Hiring Veterans: Why Veterans Make Excellent Employees

Hiring Veterans: Why Veterans Make Excellent Employees

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Nearly a year ago, I posted one of my first blogs for Military Connection, one that had a focus on why employers should hire members of the military community. It was called “At Least Ten Reasons to Hire Veterans,” but by the time I reached the closing paragraph, I had parlayed that into 25 reasons. Although I didn’t want to just rewrite that original post, I did want to take a closer look at some of those elements on my list. If you’re an employer reading this, you either already ‘get it’ or maybe my words will encourage you to seek more Veterans for your open positions. If you’re a jobseeker with military experience, once again I encourage you to take inventory of the items on this list and use them to sell yourself…both on your resume and in the interview.

Across the various workforce development groups I’ve been a part of over the last ten years or so, my teammates and I have spoken to and worked with literally thousands of employers. When we’ve had those conversations, here are some of the reasons why Veterans make excellent employees…

Leadership experience. At the top of nearly every employer’s wish list is to on-board someone who can make a sudden and lasting impact on their workforce, someone who has already successfully held positions of leadership. If those positions happened to have involved troops, it might have ranged from leading just a few men and women in the early stages of a military enlistment, to serving at the helm of thousands of warriors near the end of one’s career. The successes and failures, and the subsequent growth from lessons learned, can help develop a maturity that’s hard to find. And those that have successfully led men and women in uniform haven’t always been at the top, so they usually have a keen ability to work as either a team member or a team leader…and they can give or follow directions, depending on the needs of the organization.

Performance under pressure. While I typically avoid blanket statements, I’m comfortable saying that everyone in uniform is trained to do their job under less-than-ideal conditions or in a ‘lives depend on it’ scenario. I’ve been in units that trained at every turn for their wartime mission, taking every opportunity to train in the dark, in the rain, in the cold, and without a second to spare. Every training event is essentially a rehearsal for an eventuality most of us pray will never come. A by-product of that training, for many, is the ability to work efficiently and diligently in a fast-paced environment. A sought-after skill for many hiring managers, for sure.

Strong work ethic. If there’s one attribute that employers seem to assign to military jobseekers more than any other, it’s this one. Whichever branch of service, in whatever part of the world…those in uniform know what hard work looks like. For some, the work ethic comes naturally; for others, it comes after being honed in countless situations and unforgiving conditions. In either case, a strong work ethic, coupled with systematic planning and organizational skills, can do wonders for a workforce.

Specialized, advanced training and technical skills. Whether hiring managers are looking for those with the latest training and certifications in IT or someone who has the transferable skills of a commercial truck driver or First Responder, the specialized job training that military schools provide are world-class. Regardless of the industry in which an employer’s open positions lie – transportation, logistics, intelligence, manufacturing, or any other – there are folks transitioning from active military service or still serving in the National Guard & Reserve that are ready to fill them.

Discipline, with a healthy dose of flexibility and adaptability. One definition of discipline is “training to act in accordance with rules.” Combine that with the ability to flex and adapt and you have a potential workforce all-star who can adjust and excel at whatever the corporate environment throws their way.

Attention to detail. Long considered a hallmark of military Veterans from every branch of service, detail-oriented employees are also on most employers’ wish lists. That soft skill – being able to spot whether things are as they should be or corrections are needed – is one that comes more naturally the more it’s put into practice. It also often comes with a host of similar traits, such as a commitment to excellence, a history of meeting standards of quality, and a respect for procedures and accountability.

So there starts another list…one that goes into just a little more detail about why Veterans make excellent employees. To all you small business owners and hiring managers out there, I highly encourage you to connect with job-seeking Veterans (and those Military Spouses, too) for your open positions…you’ll be glad you did.

