Thursday, September 8, 2011

Disturbing Statistics on Unemployment

I was reading up a bit on the current economic situation and the impact of employment, and saw an interesting blurb that is at the heart of one of the rules I outlined earlier.

The article discussed the plight of the underemployed, and the unemployed who could not find work.  The writer made a very clear point that in many cases of the long term unemployed, it takes so long and costs so much too conduct a job search, that eventually people stop looking for employment because they cannot afford to search any longer.

Although the article did not delineate the types of jobs that these job seekers had been after, or go into details of the costs incurred, it doesn't take much to be develop a reasonable approximation of the situation it speaks to. 

The job hunt in an economically-constrained environment, where companies are slimming down and cutting costs, becomes naturally more difficult if companies stop flying candidates in for interviews, or even reimbursing the candidate for a cost like gas.  Companies are more likely to leave vacant positions gapped, as opposed to back-filling it with a full-time hire, or may settle for a part-time hire.  Where there may have been job opportunities galore five to six years ago, the pickings are getting slim to none, forcing the prospective job seeker to cast the net farther, in turn incurring considerably more expenses in the process as they travel to multiple distant locations (often at the extreme corners of the country).

It is now more important than ever to save towards your job search, on a recurring basis, and set the funds aside so that they are secure, readily accessible, and in sufficient quantity. 

For that interview at a Fortune 500 company within 50 miles of your current location, you can probably get away with the cost of gas money and a meal or two for the day.   If you are luky, lunch mght be charged to some hiring manager's expense account, but even those perks are getting slimmed down or axed as companies seek to cut costs and improve profits.

For the interview with a potential employer who wants you to interview at the manufacturing plant in question, you should expect to cover the cost of airfare, cab/rental car, hotel room and meals, as well as incidental expenses such as miscellaneous tips.  You'll need to account for a trip of at least two days, with the first day set aside for travel, and the second day reserved for the interview(s), possible tour of the facility, and hopefully salary negotiations once you beat the competition and land the job.

Because you should assume that every job interview could result in an offer of employment by the end of the process (or why else would you take the trip?), it may be prudent to lengthen your stay, adding time to the front end so that you can scope the area out, figure out where you might want to live, and begin to build a cache of resources to facilitate your move and transition to the area.  More importantt thatn anything else, factor time in to the front end to ensure you can get to your interview on time!

Nothing can be more stressful than trying to coordinate the start of a new job, and synchronize it with finding a new place to live, while dealing with the headaches of moving companies, pets, forwarding your mail, etc.  I have moved my family seven times in the last 19 years, and each iteration throws a new wrench or two at my family, who are pros by now at the process.  Reduce that stress by conducting a little reconnaissance while you are already in town to dazzle the company with your background.  Additionally, be prepared for the company to make an offer before you leave.  That is not the time to be indecisive, especially if you aren't getting nibbles on the remainder of the resumes you have out there.

Okay, so you folks don't catch a case of the downers with this post, try on some Muse - Map of the Problematique.

Then again, Bellamy is singing about a lot of loneliness, so I don't know...

PS. Remember to share your personal stories folks, and provide feedback on how this blog is doing!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

To anyone following the current situation in the armed forces, and the expected drawdown to manning levels that pre-date 9-11 levels, it should be obvious that the job market is going to get considerably tighter for JMOs who plan on getting out within the next one to five years.

The Marine Corps is offering bonuses to officers who decided to leave early and sign up with the Selected Marine Corps Reserve, and options for prospective candidates to even join the Marine Corps are getting slimmer as the accession numbers drop and fewer junior officers are required.  

This all means that there will be more folks in the job market than otherwise normally encountered, and where the job market might have been hungry for JMOs three or four years ago, the increased supply is going to allow the market to be more selective.

Salaries can be expected to stagnate a bit as well, and it will be even more important for JMOs to work their salary requirements strategy and stick to it when they come to that phase in their job search, and certainly understand that what they might have commanded then might not be the case now.

All this go back to rule #10 from the inaugural post of this blog.  JMOs have to have a plan for extended unemployment that could run into months, or certainly under-employment until they can land the job they rate relative to their skills.

Save money while you can, stay the course, and continue to network.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

So what are some really practical tips to help with the job search?

