The Job Search: Dressing for Success

The Job Search: Dressing for Success

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

(This is the first in a series of posts relating to the job search. Check back every Friday for observations on a variety of employment assistance topics.)

You know what they say…you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Whether it’s reporting in to your new military unit or trying to land a job, many of us still believe that good first impressions are crucial. For the next few minutes, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the ‘land a job’ arena, from the perspective of proper dress during an interview.

Many civilians think that active military and fully separated Veterans have the wardrobe thing all figured out. They see us looking sharp in a parade or a recruiting commercial, but may not realize that while many of us were issued our uniforms, we also had it drilled into our heads exactly how to wear them…by memorizing ‘wear and appearance of the uniform’ regulations or just by verbal instructions from our favorite drill sergeant.

But when it comes to the civilian side of the wardrobe closet, especially for those of us still serving or in the initial stages of separating, things may be woefully inadequate. In fact, I’ve known plenty of Soldiers over the years that had exactly “0” civilian suits on hand. If only we could wear our most comfortable field uniform to the job fair and our service dress to the interview…

For now, let’s move forward under the premise that wearing a military uniform of any type is not an option. You may be like most other humans and cue up your best Internet search query to get smart on what you should wear at different points of the job search. During the interview process, specifically, the clothing you select is indicative of your respect for the interviewers and the companies they represent, as well as how seriously you take the interview itself. The better you dress, the more seriously you will be taken and considered. No doubt about it.

While the way we dress for a job interview isn’t the only criteria on which we’ll be judged, it is the most obvious. Other nonverbal factors include things such as your choice of accessories, firmness of handshake, degree of eye contact, and overall projection of confidence. All are important, to be sure; for the rest of this post, however, let’s focus on attire. We’ve broken down some tips and techniques into recommendations for men and women, with some general tips to serve as bookends. While we didn’t write these rules, feedback from many employers and hiring managers over the years indicates that job searchers should sure pay attention to them.

Tips for everyone. Make sure to wear deodorant, brush your teeth, and comb your hair (sorry if that goes without saying). Bring along breath mints if you won’t be able to brush your teeth before the interview, but don’t eat the mints or chew gum during the conversation. Don’t wear scented items like perfume and cologne; I’ve spoken to more than one interviewer who was allergic to a particular scent being worn, and those particular interviews weren’t exactly enjoyable experiences.

Tips for women. Acceptable attire for women usually includes a suit or conservatively tailored dress, with a coordinated blouse. Avoid blouses or sweaters that are transparent, are tight fitting, have low necklines, or have details that detract from your face. Wear plain-style, non-patterned hosiery, of a color that flatters your skin tone. Wear flat shoes or low pumps in colors that avoid making your feet a focal point. Limit your jewelry: avoid dangling earrings, and wear no more than one ring per hand and a dress watch. You may want to consider manicured nails with clear nail polish. Make your primary accessory a portfolio or small briefcase (don’t carry a purse and a briefcase…choose one or the other).

Tips for men. Feedback indicates that men should wear suits of a solid color (navy, black, or gray, in pinstripe or solid) with a white, long sleeve shirt. Ties should be conservative (silk or silk-like, tied with a half-Windsor knot) and of a color that strongly contrasts with the color of your shirt. Wear professional-looking, lace-up shoes with dark socks, coupled with a leather belt that visually blends with or matches your shoes. Again, wear limited jewelry – no more than one ring per hand and a dress watch. Ensure you have neatly trimmed nails and accessorize with a portfolio or small briefcase.

More tips for everyone. In general, dress in a professional and conservative manner. Ensure your clothing fits well and is clean and pressed. Stay away from denim. Remove facial and body piercings, cover up any visible tattoos, and fix your hair so that it’s conservative in color and style, if possible.

If you haven’t taken anything else from this short post, make sure and put conscious thought into what you wear to the interview. A good rule of thumb is to dress for the job you want five years from now, not the job you want today. Some say to choose the same clothing you’d expect the boss of the company to wear.  Some will tell you to dress conservatively. The point of it all, however, is to keep the focus on the interview, not what you’re wearing.

Do your homework and know the business climate and culture of the company you’re interviewing for, if at all possible. Dress your best for the interview, regardless of the dress code at the organization. Dressing for success will feed into your confidence level, which will be on full display during your interview. And go knock ‘em dead, sweaty palms and all…

 

Do you have any ‘lessons learned’ from your job interviews as you transitioned from active service to the workforce? Anything that might benefit your brothers- and sisters-in-arms, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward

The Military Order of the Purple Heart: Paying it Forward

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

It’s that time of year in our household: the birthday and holiday season, which means an influx of items into our house which is already stuffed beyond what I find reasonable. There are seven of us in my family, and 5 of our birthdays fall between October 22 and January 4. Combine all of that with Christmas and you have loads of goodies coming through the front door and a desperate need for some gently used items to go out as well.

We do our best to reuse as much as possible and hand down clothes from child to child. Some of the outfits that are currently hanging in my youngest son’s closet have been worn by four other boys before him and we will be passing it along after his next growth spurt. While I love our little system, not everything can be easily handed down and not every family has a system quite like ours.