Until next time…

Mission Essential: Soft Skills & Your Job Search

By Alan Rohlfing
 
Soft skills. Whether you’re a supervisor, business owner, military leader, or employee, no doubt you’ve heard how important those are in the world of work. They’re defined by some as an individual’s ability to sense, regulate, and respond in a constructive way to other people’s ideas…as a way to explore resolutions to issues, problems or conflicts with others…and as a way to exercise influence and build trust. Organizations with an inherent appreciation of those skills often see their value reflected in the bottom line, and those that work in the Human Resources space will tell you that it’s the application of soft skills, or lack thereof, that keeps them busy. That said, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there’s a great deal of attention on soft skills in the job search process, from the resume to the interview and beyond. Knowing how to emphasize your soft skill strengths can mean the world to a hiring manager.
The standard that was: historically, the goal of most resumes was to show – on paper – the hard skills that job seekers could bring to an organization, typically through education or experience. And for sure, those hard skills, those technical skills, remain a critical element that companies need in their ranks. The ability to learn the job, retain that knowledge, and perform tasks that meet or exceed expectations are essential for organizations to compete and succeed.
More and more companies, however, are placing great importance on soft skills in the workplace and their role in the overall culture of the organization. Leaders find that soft skills matter even in ‘hard’ disciplines…that it’s the interpersonal skills, the bedside manner, the ability to innovate and collaborate…that can give a company an edge in their market. Because of that, many employers are offering (or requiring) more training and allocating more resources on soft skills in the workforce, with some even admitting they give preference to them over hard skills. Studies show that companies with a focus on soft skills have higher retention, higher employee engagement, and improved business results.
On the other hand, workplace cultures that don’t value those soft skills, traits, and attributes …tend to reap what they sow. Companies that foster poor leadership soft skills like rudeness, hostility, and disrespect find that employees are less creative and produce a lower quality of work. Overall, good people leave the organization and the bottom line suffers.
What exactly are those soft skillsets that employers are looking for? Some that are common throughout many civilian organizations include communication skills, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, the ability to work as part of a team, and time management. But what about for those of us from the military community? Back in November, I penned an article for this blog that identified my top 25 reasons that employers hire Veterans. I could have just as easily named that article the “Top 25 Soft Skills that Employers Want Today!” That list included things like leadership experience, performance under pressure, and a strong work ethic. And discipline, attention to detail, and a respect for procedures and accountability. And a commitment to excellence, a history of meeting standards of quality, and the ability to conform to rules and structure. Get the picture?
Soft skills, as great as they are, are very subjective. They are some of the hardest to master and are very hard to quantify, with no easy, standard measure of success. How do employers find out if a candidate that looks good on paper has any of those soft skillsets that might make them the most qualified for the open position? Most likely during the interview, where there’s an opportunity for personal interaction and follow-up questions. Be prepared for behavioral and situational interview questions, those that are open-ended and that allow you to draw on past experiences or talk about your approach to hypothetical scenarios. Be prepared for questions like:
 
– Describe a situation where you found you had a serious problem. What did you do to solve it?
– Describe when you had to present a proposal to your superiors. How did you do and why?
– Tell me about a time you did more than was required in your position.
– How do you develop short- and long-range plans?
– Have you ever given instructions that someone didn’t follow? What did you do about it?
 Did you ever have to deal with a co-worker who wasn’t pulling his or her weight? What was your approach to the situation?
– How do you confront underperforming employees?
– Give an example of an especially difficult project you had to complete. What was your role?
 
Soft skills. At the end of the day, these are the reasons why employers want to hire from the military community, why they value military experience in their workforce. Take inventory of what you bring to an employer’s open position. Incorporate those soft skillsets and experiences into your resume, your cover letter, and answers to potential interview questions. If you can make the connection between those skills – skills that you possess – and essential elements in the job description, you’ll be well on your way to making a positive and lasting impact on that employer’s workforce. Best of luck!
 
Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, email Kris@militaryconnection.com and tell us your story…