If you've bought a copy of "Knock 'Em Dead", some of these pieces of advice will be obvious, but because I am hearing over and over again from a variety of sources that some folks just don't get it, I thought these simple tips and pointers would be relevant to helping you clean up your act and ensure prospective employers don't knock you out of the race for stupid reasons.

1.  Do a scrub of your "virtual footprint".  Practically everyone, even my mother, has left an imprint on the world through the internet.  The tracks may not run deep, but if you have a social networking account, post to blogs using your name, have written an review with your name, etc., you have left an imprint that can be found by someone who bothers to query it with a simple Google query.  If you've made, for example outlandish comments about a product or service from company X, and stuck your name to it, then company X's HR department could easily pull it up with some basic research.  How many companies do this?  Good question.  The point to this is that you might want to run your name through a few Google queries to see what pops up on the first five or six pages of hits.  If you have a silly, provocative, or otherwise arousing avatar, you would be smart to pull it down and replace it with something more conservative.  I'd also hold off on replying to any friend requests from possible strangers.  What better way to peer into how a future employee thinks and acts than to gain access to their Facebook page.  Even after you are hired, there's no need to tempt drama by maintain a high profile on any social networking site.  It's just asking for trouble.

2.  Refresh your personal greeting at your voicemail and make it professional and basic, and take that silly music off of it that plays instead of a basic ring tone.  Nobody wants to call you to let you know that they would like you to come in to do an interview, and listen to half of the silly crap that I hear most days.  And this includes the super-moto oohrah and hooah crap, or the notes of reveille .  You are an adult.  You should already be acting like it.

3.  Along the lines of ensuring your voicemail is a reflection of the desirable applicant you are trying to portray, you need to be ready to undergo the unexpected phone interview.  On more than one occasion when I was working through my own transition years ago, I received a phone call at an unexpected hour, from a company I had put a resume in with, and the call turned out to involve quite a few questions directed at the hiring process.  You need to treat every form of contact with company X as part of the interview process, so keep the HR reps and the companies they represent straight in your head.  You don't want the awkward and painful moment to occur like this: "Oh, absolutely Mr. Johnson, I can be there tomorrow for that interview downtown. Mmmm..what company do you represent again?"

4.  Clean out your car. heard me, clean out your car and keep it clean.  I've heard from more that one person responsible for hiring with their organization that they deliberately waited for a hiring prospect to arrive for an interview, and they sent a manager or such out to their car to wander by and take a look inside.  It's one of those first impressions things, and if your car looks like crap, you just might be missing out on a great opportunity.  There is no need to leave last week's lunch leftovers sitting on your passenger seat.

5.  Clean up your wardrobe.  This is another area where I am hearing from a number of people who are interviewing, that they are arriving at workplaces alongside other interviewees, and finding that not everyone is wearing a suit!!!  Look, if nothing else sticks with you from this list, invest in a decent, subtle, professional suit or two so that you absolutely have something ready to go when the time for interviews comes around.  Many places for menswear have a sales rep or two who know how to dress someone professionally.  Ask them for some pointers and take what they say into consideration with your own personal style.  More importantly, if you know you are going to submit an application with company X, there's nothing wrong with stopping by that company during either the morning rush hour or quitting time, to gain an appreciation for how the staff dress, professionally.  It's called reconnaissance, and shame on you if you don't do it.

6.  In the same vein as conducting reconnaissance on what the employees are wearing to work, you'd be smart to figure out how to get to that company X in the first place and drive the route during rush hour, so that when you get that oddly-timed request to come in for an interview, you can get to it on time.  And if you have not be a practitioner of it before, start following the rule that if you aren't ten minutes early, you are ten minutes late.

7.  In your dealings with civilians who are certainly not inside your chain of command, start practicing the use of their first name, or Mr./Mrs./Ms. and their last name.  You'd be surprised that there are a good number of people who think that you and I are fairly robotic because we refer to someone in a position of authority as "Sir" or "Ma'am".  It can really weird some people out, so start working now to break yourself of the practice.  Don't go overboard and expect that you can greet the CEO with a "Hey Bob," but try to cut out the military customs and courtesies until you get a better lay of the land.