I happened upon the Military Order of the Purple Heart several years ago during a pre-Christmas purge. Like so many families with young children, I found our house inundated with more stuffed animals than we could reasonably handle. Our standard donation collection location did not accept stuffed animals. The thought of tossing these toys, which were in near perfect condition, prompted me to look for a donation place that would repurpose them into homes that could use them.

 

I did what any Xennial would do – I posted on Facebook and asked for a recommendation. There was one answer that resounded: The Military Order of the Purple Heart.

 

I had never heard of them before that point, but I was convinced within three clicks of a mouse. Since then, it is the only place I donate – and here is why:

 

  1. Members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart are combat wounded veterans. These men and women served their country and came home with battle scars. They take their experiences and “pay it forward” by using their energy and resources to help current active duty servicemembers, veterans and all military families.
  2. They pick up at my door. Does it get any easier than that? The Military Order of the Purple Heart has contracted with Green Drop, a charitable organization that both assists in raising funds for its partners and handles the pick up and delivery of donated items. Simply put, Green Drop converts your lightly used items into funds that are critical for the organization of your choosing – in my case, the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
  3. I can schedule my pick ups online. I just pull up GoGreenDrop.com, click on “schedule a pick up” and type in my zip code. They keep track of me by my last name and phone number. Not thrilled with having them come to your door? No problem! There are drop off locations as well (just click on the appropriate drop down).
  4. They email me. I get a confirmation AND a reminder. Let’s be real – I’m a busy mom with five active kids. I’m lucky I remember anything. I need the reminder. My reminder email comes through a day before my pick up and I put my bags by the front door. When I get up the next morning, I put them on my porch (you designate the pick-up location: porch, driveway, front of house, side of house; depending on your home style) and then I don’t think about it again. By the end of the day, the Green Drop folks have stopped by, collected my gently used items and left a receipt to say thank you.
  5. Receipts! Speaking of receipts – I’m married to an accountant so we account for every single item that gets donated. Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart keeps your donation receipt accessible. So – when tax time rolls around and you need proof of your monthly donations, simply hop on that website again and look up your history by your phone and zip code.
  6. Don’t forget the environmental impact! My donation might end up on a shelf at a second-hand store or be given directly to someone in need. Either way, it isn’t ended up unused (like it was in my house), collecting dust or worse – taking up space in the dump. We donated a bear that could sing and read stories. I love the idea of a little girl or boy listening to those stories and singing along, just like my kids used to do.
  7. Finally – and for me, most importantly – donating to The Military Order of the Purple Heart provides me a way to help when finances are a little tighter than we like them to be. (Remember the five kids? They aren’t cheap.) I don’t always have discretionary funds and sometimes I have to make sure the bills are paid before I can put my dollars towards helping others. Green Drop and the Military Order of the Purple Heart take my donations of goods and turn them into donations that help actual people. I love that.

 

So as you dive into the holiday season, if you are looking to purge in your own household, please consider having Green Drop pick up your gently used items. If this holiday season brings you lots of joy – and lots of items that are brand new but won’t find a use in your home, please have Green Drop pick them up. The Military Order of the Purple Heart could use them and the financial resources that your items will bring.

Here is a comprehensive list of items accepted by Green Drop/The Military Order of the Purple Heart:

Clothing & Shoes

 

All men’s, women’s, children and infant clothing including outerwear, underwear, shoes and boots, jackets, ties, shirts, dresses, blouses, sweaters, pants, hats, gloves, handbags, purses, raincoats and overcoats, swimsuits, sandals, shorts, sleepwear, jeans, T-shirts and formal wear.

 

Household Items

 

Cosmetics and toiletries (unopened), eyeglasses and sunglasses, artificial flowers and trees, umbrellas, yarns and material, knick-knacks, antiques,  jewelry, luggage, buttons, musical instruments, towels, area rugs-6×9 or smaller, Christmas and seasonal decorations, novelties, framed pictures and paintings, yard tools, hardware tools, bedding, draperies, blankets, bedspreads, quilts, sheets, pillows and pillow cases.

 

Kitchenware

 

Cookware and bakeware, dishes, utensils, flatware, silverware, pots and pans, Tupperware, glasses and cups, serving plates and trays and canning jars.

 

Games/Toys

 

Fisher Price and Little Tikes items, bicycles, tricycles, board and other games, stuffed animals, software for Playstation, Xbox and Wii.

 

Small Appliances

 

Irons and ironing boards, sewing machines, microwaves, clocks, hair dryers, electric griddles, blenders, coffee makers and toasters.  

 

Electronics

 

Flat screen TV’s, computer items including towers, printers, flat screen monitors, hard drives, software and accessories, telephones, smart phones, answering machines, portable copiers, fax machines, calculators, stereos, DVD players, video cameras and equipment and radios.

 

Sporting Goods

 

Camping equipment, roller blades, ice skates, golf clubs, baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, tennis, lacrosse equipment and accessories, skiing equipment and boots and fitness items.

