JEDI: A Job Opportunity For Those Leaving Military Service
The data of the United States armed forces has been unprotected for too long.
The government will soon be adopting cloud technology as part of the federal government’s 2018 plan to update its IT system.
For those who are not in the world of tech, the Information Technology (IT) team of any organization is the department that collects, stores, processes, and protects a company’s data.
The tasks of a good IT defense system include:
The way our government’s IT upgrade is to be funded is a project called the JEDI initiative, or the JEDI contract. Between 2018 and late 2019, JEDI was basically a competition between traditional defense contractors and commercial IT organizations such as Amazon and Google. The goal of this $10 billion competition is to provide the armed forces with cloud infrastructure to host and distribute mission-critical information to operators around the globe.
In October of 2019, the Pentagon selected Microsoft as the winner of the major contract. Amazon was initially the favorite to win, but the executive office intervened after the president looked into the contract.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the original frontrunner in JEDI. Any former military service members with IT experience should consider applying to AWS if they are looking for a reliable and well-paid job in technology.
Amazon was the first stop made by then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was the first to order the Department of Defense to create space for JEDI in the budget. This came after Hilary Clinton’s email scandal, when the federal government was preoccupied with the impending need for the government to establish cyber national security. One of the ways government has achieved that since then has been the use of a cloud access security broker.
Since the Pentagon chose Microsoft for JEDI, Amazon has launched a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the Pentagon’s evaluation contained “clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias.”
The reason why Amazon has made this claim is because it says that Trump viewed Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos as a “political enemy.”
The Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog advocacy group, says that improper influence by the president and a inappropriate refusal to participate in the inspector general’s investigation by the White House has led to a “$10 billion mess.”
If you find yourself looking for a job after military service and you have tech training, you would have an advantage if you apply to become of the 151,000 people Microsoft employees.
Microsoft has now beaten out all competitors, both defense contractors and commercial providers. It is tasked with the overhaul of the DoD’s IT infrastructure. The existing system was notoriously easy to penetrate and must be fortified with upgraded cyber defenses and strong encryption.
The main innovations out of silicon valley in the last few years include artificial intelligence and machine learning. These are some of the mechanisms which must now be applied to our national defense.
JEDI also includes funds for tactical devices which are described in the contract as “ruggedized, durable, and portable compute and storage.” The Pentagon states it needs its devices from Microsoft to be battle-worthy for the “full range of military operations.”
The goal of JEDI is to deploy “the most innovative and secure commercially available technology to satisfy the urgent and critical needs of today’s warfighters,” says Toni Townes-Whitley, Microsoft’s president of U.S Regulated Industries.
The fast-moving technological world we live in has the potential to disrupt every single industry on the planet. This has already been seen in everything from oil drilling to air travel. The fuel for these powerful exponential changes is data. It all comes down to data. Having secure information storage systems to protect records, accounts, and project management is especially essential when combatant’s lives are on the line.
Since roughly 2018, the American government has been working on becoming impervious to attack by upgrading our IT. Good IT practices not only give users better remote access and greater safety, but they also let us get more done.
If you want to bring your tech skills to civilian life, working with Microsoft or Amazon are good options.
IT is valuable no matter where you go. It is a way to cut bureaucracy in the government and a way to whip companies into faster, more effective action.
From Battle Plans to Business Plans
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
Well, the results are in – Veterans are entrepreneurial. Whether or not we know it, and whether or not we do anything to confirm it, is another matter – but you can ‘rest easy’ knowing you’re more likely to succeed as a small business owner than your counterpart in the general population, one with no military experience.
Notice I didn’t say anything about guaranteed success. As I’ve said in this blog’s space before, small business is risky. I’ve always thought, though, that it’s what we’ve been through – from the adversity, to the training, to the opportunities to lead, to the expectations that we’ll be flexible and adaptable – those are some of the intangibles that stack the entrepreneurial deck in our favor, even if just a little bit.
Another one of those intangibles, a really important one that’s hard to measure, is our ability (and susceptibility) to plan – to plan for the best and worst cases, to plan for contingencies, and to plan for second- and third-order effects. From battle plans to business plans – our background in the military community makes us more likely to succeed because we’re more likely to plan.
President and former Soldier Dwight Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” It could be argued that truer words have never been spoken, because it’s what we discover (or uncover) during the planning process that can make all the difference. But with as much planning as you, the small business owner, might engage in, keep in mind that you’ll need to be ready to adjust fire just as soon as things go sideways.
Case in point #2: a franchise consultant I know, one that regularly presents at transition workshops, tells me that there’s a general consensus among the franchise industry that Veterans make great franchisees (in other words, as small business owners). In an article found on our blog at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/vets-make-good-franchisees/, he offers up his take on why U.S. Census Bureau data suggests that approximately 2.5 million businesses – nearly 9.1% – are Veteran-owned, and why nearly one in seven U.S. franchises is owned by a Veteran. He touches on how proper planning is the foundation for so many other success factors that franchisors seek: quality training, risk management, discipline, and the ability to work under pressure. I second that assessment, and add a few more of my own tips for the ‘would-be’ entrepreneur…things that become second nature with constant and consistent planning.