How to Leverage Applicant Tracking Systems in Your Job Search

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
 
Ahhh, the online job application. Been there, done that. From the advent of the Web to social to mobile, technology has made quite the impact…and perhaps no more so than on the recruiting and selection process for today’s workforce.
Have you ever completed an online job application and received “NO” feedback? Not even a “Thanks, but no thanks”? Because I know that most of you are nodding your heads in agreement, I’m going to spend the next few minutes talking about the primary source of our frustration – the Applicant Tracking System, or ATS. Of course, this information & these comments serve as a general reference and do not apply systemically to all ATS programs or to all companies.
Before I continue, you need to know that much credit for the substance of this post goes to my good friend, Frank Alaniz. Frank is an Air Force Veteran, colleague, mentor, and friend, and he’s helped literally thousands of job-seekers over the last twenty years find gainful employment as a trainer for the Missouri Division of Workforce Development. Between his grasp of technology and his tremendous network of employers, he’s been able to stay current on the latest hiring practices and pass that knowledge along to his clients and workshop attendees. You can connect with Frank on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/frankalaniz).
Early on. Way back in the day, the explosion of online job boards created a global platform for advertising job openings and forced the recruiter to look to an electronic recruitment system to help automate the processing of all the candidates. The early ATS companies appeared on the scene in the late 1990s and, at the turn of the century, many recruiters weren’t convinced that the Internet would ever become relevant for mainstream recruiting…your average retail clerk or plumber or sales rep would never apply for a job online.
E-recruitment and Applicant Tracking Systems started off as clunky, bureaucratic processes that frustrated everyone. But now…now they’re so much more. Those systems are integrated, cloud-based software suites that encompass the entire employee lifecycle. There are hundreds of Applicant Tracking Systems out there from which a company can choose, and in the employee selection ‘space’ an ATS enables users to manage hiring processes like job distribution, screening, interviewing, and sending out offers.
The good. What used to be the exclusive domain of large organizations, the ATS solution is now available for employers of all sizes, thanks in large part to the potential unleashed by cloud-based computing. An ATS can be implemented or accessed online at an enterprise or small business level, depending on the needs of the company. There’s also free and open source ATS software available. And what can an ATS do for the overburdened HR staff? Well, it can analyze resumes and present the data they contain in a standardized format where it can be quickly reviewed; it can make comparing resumes fast and simple; it can collect, organize, and show job candidates in the same way LinkedIn or Facebook show your contacts or friends; it can post to a wide range of free and paid job boards with a single submission; and it offers the facility to automatically filter dud applications from true job candidates. The right applicant tracking software is a major step towards creating a repeatable, systematic hiring process, from posting a job to having an offer letter accepted.
The bad. It’s estimated that about 95% of businesses use software programs to handle their recruitment process. The ATS searches resumes – sometimes thousands of them – for keywords that match the job description in order to help determine the human “best fit” for the position. But while that helps with efficiency, experts also claim that a full 90% or more of resumes submitted online are never seen by human eyes.
In some of our workshops, we jokingly(?) call the Applicant Tracking System a “weapon of mass rejection.” Here are some numbers for you: up to 80% of those resumes scored by ATS programs are determined unqualified within the first 10 minutes of the application process (i.e., before actual submission); up to 75% of the remaining job applicants are unqualified immediately after hitting the submit button; and some experts estimate that at least 85% of those resumes rejected were done so because they contained the wrong words or used the wrong format.
Simply put, an ATS maps and gathers info from your resume, scores each resume based on how well it matches the job description (think keywords), and then ranks the candidates. Potential employees with the highest scores move to the next step in the recruitment process, while others are left in the dust. Your carefully-crafted, hand-tailored, aesthetically-pleasing resume is getting reviewed and graded by… a bot.
Make sure your application entries and/or resume contain the keywords that the job posting uses to avoid the ATS “black hole” …that situation where you never hear from anyone at any time about any of the jobs for which you’ve applied. Keywords are those…well, words…that employers and recruiters use to find appropriate and relevant resumes. Regardless of how well-qualified you are, if your resume doesn’t contain the words they’ve coded into the ATS for that position, the system will not find your resume.
The ATS looks for a specific match, ranking the resumes with the most keyword matches higher than the rest. Those keywords typically come from the job description you’re applying for, so don’t use generic “buzz words” you found online.
Speaking of keywords and the ATS, here’s a tip: avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. What’s that, you say? It’s literally stuffing hidden keywords into a resume in order to game the system, done by repeatedly typing keywords into the resume then making the text white so that it’s invisible to human eyes. The idea is that it will help the candidate rank higher in an ATS review.
Unfortunately, keyword stuffing with hidden text is easily spotted and one of the quickest ways to burn a bridge with a recruiter. Instead, focus on resume keyword optimization, which isn’t about “tricking” or “beating” the system; it’s about working in sync with recruiters and hiring managers and the technology they use. One way to optimize is to use any number of online apps to help you analyze a job description compared to your resume. Do so, and that comparison will reveal all the keywords that are missing from your resume so you can deliberately work them in.
There are other legitimate ways to increase your resume “ranking”, like tailoring the content to the exact way the job description is written. And yes, that will mean a different version of your resume for each job application. Focus your resume on hard skills; many soft skill terms we use (like ‘dynamic’, ‘team player’, and ‘critical thinker’) are not quantifiable. Pay attention to how words are written in that job description: watch for plural vs. singular, abbreviations, and numbers. Did the job description read “nonprofit” or “non-profit”? Did it read “3 years” or “three years”? In ATS-land, those details matter…
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…there are certain things that you might just want to go ahead and embrace, rather than fight every step of the way. Applicant tracking systems are one of those things. Learn them, figure out how to use them to your advantage, and stay connected with folks like Frank who can help you keep up with all the latest techniques. Best of luck working within YOUR system!
 
Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your job search or military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

“How to Get a Job” Has Certainly Changed…

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
(This is one of a series of posts focused on employment assistance. Check back weekly for observations on a variety of employment and self-employment topics.)
 
Getting a job…one of those timeless tasks. One that surely won’t ever go away, for gainful employment is a hallmark of a productive society (I think someone important said that, but I don’t recall who). I’d venture a guess that most of us remember well our first job…how we found out about it, how we applied (was it just a quick conversation with the boss?), and the lasting impressions – both good and bad – that it likely left on us.
Unless you’re in the younger percentile of our audience’s demographics, though, the methods you may have used to land that first job are significantly different than finding a job today. While I suppose some of us still punch out our resumes and cover letters on that faithful old IBM Selectric typewriter we have sitting in the den, the rest of us have had to adapt and welcome – dare I say, embrace – the advent of technology and how it has made an impact on the recruiting and selection process for today’s workforce.
For the rest of this post, we’re going to talk strategically (30,000-foot view) about just how some of that technology has made its presence felt for those of us in the job search. Perhaps we’ll get in the weeds in future employment assistance posts, especially if we can connect with subject-matter experts that deal with these tools on a regular basis and have them on as guest contributors. Not only would that free me from the keyboard (just kidding), but it would likely be information with a level of detail that would be useful to job-seekers immediately. Trust me when I say that we’re working on making those connections.
In the meantime, here is a very short summary of a group of modules that was put together by one of those subject-matter experts I mentioned above: St. Louis-area workforce development ‘trainer-extraordinaire’, Frank Alaniz. Frank is an Air Force Veteran, colleague, mentor, and friend, and he’s helped literally thousands of job-seekers over the last twenty years find gainful employment. Between his grasp of technology and his tremendous network of employers, he’s been able to stay current on the latest hiring practices and pass that knowledge along to his clients and workshop attendees. And before I forget, if you’re interested, you can connect with Frank on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/frankalaniz).
-Looking online: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). It’s estimated that about 95% of businesses use software programs to handle their recruitment process. The ATS searches resumes – sometimes thousands of them – for keywords that match the job description in order to help determine the human “best fit” for the position. But while that helps with efficiency, experts also claim that a full 90% or more of resumes submitted online are never seen by human eyes. Make sure your application entries and/or resume contain the keywords that the job posting uses to avoid the ATS “black hole”…that situation where you never hear from anyone about any of the jobs for which you’ve applied.
-Developing a cyber-friendly resume. Since the majority of job openings are now online and most job-seekers are applying for them online, it only makes sense that the job-seeker’s resume should support those endeavors. You may have already drafted a functional or chronological resume, but if you’re looking for one that’s cyber-friendly, you should create more of a hybrid of the two. That resume should have five sections: contact information, summary, skills, experience, and education.
-Social media management. Check your online presence and clean up your social profiles, if you can. Some ATS systems and recruiting tools compile applicants’ social media profiles at the time of application. Plenty of recruiters go digging on social platforms, for both the good and the bad. “The Good” might include engagement in local and national groups and organizations; “The Bad” might be references to drugs, pictures of alcohol consumption, or political rants. Finally, don’t forget about LinkedIn…it’s a social platform, too, and surveys indicate that 98% of recruiters use it to help vet their candidates.
In a post this brief, it’s really hard to convey just how important it is for job-seekers to accept – again, I really mean embrace – the online application “system” in order to use it to their advantage. Since we’re all life-long learners anyway, my advice is to connect with experts out there (like Frank, or his counterparts in your neck of the woods), get up to speed on the topic and then some, and become THE subject-matter expert on the position you’re applying for and why you’re the best person to fill it. Best of luck!
 