 

Books, CDs & Videos

 

Hardback, paperback and children’s books, CDs, DVDs, Blue Ray movies, electronics, books and record albums.

 

Small Furniture

 

Furniture weighing less than 50 pounds such as end tables, coffee tables, lamps, night stands, wooden chairs, rocking chairs, stools and plant stands.

 

Do you work with an organization that provides assistance for Active Duty Military, Veterans, Spouses or families? We want to hear your story! Please email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

Cost of Living Adjustment Boost in 2019

COLA Increase Planned for 2019

 

Effective this December, over 67 million Americans will see a 2.8% cost of living adjustment added to their federal benefits. For the first time in six years, military retirees and disabled veterans will receive an increase of over 2%

 

The increase was announced in October by the Social Security Administration and the news immediately made headlines. The 2018 COLA was 2%, which was a significant increase over the previous 3 years, which showed a total of 2% increase from 2015-2017.

 

While SSA is able to boost its COLA without an act of Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs is not. Therefore, this increase only applies to beneficiaries of Social Security payouts. However, Congress recently passed a bill that was signed into law that increased several Veterans benefits, which include clothing allowances, dependants compensation and other cost of living issues.

 

Swinging for Heroes: Golf Gives Veterans HOPE

Swinging For Heroes: Golf Gives Veterans HOPE

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

I am the product of a recreational golfer. While my father’s love of the game never truly encouraged me to enthusiastically strut onto the greens, I do own a full set of clubs and found myself marketing for a golf packager after grad school. As a result, I know my way around the industry a bit.

 

A few weeks ago, I received an email in response to one of our “send us your military stories” requests. One of our MilitaryConnection.com readers had taken the time to tell me about a friend of his who had played with a wounded war veteran in Florida. Below is an excerpt of his email to me:

 

“On Monday, a friend played the Disney Lake Buena Vista course. As usual the starters matched him with three other players. After a few holes they began to get to know each other a bit. This is the rest of what he reports…

 

We had a nice round and as we became a bit more familiar I asked him about the brand new set of Ping woods and irons he was playing. Some looked like they had never been hit. His response was simple. He said that this round was the first full round he had played with these clubs. Later in the round he told me the following.

As part of the discharge process from the rehabilitation hospital, Ping comes in and provides three days of golf instruction, followed by club fitting. Upon discharge from the hospital, Ping gives each of the discharged veterans, generally about 40 soldiers a year, a brand new set of custom fitted clubs along with the impressive golf bags.”

 

Naturally, given my general interest in past history with golf, I was gripped by the tale of my previous profession colliding with my current position. I was thrilled to confirm the contents of that email. Sure enough – Ping had given wounded war veterans their own set of golf clubs along with lessons. Unfortunately, most of the details were from 2011. The most current notation was from 2015, still over three years ago, nothing more current. The lack of current information led me to explore further. Why golf? Why wounded veterans? What is the benefit? The first stop was Ping, which has this posted on their website:

 

In addition to our rebate program, we continue to reach out to our troops in several other ways, including providing clubs to military personnel in various war zones around the world. We’re always honored by the numerous letters of appreciation we receive thanking us for helping take their minds off their situations. If you’re an Active, Active Reserve or Retiree of the United States Armed Forces, we hope you’ll participate in the PING Military Mail-In Rebate Program.”

 

In that little quote was a key answer to my questions – taking their minds off of their situations. My father spent his Saturdays on the links to keep his mind off of the rigors and pressures of investment banking on Wall Street. While his career was completely different, the need was the same: an outlet for stress relief.

 

The assorted fact checking websites all referenced a partnership between Ping and The Wounded Warrior Project. Wounded Warrior Project focuses on the overall wellness of Veterans, regardless of their injuries. A big piece of that wellness is mental and mental health is the cornerstone to healing.  

 

The Wounded Warrior Project led me to PGA HOPE. PGA HOPE, a joint effort of the PGA and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The program provides a clinic, introductory in nature and a day in duration, at local VA hospitals, service organizations and warrior transition units. After the clinic, interested veterans are paired up with local professionals and begin a 6-8 week program, complete with equipment – adaptive if needed.

 

At the end of their program, Veterans are given a graduation ceremony – complete with a handful of golf-related benefits to help them along with their newfound hobby. The PGA HOPE program is provided at absolutely no cost for all participants. It is completely funded by PGA Professionals and local courses often donate their time and resources to help make this program successful.

 

Not all of our warrior’s wounds are visible. While there is often a story to be told behind a prosthetic or missing limb, the invisible scars are often more difficult to diagnose, treat and talk about.

 

The Best of the Army’s Best

The Best of the Army’s Best

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Many companies, organizations, and associations have contests to determine who in their midst ranks among the top, and the United States Army is no different. The 2018 Best Warrior Competition, the premier event to determine the Department of the Army’s Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, took place in early October at Ft. A.P. Hill, Virginia and the Pentagon.

While the formal, final event is a six-day challenge, the 22 finalists (11 in each category) have already made it through a series of hurdles throughout the year to qualify for the DA-level competition. According to army.mil (https://www.army.mil/bestwarrior/), these elite warriors tested their “knowledge, skills and abilities by conquering urban warfare simulations, demonstrating critical thinking, formal board interviews, physical fitness challenges, written exams, and warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s operating environment.”