What are those extra tips that might help you plan your next business venture, you ask? Well, they include defining success (success isn’t always measured in dollars and cents, but without spending time and energy in the planning process, that may be hard to nail down; figuring out your comfort level with risk (with proper planning, you can identify where your risk lies and determine the best way to mitigate that risk); building your team (as in, surrounding yourself with good people…professionals who have skillsets that you don’t (but need); and managing your brand (be your own brand ambassador for your small business…clean up your online image if you need to, then walk the walk.)
So, at the end of the day (or at the beginning of your next venture), just remember how valuable the planning process will be and embrace it accordingly. A few more words from someone more famous than I would be, “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Many successful small business owners can also attest that, “no business plan survives first contact with the customer.” But in the process of planning, with what you’ve learned along the way, you’ll adapt and you’ll adjust…it’s what we do. And more often than not, we’ll succeed…
Until next time…
Veterans’ Preference in the Job Search
Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
If you’re part of the Military community and you’ve spent any time at all looking for a job, you’re probably at least vaguely familiar with the term “Veterans’ Preference.” For most of us, though, that’s the extent of it…we have a vague familiarity with the words, something that gives us a conceptual warm and fuzzy, but we’re not quite sure why.
Simply stated, Veterans’ Preference is a policy that may allow an applicant to receive preference in the hiring process over non-Veterans. State and local public-sector programs and companies in private enterprise may have their own preference policies in place, but for the rest of this post, we’ll be talking about Veterans’ Preference in the federal jobs environment.
According to OPM (the US Office of Personnel Management that serves as the country’s chief Human Resources agency and that oversees its federal hiring processes), Veterans of the US Armed Forces have been given some degree of preference in appointments to federal jobs since the Civil War. Veterans’ Preference was used to “recognize the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served their country in uniform, restore Veterans to a favorable competitive position for Government employment, and acknowledge the larger obligation owed to disabled Veterans.” In its current form, the policy has its roots in the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944 (codified in Title 5, United States Code).
If you really want to do a deep dive on the subject, you should supplement your education with a visit to OPM’s web page for HR professionals at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/veterans-services/vet-guide-for-hr-professionals/. While you’re there, you’ll find that, by law, preference in hiring “applies to permanent and temporary positions in the competitive and excepted services of the Executive branch,” but that the Legislative and Judicial branches of the Federal Government are exempt, unless made subject to the Veterans’ Preference Act by some other law. If you find yourself longing for more on the topic, I’d also visit https://www.fedshirevets.gov/job-seekers/veterans-preference/. You’ll be able to really get in the weeds about when preference applies and the type you’re eligible for, which we’ll just touch on here and now…
…0-point preference eligibility. You were released or discharged from a period of active duty from the armed forces, after August 29, 2008, by reason of being the only surviving child in a family in which the father or mother or one or more siblings: 1) Served in the armed forces, AND 2) was killed, died as a result of wounds, accident, or disease, is in a captured or missing in action status, or is permanently 100 percent disabled or hospitalized on a continuing basis (and is not employed gainfully because of the disability or hospitalization); WHERE the death, status, or disability did not result from the intentional misconduct or willful neglect of the parent or sibling and was not incurred during a period of unauthorized absence. (While no points are added to a scored application for 0-point eligibles, they are listed ahead of non-preference eligibles with the same score or in the same quality category.)
…5-point preference eligibility. You served on active duty in a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal or badge has been authorized; OR for more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, during various periods of time over the last 65 years or so. (I refer you back to the OPM webpage earlier in this post for the exact dates.)
The informal feedback I’ve received over the last decade indicates that most of us in the general population of job seekers have mixed feelings about Veterans’ Preference. I, for one, appreciate the gesture our national leadership put in place all those years ago, but I can’t say as I’ve ever benefited from being awarded those preference points in the application process. I’ve heard many folks say they’ve applied to countless position and (even with points applied) have never even been called for an interview, and therefore are less than enamored with the policy. Still others make no bones about their dislike and distrust of the process, believing that nepotism and the ‘good old boy’ system is still alive and well, regardless of what OPM has to say.
My take is that you’d have to have a look deep under the hood to gauge whether or not Veterans’ Preference in the federal hiring arena has had the kind of impact its writers had hoped it would. But if you’re applying for a position or a program that uses Veterans’ Preference and you’re eligible, I encourage you to use it to your advantage – you’ve earned it. Remember that Veterans’ Preference doesn’t guarantee a job to those that qualify, and it typically doesn’t apply to internal agency actions like promotions, transfers, reassignments, and reinstatements.
Personally, I never thought Veterans’ Preference would be that ‘X’ factor that got me the job, but rather that it might be what gives me that competitive edge one day, and propels me to the interview phase of the job search. And here’s hoping that it will for you, too.
Until next time…
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…
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 [email protected] and tell us your story…
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 [email protected]!