8.  Maintain a fresh haircut and a clean set of fingernails.  It's simple, but something quite a few folks ignore, to their detriment.

9.  Don't let the stress of looking for a new job put you off of your fitness routine.  Your overall resiliency will depend on how well you manage to make time for a workout on a regular basis.  Don't put it off.

10. Learn some business etiquette.  Here are a few resources:

This one is a clutch video semniar:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I hope the readers of Army Times were not surprised with the results of this poll...

Poor leadership is driving soldiers to leave the Army, reinforcing the service’s push to make leader development a top priority. The results come from a survey by the Army Research Institute that showed 26 percent of sergeants and staff sergeants and 23 percent of lieutenants and captains surveyed planned to leave the Army after completing their current service obligations.

Of those, 35 percent of enlisted and 26 percent of officers cited the quality of leadership at their duty stations as a reason for leaving.

Poor leadership was the top reason selected by the active-duty enlisted survey participants and the third-most popular reason among the active-duty officers surveyed. Among noncommissioned officers, leadership concerns were a greater motivation to quit than the relentless pace of deployments.

“Leadership has always been the most important factor in determining whether young officers will remain within our ranks or not,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said in an email to Army Times. “The pace of operations over the past 10 years has placed added pressure on leader development, and although they add to our versatility, our modular structures have altered the traditional pattern of senior and subordinate relationships. We’re doing well, but never good enough in this important aspect of our profession.”

Dempsey said he has not seen the survey. But in his first week on the job, Dempsey blasted the pace of promotions, suggesting that it puts people in leadership positions before they are ready.
“We’re promoting 95 to 98 percent of captains to major, 93 or 95 percent of majors to lieutenant colonel. We shouldn’t be satisfied … because 98 percent of captains don’t deserve to be promoted to major. Statistically, that’s an infeasible percentage. And we’ve got to do the same thing on the noncommissioned officer side.”

Too many soldiers are promoted based on seniority instead of merit, said Sgt. Kevin Doyle, in response to a query posted on the Army Times website. He wrote that he will be leaving the Army after he completes his current service obligation.

“I’ve seen good NCOs and officers who should be wearing one or two stripes or bars led by men who’ve simply served longer,” said the two-tour veteran of Afghanistan. “Instead of promoting those who create results, we keep in dinosaurs that meet an easy standard and continue to slide under the radar.”
Doyle also said he has seen an “almost total lack of concern” on the part of company commanders and first sergeants for their soldiers.

“During my last tour soldiers went without serviceable uniforms for months, incorrect pay for the entire tour, and were abandoned during [demobilization] by the organic leadership of my unit,” he said. “This is inexcusable. I was taught that I would stay with my soldiers until the job was done, not split when the going got tough or problems developed.”
Sgt. 1st Class Erik Wilkins, a senior maintenance instructor at Fort Hood, Texas, explained why many of the soldiers who come through his classes plan to leave the Army.

“The Army lacks leadership, it lacks leaders who have compassion to understand that they have to do their job as leaders,” he said. “I understand we all want to go home at night, but if a soldier needs you, you drop everything because most of them don’t have anyone else.”

Wilkins said the problem stems from promoting soldiers to E-5 before sending them to school.
“Even if you’re going through all these deployments, you still have to take the initiative to know what your duty is as an NCO,” he said. “You still have soldiers looking up to you.”

A 30-year career in the Army is not a right but a privilege, said Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, who has also put his focus on quality leadership.

“Part of shaping the force is shaping the leadership, and what that means is if you have poor leaders, they need to be gone,” he said. “I tell [soldiers] it takes time, but I’m doing everything I can to identify where we have poor leadership and get them out of the force.”

Sometimes good leaders are just worn out, Stultz said, but there are those who don’t want to put in the effort.
If you are “a mediocre leader… you need to leave,” he said. “When you’ve got a person who’s not meeting the standards, who’s not performing, you as a commander owe it to your soldiers to bring this person in and counsel them, and if they don’t improve, you need to write that person up. I can’t afford to have a poor commander leading soldiers in combat.”

The Army has had several high-profile firings. Two brigade commanders and a battalion commander were relieved of command; another was criticized for neglect that created a climate of misconduct within his brigade. In addition, nine officers were reprimanded for their failure to detect and report problems with the accused Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan.