The annual ‘Best Warrior’ contest tests Soldiers on “warrior tasks” presented in the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks received in basic training. A consistent theme throughout was tackling the unknown, a skill that helps our military react and manage crisis situations…whether stateside or downrange.

At the start of the competition, the finalists began a ruck march carrying their M-4 carbine, four magazines and a total of 50 pounds of equipment, for an unknown distance in the early morning darkness and the rural wilderness of Virginia. Throughout the competition, planners from the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group told contestants that the roads were unsafe, which meant they’d have to constantly ruck in full gear. One of the Soldiers remarked that the heavy ruck marches really tested their cognitive and physical abilities, especially that opening morning march…which turned out to be 16 miles long.

Planners gave the Soldiers specific problem scenarios to solve by communicating with the civilian population in a simulated foreign country. Role players spoke a foreign language or broken English, and competitors had to devise their own solutions for communication. In another scenario, competitors were told to board a waiting helicopter, only to be informed moments before arrival that they needed to render first aid to injured bystanders. And other times, Soldiers needed to use their land navigation skills to find their way to a designated location.

First Sergeant Mike Kriewaldt, this year’s competition planner, said, “It’s not always about being the strongest, fastest person.” Kriewaldt, a 19-year veteran, drew on experience from eight combat deployments to create the contest’s challenges. “It’s more than just physical fitness. Being able to accomplish all the tasks in the right amount of time is key. You have to be able to get to where you’re going and have enough energy and mental capacity.”

U.S. Army Special Operations Command came out on top at this year’s Best Warrior Competition, with Corporal Matthew Hagensick, of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, named Soldier of the Year and Sergeant First Class Sean Acosta, an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, picking up Noncommissioned Officer of the Year honors.

The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, General James McConville, lauded the efforts of the contestants at the awards ceremony, held at the annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) in Washington, D.C. “The winners and all the competitors in this competition understand that winning matters,” McConville said. “You didn’t come here to participate. You didn’t come here to try hard. You came here to win. And that’s the American spirit — the spirit that we have in the Army. And that’s what American Soldiers do. There’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”

 

Lest we forget, during the holidays…

Lest we forget, during the holidays…

By Guest Contributor Renee Nickell

The holidays are approaching, so you know what that means…the black plague of shopping is upon us.  No, I don’t really think this way. I love shopping during the holidays, albeit mostly online. Enter Thanksgiving-the day we feast with family, watch football, and discuss all those blessings we are so thankful for.  Then, just when everyone is getting settled down for the night after gorging on pumpkin pie and spiced eggnog, the avid Black Friday shoppers are reading their flyers, marking their maps and strategizing as if they are preparing for combat, ready to trample anyone in their path that would prevent them from purchasing their child the latest, most popular, deeply discounted item…the must-have item that will be played with for about 10 minutes and placed on a shelf until next year.

Yes, it’s the holidays. It brings out the best or worst in all of us.  I for one, have been the best and the worst to those around me at times I’m sure.  Let me explain, Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been so special to our family, being that we don’t always get to see a lot of our family during the year.  We are “the military family.” We see family when we can and in the past, that has always depended on where we were in the country and whether we could afford to travel long distances (raise your hand if you’re a military family on a tiny budget, yet are expected to travel to see everyone else during the holidays).

I’d say being around those I love always brings out the best side of me.  The side that loves to laugh and cook, play practical jokes, and watch Christmas movies.  In recent years past, it’s been difficult celebrating Christmas when my brother Sam made his last phone call to us on Thanksgiving 2011, and then was killed in action just three weeks later on December 14th   in Afghanistan.  I am thankful for my husband and children who are so patient with me during those “bad days.” While most families were preparing their Christmas plans and wrapping gifts, we were planning a funeral.  The reality is, if we hadn’t been planning a funeral, Sam would have still been in war, separated from his family like so many other deployed members are each and every year.

Many military families daydream of running through an airport with their balloons and signs, imagining their little toddlers stumbling over their own feet because they haven’t seen mommy or daddy in nine months.  It becomes hard to fathom the scenario of holiday shopping madness of people pushing and shoving each other that has now begun on Thanksgiving Day in recent years, instead of waiting until Black Friday. How has our beloved Thanksgiving now become Black Thursday?  Who agreed to this?

You get a whole new perspective when you’re sitting around a Christmas tree wondering what you’re to do, since there was no time for Christmas shopping because your brother of 36 years of age was recently killed.  We had three young children at the time, and he had two young sons. That was the Christmas when Black Friday or any other shopping day didn’t really seem to matter anymore. We just wondered how we would survive each year without him.  