Do you have any experiences you’d like to share about your job search or military-to-civilian transition? Anything that might benefit others in our military community, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

The Job Search: Navigating a Job Fair

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
 
(This is one of a series of posts relating to the job search. Check back weekly for observations on a variety of employment assistance topics.)
Career fairs, hiring events, job fairs, career expos…whatever you might call them, if you’ve looked for a job anytime recently, you’ve probably been to one. And love ‘em or hate ‘em, many of us consider them a necessary evil, one of those aspects of the search for employment that would be hard to replace.
Job fairs come in all shapes and sizes, from the “one employer at the local career center” variety to the 150-employer extravaganza that was advertised at the regional or national level. Since many of you will find yourself at that registration table sooner or later, we’ve put together a list of things to be sure and do and things to avoid at YOUR next hiring event.
Do your homework. Pre-register for the event and try to get a listing of those companies attending in advance. If you have the opportunity, do a little detective work…research them & get a feel for their open positions. You’ll be able to talk intelligently about the company with the recruiter and you’ll give a great first impression. And don’t rule out companies just because they’re recruiting for positions outside your career field. Remember, this is a networking event. And while you’re at it, network with fellow job seekers & other professionals in the vicinity. Remember, many times it’s who you know…
Dress professionally. For more information on that topic, see last Friday’s post on Dressing for Success. I’ll place an emphasis on comfortable shoes, and call them a necessity for a day like this.
Accessorize with a portfolio. Have a clean pad of paper with a list of questions. Take good notes for follow-up after the fair…but remove the page from the top of the tablet when you’ve completed the interview with each recruiter. Yes, the interview. Think of a job fair as a series of mini-interviews…lots of chances to make great first impressions.
Bring business cards. A professionally designed card, tailored to introduce you as a job seeker, is a must! Resumes are your second choice…ask the recruiter which they prefer. Bring different versions of your resumes if you’re searching for different types of jobs, and have them tucked in a separate folder inside your portfolio.
Minimize your chances of bad breath. Watch what you eat. This is especially true for those fairs in the afternoons, where it’s just too easy to have onions or garlic on what you eat for lunch. Be careful not to drink coffee or smoke right before the event, and you may want to use a strong mint right before entering the fair.
When you first arrive…smiling is required. A recent study indicated that smiling faces were easier to remember. Start with the gatekeepers and others in the queue waiting to enter the event. Obtain a floor plan of the event and locate your targeted employers. Walk the room first, if needed, to relax and get the feel of how the recruiters are working their stations.
Put the phone away. Unless you’re bumping phones to trade contact information with the recruiter, or showing an employer how well you create mobile-friendly apps, just put it away. Enough said.
Listen. Process what questions are being asked of the recruiter by other candidates while you stand in line, waiting. Try not to ask the same question others have asked…especially if the recruiter knows that you were within earshot and should have been paying attention. Listen to what the recruiters are asking the other candidates, for these same questions may be asked of you.
Meeting the recruiter. Don’t just walk up to a table and interrupt the current conversation; wait your turn and be polite. Some employers will have long lines, which will deter (and discourage) some jobseekers. The amount of time you will have with the recruiter can vary from mere seconds to minutes. Take notes if possible and offer your business card or resume.
Sell yourself. Prepare (and rehearse) your one-minute elevator pitch, highlighting your unique value proposition…what you can offer the employer. Be prepared to talk about your military history and work experiences, as well as your skills and abilities. Questions not to ask: Are you hiring? What kind of jobs do you have? What does it pay? All those indicate you haven’t done a lick of research about the company’s opportunities for employment.
Before you leave each table/recruiter/mini-interview, take the initiative and ask, “What’s the next step?” Don’t be offended if the recruiter tells you that they don’t need your resume and you’ll have to apply online for their open positions. If you have time, ask if there are any suggested tips for completing their online job application. Request the recruiter’s business card for future correspondence, shake hands, and thank them for their time. Move away and finalize your notes.
Follow up. Email each recruiter (with whom you had a meaningful conversation) a note about 2-3 days after the event, thanking them for their time and recapping your conversation (this is why your notes are so important). Attach a PDF version of your resume, so they’ll have it digitally.
Finally, here are some recruiters’ pet peeves: Too much cologne or perfume. Weak or sloppy handshake. Too many filler words (“like’, “you know”). Walking from booth to booth, picking up swag. Even worse – walking up to a recruiter with a bag full of stuff and then fumbling for your resume/business card, which happens to be stuck to the free pen you picked up from another recruiter.
One last note about career fairs…keep in mind that these events aren’t all about YOU and open jobs…these events are about networking with companies that you’d like to work for. If you get a referral for a job, consider it your lucky day. It means that you did everything right to warrant that recommendation…
 
