra supervision (and sometimes even hands on work) to make the mission succeed because they were dealt a lousy hand in terms of NCO’s.

In order to succeed on the job market then, we need to ensure we sell our talents, not our titles. When recruiters are tasked with finding veteran talent, the word veteran is the adjective, not the noun.

The following are some tips on how to do just that.

1- Make sure your resume (and LinkedIn Profile) lists actual accomplishments, and understand that being responsible for something isn’t an accomplishment.

2- Learn about industries that you would like to work in after the military to understand what types of metrics they use to define success. Seek to put yourself in positions to do the same type of measurable work while still on active duty.

3- Keep steady and accurate documentation of your success.  If the success metrics for the civilian world don’t exactly line up with the success metrics of your current billet in the military, so be it. Just keep parallel documentation.  In the end, your performance evaluations can help you build a civilian resume, but they can’t replace it.

The ability to demonstrate our talents is critical to success on the job market.  The best advice is to start early in your career to find ways to put yourself into positions to learn, grow, and ultimately perform, at the tasks valued by private organizations. It’s only when we demonstrate the talent that the adjective “Veteran” gets a chance to work it’s magic.

Reinventing Michael Banks: A Lesson in Empathy

Many veterans on the job hunt get frustrated because they feel like potential employers don’t understand or appreciate their experiences.  While this is often true, we have to remember that empathy goes both ways. Service members also need to find ways to understand the unique constraints that recruiters, hiring mangers, and supervisors find themselves in when dealing with veterans in the workforce.  Bridging the culture gap takes more than just finding newer (and often times louder) ways to tell our side of the story, the empathy that we need comes from understanding where the other side is coming from.

Imagine if a civilian technical representative was assigned to your active duty military team. The person has obvious qualifications on how to run the machinery in your shop, in fact they may know more about it than anyone else. What they lack would be the ability to apply that concept within the norms of your military organization.  How would you feel about this situation?  Would you expect that individual to adapt to the norms of the group, or would you expect the group to adapt the norms of the individual? I think we can agree that if the individual refused to adapt to the group, the group would continue to exist, even without the member.

So it is with veteran hiring. If both sides work to understand each others situation then individual and organizational success is much more likely. In the end, veterans must be prepared to reach out first, and reach out the farthest.  If we do, the hands we find on the other side will be in the best position to offer a strong grip and be the most equipped to help us over the wall that divides our military life from a potential civilian career.

Recently an organization known as WILL Interactive  in collaboration with The Coming Home Project produced a really great interactive video program entitled “Reinventing Michael Banks”.  The best part of this interactive video is that it allows people to take on the various roles of veteran job seeker, recruiter, hiring manager, and supervisor.  Playing the scenarios from different personalities not only allows the participant to make choices about what to do next, but more importantly it  allows the player to hear some of the “thoughts” that go through the heads of each person.

Human interactions are much deeper than the verbal or non-verbal signals we send out.  The more empathy we can have about why a person says or does things, the better we can become at tailoring our messages and actions to best fit for the situation. One of my favorite quotes of all times is from Mark Hortsman, who says “Communication is what the listener does.” In this regard, empathy is a force multiplier.  The object is to deliver the message in all of its intended meaning. The more we know about the receiver, the better our chances of success.

I encourage everyone associated with veteran hiring to spend some time on this simulator. If you only have time to go through it once- please play it from a perspective other than your own.  If you have time to go through all four scenarios, I suggest you play from your current perspective last.  You already know what it’s like to be you……this is about finding out what it’s like to be somebody else.

Click here to go to the Reinventing Michael Banks website and participate in scenario.

http://www.reinventingmichaelbanks.com/