Being a military spouse and a military family, we have an understanding that so many people do not.  0.4 percent of Americans are currently serving on active duty. The scope of understanding what military life is like is getting smaller and smaller for Americans as fewer people are serving.  For the majority of my life I have lived or have been part of a military community. It is hard to fathom that so many American’s do not understand or cannot comprehend the magnitude of sacrifice our military men and woman face each day.  “Since 2001, 2.77 million service members have served on 5.4 million deployments across the world with soldiers from the Army accounting for the bulk of them. Deployed personnel were under 30 years old on average, over half were married and about half had children” (McCarthy, 2018).

Understand this-In the past 17 years, there have been 5.4 MILLION deployments.  This means that statically, every service member since 2001 have deployed twice.  Now, we all know that there are some that never deployed and there are those that have deployed nine times.  Let us not forget about Retired Navy Seal, Dan Crenshaw, who got blown up in Afghanistan in 2012, lost an eye, and signed up to be deployed two more times.  Let that sink in during your hair pulling and Samsung TV trampling shopping event after telling cousin June how much you hate grandma’s lumpy gravy.

But I digress.  You see, Christmas will never be the same for our family.  As if it weren’t bad enough that military families have to miss anniversaries, birthdays, and births, some of us will forever have the empty chair at the table.  Christmas of 2011 was our families first experience with the proverbial empty chair. Not only was there going to be an empty chair, but also an empty Christmas Tree on Christmas morning.

Cue the sad, melodic, music which begins to increase as the doorbell rings on Christmas morning.  Just when you think life couldn’t get any sadder…it’s as if I could hear the sound of angels singing and thunder erupt from the heavens shouting “SEND IN THE MARINES!”  And that was the day the Marines were sent in to save the day for our family. That Christmas, the one with all the small children, and not a present in sight, was the Christmas that restored my hope in well…everything good.  You see, two young, sharply dressed Marines showed up with Christmas present after Christmas present for our families just five days after my brother’s memorial service. I don’t recall any child that morning wishing for something else or complaining they didn’t receive a new puppy or a $500 iPad.  What I heard was grateful children, happy to have experienced a little joy that morning, long enough to get a short break from the tears.

For years, our families have been donors to Marine Toys for Tots.  Did you ever wonder who was the recipient of those toys?  I did. I wondered about the “less fortunate” children that would have Christmas from the Marines because people were generous enough to donate in stores and businesses across the United States. Christmas morning of 2011, I realized where those toys go.  I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined our family would be the recipient of such an amazing organization. But that day, well, it brought us hope.

The following year, I made this observation:  Christmas morning came, children awoke out of their beds, and not a single one asked about opening presents.  There were presents under the tree, but it wasn’t the focus of the day. These children knew and understood, at such a young age, the level of sacrifice no family should have to endure.  There were giggles and smiles, hugs and pancakes…and then we got to the presents.

It’s 2018, and there is still a war.  There are many wars still happening that we never hear about in mainstream media.  There are men and women still sacrificing their lives for our opportunity to shop until we drop.  They do it willingly. They don’t begrudge our opportunities to bless our kids. They do it with willing hearts because they love America. I know they would much rather be with their families during the holidays, as they do not get to choose when they will go or when they will return home.

There are military families all over this country who will be separated from their hero, either by ocean or by death, that are not focused on the “buy now” or the “add to cart” button.  They just desire their family together. Don’t get me wrong. Shopping is not evil. Black Friday or Thursday or any other day to spend time shopping for your family is not evil. Get all your girlfriends together and have a great time doing it, while the men are at home watching football (or sleeping).  I love shopping and I love shopping especially for my children and family. We now try to do extra special things at Christmas to make new memories, which usually entails a special trip, and less presents.

I always believe the best way to combat the materialism at Christmas is to give-and give generously.  While you’re out shopping or enjoying your feasts with your families, let me suggest that you take the time to remember those that are deployed.  Pick up an extra gift and donate it to Toys for Tots. There are donation boxes everywhere. You can also go online and donate money. Say a prayer for our deployed and their families.  You never know when they’ll receive the dreaded knock on the door. You know that military family down the street in their twenties with two young children? Perhaps give them a card with some cash in it to help pay for their travels home to see grandma and grandpa. The ones they haven’t seen since before the last two deployments.

In addition to Toys for Tots, an organization that provides a beautifully wrapped gift for Gold Star children is Believe With Me.  It’s a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization who helps support Gold Star families throughout the year. At Christmastime, this group of selfless volunteers prepares months in advance to purchase, wrap, and ship gifts to hundreds of Gold Star children.  They call it an American Gold Star Christmas and it’s spectacular! It is a wonderful gift to be remembered at such a difficult time of year and I know these families are grateful that their heroes sacrifice have not been forgotten, nor have their children. Believe With Me allows donors to purchase the gifts themselves or provide cash or gift cards and the organization will shop for the sponsored children.