Do you have any tidbits or success stories from your experiences at career fairs? Anything that might benefit others in the military community, facing the same challenges? If so, tell us your story and email Kris@militaryconnection.com!

PTSD Project & Veterans CARE: VA Initiatives To Promote Employment

PTSD Project & Veterans CARE: VA Initiatives To Promote Employment
Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
 
PTSD is arguably one of the most significant issues that our Veterans face when they are acclimating to civilian life. Unlike physical wounds which are visible to others, a soldier battles the mental wounds on his or her own. While there are many different forms of therapy available, the treatment is personal and not all therapy methods work for every person. As more research results become available, the additional needs required become increasingly apparent.
 
Post-traumatic stress disorder can cause Veterans to struggle, particularly when it comes to interviewing, getting a civilian position and maintaining a new career. That is where Veterans CARE comes into play.
 
Veterans Coordinated Approach to Recovery and Employment (Veterans CARE) is a $5.1 million Pay for Success initiative that is the result of a partnership between the US Department of Veterans Affairs, local governments, impact investors and Social Finance. The goal of this initiative is to support unemployed or underemployed Veterans with PTSD and assist them in attaining and maintaining employment that is both compatible with their skill set and competitive in their workforce.
 
The first Veterans CARE project will launch in New York City, Boston and Brockton, Massachusetts and Central/Western Massachusetts. It is anticipated that 480 Veterans will benefit from the programs in these areas. Recruitment has begun for this comprehensive “test study” in those areas.   
 
It is expected that local VA medical centers will be able to deliver Individual Placement and Support (IPS) to program participates through Veterans CARE. IPS is a personal approach, tailored to each Veteran, with the goal of supported employment. Veteran CARE plans to assist up to 500 Veterans over the three year period.
 
Funded primarily by project investors, government partners will repay investors when the positive outcomes as a result of the project are proven.
 
This is the first Pay-For-Service project of its kind in the United States. Veterans CARE focuses on improving the health and employment for Veterans. The ground-breaking project, the first to be multi-state, will work to achieve the goals of supporting under- and unemployed Veterans with PTSD in their journey to attain and maintain employment, improve the access to high-quality, evidence-based employment services, and to serve as the demonstration project for the use of the Pay-For-Success model and its successors.
 
For more information regarding Veterans CARE, visit the Social Finance website: http://socialfinance.org/focus-areas/workforce/veterans-care-project/

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!

“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!

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans

 

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

Small business ownership. Entrepreneurship. Being self-employed or a sole proprietor.  Call it what you will, but research indicates that veterans and their families are a bit more inclined to start a small business venture – and more apt to succeed at it – than our peers outside the military community. And although government-backed research shows that we’re slightly more successful at keeping our doors open than our colleagues without military experience, that fact doesn’t mean that small business isn’t risky. Just the opposite…small business is still a very risky proposition, and businesses in certain industries are riskier than others.

 

Why are we more successful at small business ownership? Perhaps it’s due in part to the same things that we in the military community have in our hip pocket that make us attractive members of an employer’s workforce…things like leadership training, attention to detail, and a conscious consideration of second- and third-order effects of the decisions we make. Perhaps it’s also because we’re good at finding ways to mitigate or minimize the risk that is inherent in small business…and some of those ways include recognizing and taking advantage of resources that exist to help us succeed, like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV).

