Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#8: Timelines

A good number of officers contemplating the next move will wonder when they should start their campaign.  Although there isn't a black and white answer, the general wisdom among headhunters trends around six month from the end of service.  I've been told in the past that the reason for this stems from the fact that most employers have hiring needs that run in similar cycles, and that six months is about the furthest out a company will submit a hiring offer to a prospect.

For situations where a smaller company is looking for a hot fill and has concurrently posted notices of job hunt websites and even the larger local newspapers, six months (or even 60 days for that matter) are probably going to represent an unacceptable wait for a new hire to come on board.  They need positions filled quickly in order to resume the forward track of their business model.  Large corporations with executive development programs will have the ability to endure the longer lead time between salary negotiation and your first day.

Regardless of whether you are looking at a short window between starting your search, or a more lengthy process that begins slowly and gains momentum, you will need to organize your current work responsibilities to efficiently employ your available terminal leave, any permissive temporary additional duty available for your circumstances, and other supporting fires (like leave granted to attend headhunter conferences, take hiring examinations for Federal employment, etc.).  If nothing else, there is a lot of preparation on the front end that you need to knock out before you start the actual process of submitting resumes and interviewing.  It would not be prudent to take on every little project possible, or suddenly decide that it's time to take a huge dose of initiative and dream up the next new and great pre-deployment training plan that you need to implement and supervise.  Where appropriate, do your best to spread responsibilities out along traditional lines, and achieve balance.

This is not to say that you should go on a pseudo-"ROADs" (retired on active duty) program and totally divorce yourself from your military responsibilities for the sake of the job search, because that will get you hemmed up pretty quickly and never endear you to your boss.

Settling on a style of resume and fine-tuning the material in it can take a considerable amount of time, time that needs to be set aside well before you are faced with the prospect of leaving the military in the next 90 days.  I have heard and read a lot of advice that puts the best time to start it all at the 12 month mark.  Looking at the process, it only make sense.  The first six months can be spent networking with contacts in the desired field, reading up on resources that detail who to craft a resume, cover letter (if required), and start moving them out the door.  There is also the business of conducting basic research about the type of job you want, the field it is in, the range of salaries available based on location, and a multitude of other factors that can make the difference between simply getting a job after the military, and embarking on a new life that you will enjoy and prosper in.

The effort of conducting this research takes time, and if you don't want you current military responsibilities to slip, you need to pace these tasks across a reasonable amount of time.  Right now, although I am at least 18 months out from retiring, I am conducting research in fields that have always interested me, and am compiling this information so that I don't have to go on a research binge when it begins to get down to the wire.

You should take stock of your current leave balance, the rules applicable for how much you can maintain on the books per fiscal year, and begin to think about whether you intend to use that as terminal leave (pending the appropriate approval from your chain of command of course), allowing you to begin work while still drawing pay and entitlements until your EAS date, or do you want to sell that unused leave back and pocket the money (keep in mind that there are different tax rates to leave when it is sold back).  Take stock of the situation well in advance, and make your decision based on what fits your scenario and needs.

Although I don't have any data to back this up, you might also want to consider the time of year when you begin putting your resumes out and consider yourself available.  The time after typical college graduation has to be a terribly busy time for human resources reps, and it may make it more difficult for you if they are wading through tons of unsolicited resumes from every bright-eyed graduate.  Use of a headhunter would circumvent this issue, because you are competing against a different pool of applicants.

On another more practical note, I've been wringing my hands over what sort of advice to give to the junior officer who intends to EAS, but still has time on contract where he expected to work hard, produce results, and be otherwise as effective a leader and manager as he has for all the previous months.

Should you accept that company executive officer's billet that is offered, knowing that you intend to separate within a few months to a year?  One side of me would argue that a move from a rifle platoon commander slot up to XO would mark the sort of upward promotion and climb that an employer would expect to see, and if you are using a headhunter, your competition may have that statistic in their background.

The other side of me believes that you can be more effective in your transition, unless you have a job your uncle lined up for you at the plant, in a billet that doesn't have the same degree of responsibility as one like an executive officer.  Within my old unit, I saw JMOs who were about to get out, and who had made that fact known, who were still offered an XO job and took it.  Our guest poster from the 5 Feb post did just that, for a while, before he was replaced through an internal shuffle of company commanders and moved to the Operations Section.

There were other JMOs (at the end of a different deployment) who completed the deploy with no drama, but ended up in the Ops shop because it was known they intended to EAS.  As the XO slots were looked at and filled for the next deployment, the plans of these lieutenants were taken into account and they were slated appropriately.  I would like to think that serving as a special projects officer in the S-3 may allow them to conduct some better preparation for their life after the Marine Corps.  I'll look to hit them up as they get closer to the time, and ask them their thoughts.

And now for a dose of Gorillaz - Dirty Harry.  The personnel carrier in the clip reminds me of the M-ATV I commanded during the last deploy.  I miss that buggy.

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