Believe With Me currently has 300 Gold Star children signed up for gifts.  They are expecting over 1000 children this year. The non-profit continues to grow each year in its provision for fatherless or motherless children.  Sadly, this means that there are thousands of children who are missing a parent, not only at Christmas, but forever. Believe With Me depends solely on the donations of others and they depend on the volunteers who help package and ship these beautiful gifts.  I spoke with the Founder of Believe With Me, Lyette Reback, about the upcoming American Gold Star Christmas. She explains,

An American Gold Star Christmas is your opportunity to give back to the families of our fallen soldiers. Your donation will allow high school and university students the opportunity to shop for Gold Star kids’ wish lists and the students will be impacted by the up close and personal cost of their freedoms. This year, Believe With Me will have more than 1000 children to serve and the cost of the project will total more than $150,000. FedEx has graciously stepped in to underwrite the shipping costs, but our needs for gifts are still at an all-time high.”

Being a Gold Star family member myself and understanding firsthand the cost of freedom, our family is incredibly grateful for families like the Rebacks’ and organizations who honor our fallen and the families left behind, year after year.  You can never replace what is lost, but love sure does go a long way. Christmas is the time of year when people all over the world express their love in the form of gifts and giving. I hope you will show your gratitude this Christmas and support Toys for Tots and Believe With Me.

If you are a Gold Star family, you can go to www.BelieveWithMe.com/sponsor to register your child. Organizations like these need your help to make a difference in the lives of these children who have already sacrificed so much.

 

Renee Nickell is the Author of “Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following My Brother’s Death in Afghanistan” For more about Renee, go to www.reneenickell.com.

Small Business Ownership & the Military Veteran

Small Business Ownership and the Military Veteran: It Depends…

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

What does it mean to be a small business owner? Well, the short answer is that, it depends. ‘Small business ownership’ means different things to different people. The owner’s title or status alone is one that leaves folks scratching their heads…am I self-employed, or an entrepreneur? Am I a sole proprietor, or perhaps an independent contractor? Often, the answer to that question depends on who’s asking, and why…but to many small business owners themselves, their title is just a formality.

Building a business, often starting from scratch, is ‘where it’s at’ for so many small business owners – Veterans and non-Veterans alike. You’re solving problems and alleviating pains…creating market share…making a difference, with customers and end-users. Many of you reading this already have experience as small business owners. Many of you are getting ready to make that leap. And if you’ve spent time in our military community, you already know what the research suggests: that Veterans are entrepreneurial.

Plenty of agencies have studies that back up that last statement. Some of the most profound data indicates that while Veterans make up roughly 6% of the general population in the United States, we account for over 13.5% of successful small businesses. Of course, what that really means depends on how you define ‘successful’, but for now let’s just assume it means that the business is paying taxes, or making payroll, or closing profitable deals or impacting GDP in a positive way. Now that we’ve learned that we Veterans account for more than our fair share of businesses “in business”, it might be interesting to take a stab at why that might be.

It might be because many of us possess more than a few of the traits and attributes that help foster success. Yesterday we published a post in this blog that listed over ten reasons why employers should hire Veterans. Actually, it was twenty-five reasons…and those reasons, those things that make us great candidates for an employer’s workforce, also make us more likely to succeed at small business ownership. Things like attention to detail, a strong work ethic, leadership training, and plenty more…can all be things to keep in your hip pocket, whether you’re working for the owner of the business or that owner is you.

Success factors. That’s what I like to call the items on my list of “Over Ten Reasons”. Each of them is a sort of combat multiplier, if you will…things that can help you succeed in many endeavors, to include small business. Some of those items can help you mitigate and minimize risk. But make no mistake, small business is still risky…and certain industries in small business are really risky. With small business ownership, it helps to have a certain comfort level with risk. And, as it turns out, many military Veterans do have that comfort level, because of the homework they’ve done, the preparations and the calculations that they’ve made that becomes the calculated risk.

I’ve spoken with a lot of small business owners over the last couple decades, and have been one myself a time or two. I’ve spent what seems like countless hours engaging with my fellow entrepreneurs…engaged as counselor, friend, comrade, brother-in-arms, you name it. I’ve watched separating service members get the ‘small business bug’, talking about their business plan at the height of motivation, passion, and drive. I’ve seen companies start up and companies close down…and both events can be enjoyable and painful at the same time. And each time I see or hear about one being started by someone from the military community, I ask myself, “How successful will this one be?”

To be sure, the answer to that question is, “It depends.” And it depends mostly on how that small business owner has defined success. There have been many successful companies shuttered over the years, and for a variety of reasons. Many times, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze. Or, perhaps it’s just not profitable enough. Or, maybe the business owner is a member of the National Guard or Reserve, and his or her independent contractor gig just got interrupted by a mobilization and subsequent deployment. There are a lot of variables that observers take into account as to whether a company is a success, and those variables are as independent as the Veteran Small Business Owners themselves. Sometimes it just depends

“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans

“At Least Ten” Reasons to Hire Veterans

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Top ten lists…it seems like they’re everywhere, and about everything. For many of us, it’s a method of focusing and organizing so we can prioritize our time and energy on what we’ve deemed the ‘most important’. For others, it’s just a catchy way to encourage a reader or a viewer to linger a few more minutes.

Whether you cut your teeth on the humor of David Letterman’s regular ‘Top Ten List’ segment or you find such lists a really valuable use of your time, it should come as no surprise that examples abound on the top ten reasons employers should hire Veterans.