 

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families  (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The EBV is a novel, one-of-a-kind initiative designed to leverage the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education in order to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The targeted audience is post-9/11 veterans and their family members who are in early growth mode for their new business.

 

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans opens the door to economic opportunity for veterans by developing their competencies in the many steps and activities associated with creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture. The program’s curriculum is designed to take participants through the steps and stages of venture creation, with a tailored emphasis on the unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a veteran business owner.

 

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans program was founded at Syracuse University in 2007 and has since expanded to additional universities across the U.S. Those EBV-partnering schools include Texas A&M, Purdue University, UCLA, the University of Connecticut, Louisiana State University, The Florida State University, Cornell University, Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Missouri – with Syracuse University serving as national host of the consortium of schools. Most of the 2019 dates at these schools have yet to be announced, so check back at the IVMF website on a regular basis to find those upcoming dates at a school near you.

 

The entire Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans training program is offered without any cost to participating veterans, but participation is limited to those post-9/11. The program is delivered through a three-phased approach, providing premier training and support along the way:

 

Phase 1 is a 30-day instructor-led, online course focused on the basic skills of entrepreneurship and the language of small business. The curriculum is moderated by entrepreneurship faculty and graduate students from one of the partnering EBV Universities; during this phase, delegates work on the development of their own business concepts.

Phase 2 is a nine-day residency at an EBV university where students are exposed to over 30 accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators from across the U.S. The residency includes more than 80 hours of instruction in the “nuts and bolts” of business ownership. This particular phase is intense, and designed to both educate and motivate.

Phase 3 involves 12 months of support and mentorship delivered through the EBV Post Program Support, a robust, comprehensive network of mentors, resources and national partnerships.

The EBV is designed to open the door to business ownership for veterans by 1) developing them skills in the many steps and activities associated with launching and growing a small business, and by 2) helping them leverage programs and services for veterans and people with disabilities in a way that furthers their entrepreneurial dreams.

Other programs offered by IVMF in the same vein as EBV include Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families and EBV Accelerate. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families (EBV-F) is an education and self-employment training program founded in 2010 and expanded to Florida State University in 2012. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program offers small business training for military spouses and family members, or a surviving spouse of a military member who gave his or her life in service to our country. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families offers training tailored to military family members with caregiving responsibilities to launch and grow small businesses from home.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program is designed to take advantage of the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The program leverages the flexibility inherent in small business ownership to provide a vocational path forward for military family members. The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families integrates training in entrepreneurship with caregiver and family issues, positioning participants to launch and grow a small business in a way that is complementary or enhancing to other family responsibilities. The EBV-F program operates on a rolling admissions process, so they are always accepting applications and will process them in the order they are received.  

 

Eligibility for participation in the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families program is limited to a first-degree family member (spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child) of a post-9/11 veteran with a service-connected disability; a first-degree family member (spouse, parent, sibling, or adult child) of active duty military (including National Guard and Reserve); or a surviving spouse or adult child of a service member who lost their life while serving in the military post-9/11. The program is broken down in three phases: Phase I is a 30-day online, instructor-led business fundamentals and research course; Phase II is a 9-day residential training at a partnering EBV university; and Phase III is ongoing support, focused on small business creation and growth. The entire Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veteran’ Families experience, including travel and lodging, is offered without any cost to participants.

 

EBV Accelerate is a boot camp-style program focused on growth that tackles head-on topics such as the financial, management, marketing, and strategic planning challenges that established businesses face. EBV Accelerate is a 3-phase program that gives veterans that already have a successful business the tools and coaching to propel their business to the next phase: that of sustainable growth. Topics include acquiring growth funding, rebranding for expansion, determining a sustainable growth rate, establishing partnerships, managing cash flow, and more.

 

Eligibility for participation in the EBV Accelerate program: open to all veteran business owners, as long as 50% or more ownership is maintained by the veteran; in business for 3 or more years (recommended; must have financials); must employ 5 or more full-time employees; and the veteran business owner must have served active duty with honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions. Graduates of other IVMF programs are eligible. This program is also offered in three phases: Phase I consists of two weeks of online instruction focused on business analysis; Phase II is a three-day residency during which participants will create a personalized action plan for their business; and Phase III involves resources to support the growth of the business. (Notes for Phase II: Monday & Friday are Travel Days, and the three-day residency is from Tuesday-Thursday; travel to the location is at the candidate’s cost; lodging and meals are provided for the participant during the three-day residency; and all program learning materials will be provided at no cost to the participant.)