A quick Google search will pull up results from the U.S. Department of Labor (“Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), BusinessInsider.com (“10 Reasons Companies Should Hire Military Veterans”), Military.com (“10 Reasons to Hire Vets”), MakePositive.com (“5 Good Reasons to Hire a Veteran”), and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (“Top Ten Reasons to Hire Members of the Guard and Reserve”). Some of those lists were compiled with the help of military veterans, some were put together by employers, and some were assembled by federal, state, and local agency personnel who have a stake in the employment assistance space. And the shocker is, all of them are correct, to some degree…it’s just a matter of perspective.

I put my first of such lists together in 2010, when I started working with the Show-Me Heroes Program, a partnership between the Missouri Division of Workforce Development and the Missouri National Guard that sought to help our state’s Veterans find meaningful employment. My original list expanded and contracted as I spoke with more and more employers and reflected on my own years of experience in the U.S. Army.

I often shared my list with job seekers from the military community that I came across, for this list of reasons to hire Veterans is as much for Veterans themselves as it is for business owners and hiring managers. Once employers ‘get it’, there’s not usually a need to go on and on with them. For those looking for a job, however, it’s important that they know how those in the employment assistance arena are advocating for them. They need to know that we’ve ‘talked the talk’, so they can put things in place to ‘walk the walk’, so to speak.

Once job seekers read through my list or any other, they should take inventory of the things that might very well make them the best candidate for the job. They should incorporate those soft skill sets and experiences into their resume, their cover letter, and answers to potential interview questions. That’s how they can communicate what they bring to the table. That’s how they can communicate how they can make a positive and lasting impact to that civilian employer’s workforce.

From the front lines to the assembly lines, much of the training, the challenges, the adversity…those things do, indeed, translate. I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard from countless employers that hiring someone with military experience made a sudden and lasting impact on their workforce.

So, here’s my perspective. I was initially going to say, “this list is in no particular order,” but in fact there is an order to my list. It’s an order that I put together based on nearly a decade of meeting with employers to discuss the prospect of hiring Veterans for their workforce. My Top Ten list includes these elements…

  1. Leadership Experience.
  2. Strong Personal Integrity.
  3. Ability to Work as a Team Member and Team Leader.
  4. Performance under Pressure.
  5. Possession of a Valid Security Clearance.
  6. Strong Work Ethic.
  7. Specialized Advanced Training & Technical Skills.
  8. Flexibility and Adaptability.
  9. Discipline.
  10. Attention to Detail.

When I first penned this list, I struggled with how short it was. I thought that there were many other attributes that were front and center in the people with whom I served…attributes and soft skills that could really make an impact. After taking some time to look through some old award narratives and evaluation reports, and touching base with some human resource managers that I knew, I felt that I could justify a few more.

  1. Ability to Work Efficiently & Diligently in a Fast-Paced Environment.
  2. Commitment to Excellence & History of Meeting Standards of Quality.
  3. Ability to Conform to Rules and Structure.  
  4. Initiative & Self-Direction.
  5. Respect for Procedures and Accountability.
  6. Strong Sense of Health, Personal Safety, and Property Standards.
  7. Ability to Give and Follow Directions.
  8. Hands-on Experience with Technology and Globalization.
  9. Systematic Planning and Organizational Skills.
  10. Accelerated Learning Curve with New Skills and Concepts.

But wait, there’s more. Some of us have more of these soft skills than others. Some of us have spent decades in uniform, others just a few years of an initial enlistment. Different Branches of Service have put emphasis on different areas in different times, and training that the Soldier received in the ‘70s is quite a bit different that what the Sailor received last year. So, I added a few more to the list…

  1. Diversity in Action and Strong Interpersonal Skills.
  2. Emphasis on Safety in the Workplace.
  3. High Levels of Maturity and Responsibility.
  4. Motivation, Dedication, and Professionalism.  
  5. Triumphant over Adversity.

I’m pretty sure I could keep going, but I’m going to stop right here. These are just a few reasons why employers value military experience in their workforce. If you’re a hiring manager, I’m sure you get my point. If you’re a job seeker from the military community, I encourage you to figure out which of the items in this ‘Top Twenty-Five’ list resonate most with you, at least in part because of the path you’ve followed. Be able to make the connection between items on this list and essential elements in the job description and do your best to communicate what you bring to the table…to the person that’s sitting across the table from you during your next job interview. Cheers!

Soldiers’ Angels

May no soldier go unloved,

May no soldier walk alone,

May no soldier be forgotten,

Until they all come home.

 

Soldiers’ Angels

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

It is the time of year for giving – and so many families are looking for opportunities to give back or “pay it forward” within their communities. There are so many wonderful opportunities, from adopting a family to toy and coat drives. However, there is a group out there who dedicates their time and energy to helping deployed servicemen and women.

 

Soldiers’ Angels was founded in 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader. The Pasadena, CA native is the daughter of war Veteran LTC (ret) David Patton, so supporting the troops was a way of life. It was during her oldest son’s deployment in Iraq, however, that Patti identified a need to help. Staff Sergeant Brandon Varn was happily receiving his mom’s care packages when he commented that he was one of the few soldiers to enjoy such a treat. Patti gathered neighborhood friends and worked together to send care packages to the entire platoon. As word traveled, Patti and her group received requests from across the globe.

 

More could be done to help. Patton-Bader recognized that Americans were ready and willing to help, just lacked the channels to get their kindness into the hands of the soldiers who needed it most. Using technology, determination and the heart of a military mother and daughter, Patton-Bader built an online community of Angels who work diligently to fulfill the needs of deployed soldiers.

 

As word spread of Patton-Bader’s efforts, so did the number of businesses wanting to participate. So many businesses were looking to donate time, money, goods and services that Patton-Bader’s band of helpers needed to formerly reorganize as a 501(c)(3) in 2004. Over the past fifteen years, Soldiers’ Angels has grown and changed to adapt to the current military needs. As always, they match the availability of their volunteers with the needs of a solder.

 

While they have continued helping the deployed soldiers, Soldiers’ Angels have also spread their wings to include Veterans, wounded soldiers, families and more. The group, who was led by Patti Patton-Bader until 2013, has won several awards and been recognized many times over. Some of their recognitions include:

 

  • Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service from the Department of the Army
  • George Washington Spirit Award from the Military Order of the Purple Heart
  • Microsoft Above and Beyond Extra Effort Award
  • James C. Van Zandt Citizenship Award from the VFW
  • The Spirit of Hope Award from the Secretary of Defense

 

 

Veterans and Homelessness

Veterans and Homelessness

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

Homeless.

 

It is really a state that just shouldn’t exist. No human should be without a home – without shelter. Without a place to feel safe.

 

There are, however, certain groups that seem particularly intolerable when paired with the word “homeless.” One of those groups is Veterans.

 

We have all seem the images (like the one feature with this article) of a down trodden man in fatigues – tired, thin and dirty – with a homemade cardboard sign begging for help. Some of them are missing limbs. Some are in wheelchairs. Some struggle with PTSD. All share the common bond of having served our country to return home and live on the streets.

 

By now, we have all heard of the now infamous homeless Veteran and his “benefactors” who conspired to bilk GoFundMe contributors out of hundreds of thousands. Those images of homeless veterans are exactly why the GoFundMe scam was so instantaneously successful. The trio relied on the general public’s sympathetic response to seeing a homeless Vet so willing to turn over his “last” $20 to a stranger.

 

The most heartbreaking part of their tale is the damage it does to Veterans who are homeless and in actual need of assistance. While Homeless Veterans are of the utmost concern across the country, there are some areas in California that are getting federal assistance – to the tune of $5.3 million – to help those Veterans get back on their feet.

 

The federal dollars have been awarded to assorted HUD offices in the Bay Area and Central Valley in California and is expected to help 343 homeless Veterans find permanent housing and support services. Ben Carson, secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban development has been quoted in a statement made October 4, 2018 as saying  “we have few responsibilities greater than making sure those who have sacrificed so much in service to their country have a home they can call their own. The housing vouchers awarded today ensure homeless veterans nationwide have access to affordable housing and the critical support services from the VA.”

 

The voucher funding has been awarded in a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and was made available by the HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program, but it will be the VA facilities that will be evaluating each case to determine the needed level of support. The VA facilities in the area will be expected to report on the length of each homeless experience, the length of time without adequate housing as well as the amount of support that would be necessary to get them into permanent housing. There will be an extensive system of checks and balances before Veterans will be referred for vouchers.

 

Since the joint program launched in 2008, more than 150,000 homeless veterans have been assisted throughout the country. Additionally, more than 93,000 housing and services vouchers have been awarded. Veterans who participate in the voucher program typically rent privately owned residences and use 30% of their income or less to cover that rent each month.

 

The breakdown of funding by housing authority is below:

 

The Santa Clara County Housing Authority – $2.8 million for 140 vouchers

The San Francisco Housing Authority – $343,723 for 21 vouchers

Contra Costa County Housing Authority – $284,891 for 20 vouchers

San Mateo County Housing Authority, Palo Alto-based VA medical facility – $162,949 for 12 vouchers

San Mateo County Housing Authority, San Francisco-based VA medical facility – $67,895 for 5 vouchers

San Joaquin County Housing Authority – $116,648 for 20 vouchers

Stanislaus County Housing Authority – $138,880 for 25 vouchers

Marin County Housing Authority – $76,965 for 5 vouchers

Berkeley Housing Authority – $248,181 for 15 vouchers

Santa Clara County Housing Authority – $2,816,567 for 140 vouchers

Pittsburg Housing Authority – $62,903 for 5 vouchers

City of Alameda Housing Authority – $131,188 for 5 vouchers

Alameda County Housing Authority, VA Northern California Health Care System – $278,986 for 20 vouchers

Alameda County Housing Authority, Palo Alto-based VA medical facility – $209,240 for 15 vouchers

City of Napa Housing Authority – $40,182 for 5 vouchers

Livermore Housing Authority – $75,849 for 5 vouchers

County of Sonoma – $51,983 for 5 vouchers