 

If you decide that one of these programs looks enticing, check out the application process here. Take it seriously, though…these are highly competitive programs and you’ll need to have your ducks in a row. It’s in your best interest to write complete and thorough responses for the personal statement section to help the admissions committee make an informed decision on your application. Additional paperwork is required to go along with your application:

 

…Documents required for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) application include 2 Letters of Recommendation (must be addressed to EBV and speak specifically about your desire to join the program); an updated resume (military or civilian); and your DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted) OR LES (Leave and Earnings Statement).

…Documents required for the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans’ Families application include 2 Letters of Recommendation; an updated resume; and the family member’s DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted) OR LES (Leave and Earnings Statement).

…Documents required for the EBV Accelerate application include 2 Letters of Recommendation (1 from a client & 1 from someone like your banker, accountant, insurance agent, or lawyer); a current resume; your DD214 Member 4 (showing dates of active duty, discharge status and with the SSN redacted); and a self- or accountant-prepared Income Statement OR Profit & Loss Statement.

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, educational, and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through a focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community, captures best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families.

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families has provided programs and services to more than 100,000 veterans, service members, and their families since 2011, and to more than 20,000 in 2017 alone. Their family of programs includes EBV, EBV-Families, EBV Accelerate, Onward to Opportunity, America Serves, Boots to Business, V-Wise, Center of Excellence for Veteran Entrepreneurship, CVOB (Coalition for Veteran Owned Business), VetNet – The Veterans Network, and Boots to Business – Reboot.

If you find yourself in transition – from active duty, from a deployment, or from a W-2 job – and you decide that you might like to give small business ownership a try, I encourage you to take a closer look at organizations like the IVMF and programs like the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. While you probably won’t be eligible for all opportunities like these out there, there’ll be others for which you’re suited. And there will be other organizations that are more local to you, or that have different eligibility guidelines, for which you do qualify.

Connect with a small business counselor at your local economic development center or at your closest Small Business Administration office. Put talented people on your ‘team’ and take advantage of resources created especially for members of the military community…like you and me.

 

New Career Opportunity in Naval Aviation

New Career Opportunity in Naval Aviation

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

In an effort to improve aviator retention, the U.S. Navy has announced that it’s launching the Aviation Professional Flight Instructor (PFI) program, a move that will allow pilots and naval flight officers to remain in the Navy later in their careers, typically as flight instructors.

The program is intended to provide selected officers enhanced career flexibility, greater stability with assignments, and rewarding experiences training the Navy’s newest aviators. Shortages in the service’s pilot community appear to be driving the program, however, as the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are all facing a pilot-retention crisis. The services complete with ample opportunities for jobs with commercial airliners that offer good pay, no risk of combat, and no at-sea deployments to take them away from their families. The Navy also increased bonuses available for certain officers earlier this year.

To be eligible for a spot, a pilot or naval flight officer must have completed or be currently serving in an operational or operational-training aviation department head assignment, have completed a flying tour in aviation production, have a projected rotation date in calendar year 2019, and have at least 36 months remaining before their statutory retirement date.

A naval administrative message, issued September 28, notes that this path is an alternative to the traditional sea/shore rotational career path associated with operational service and for officers who don’t wish to pursue command opportunities. The Navy is currently accepting applications from qualified aviators and flight officers for the first PFI board, scheduled for November 20. The program is slated to start sometime in calendar year 2019.

The Navy hopes the new PFI program will help it leverage enhanced fleet experiences among its ranks and address shortages of critical instructional skill sets of its current aviation professionals. Accepting a position as a navy Professional Flight Instructor will remove the officer from command consideration, but he or she would still be eligible for statutory promotion board consideration. Officers selected to become flight instructors can remain in the program until they choose to withdraw or retire, as long as they continue to meet applicable performance standards.

For program details, eligibility, and application procedures, read NAVADMIN 241/18 at www.npc.navy.mil or visit the Navy Personnel Command Aviation Bonus website at https://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/officer/Detailing/aviation/Pages/Professional-Flight-Instructor.aspx.