For the past 10 years, the Army has been focused on meeting the demands in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Charles Allen, a retired colonel who is now a professor of cultural science at the Army War College.

“The biggest concern I have is we’re putting people in positions of responsibility, in some cases, where, if they had the education and the school environment, they could be better at the skills that are required to be successful in the jobs they’re assigned to,” he said.

As the Army prepares to withdraw from Iraq and possibly reduce its forces in Afghanistan, soldiers may have more time and opportunity to get the professional military education they need, Allen said.

“If we are facing some sort of personnel reduction in the future, how do we retain the talent we’ve built over the last 10 years?” he said. “We have an uncertain future. We need a broader experience base among our officers.”

Leaders in the Army must have character, presence and intellect, capable of creative and critical thinking, Allen said.

“You want a young sergeant who has integrity, you want him to have the presence to lead other soldiers and you want him to be able to make decisions that are life-and-death,” he said. “The same thing applies to lieutenants and captains in a unit. And it also extends up to senior officers. You want them to be known for integrity, you want them to garner respect.”

Allen advocates sending officers and enlisted to their required PME courses but also giving them opportunities for unconventional assignments, such as working with another federal agency or partnering with industry.

“The Army is at this fork in the road,” he said. “With reduced budgets and downsizing, some hard choices have to be made. If we get distracted from leader development, that’ll be a problem.”

Leader development must be non-negotiable, Allen said.

“You could probably crank out more trucks for combat. You can probably buy someone else’s airplanes. You could probably increase the strength of your ranks in the field, but it’s hard to bring in a commander with 12 to 18 years of service to run our fights,” he said. “If we don’t develop the leaders, both [noncommissioned officers] and officers, who will be able to address the challenges of the future, we’ll put ourselves at risk and the nation at risk.”

A chief warrant officer deployed to Afghanistan, who asked that his name be withheld for fear of reprisal, said he believes the Army’s “current generation of leaders is more toxic than sustainable.”

“From the team leaders to the brigade commander, anyone affected by these persons can point out the bad leader,” he said.

The leaders today lack professional development, the chief warrant officer said.

“We move officers into a position and quickly out to check the block and make room for the next person,” he said.
Sometimes, the chief warrant officer said, some people don’t want to be leaders, nor should they be.

“What happens when you put a person in charge that does not want to be there?” he said. “You get a poor product even from their best effort.”

The chief warrant officer called for change to “improve leadership and better weed out toxic leaders.”

“We see poor and toxic leaders eliminated at the O-5 and higher level regularly,” he said. “How many people suffered in their hands up to the point of O-5? We need better assessments, we need to improve our education system, and we need to change the part of our culture that says it’s not OK to remain an E-4 for years.”

Sgt. 1st Class Ashley Moye, a senior contracting observer and trainer at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., said he has been fortunate to have had good leaders throughout his 13-year Army career, but he has also come across leaders who show a lack of concern for their subordinates and who are overly concerned about their own advancement.

“One of the things I harp on is we have tenets of leadership, leading by example, knowing your soldiers, knowing your jobs, doing the right things and setting the example for your soldiers,” he said. “Today, those things are not done. Everybody gets the impression that leadership is a trait we all possess. But it’s taught, and we’re not being taught properly.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Few Gems From Reader's Digest

My wife's aunt purchased a subscription to Reader's Digest for us this Christmas, and while I don't pay much attention to it when it arrives, the April 2011 has an excellent article titled: Get Hired, Not Fired: 50 Secrets Your HR Person Won't Tell You.

It has a good number of tips that I have seen in various other articles and books in the past, and some new ones that take into account the current state of technology.

A brief visit to the RD webpage and search will also score you several digital articles that discuss other aspects of the job, such as key indicators you are about to be fired, and secrets about your resume that a HR professional might keep from you.

Check them out.

What Your HR Person Won't Tell You.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#10: The cost of finding a job

I was fairly fortunate during the job search time about ten years ago, as the companies I interviewed with (outside of the Houston headhunter seminar) either flew me to them, or came to me in order to conduct the interview.

My only outlays were the trip to Houston, and a drive and overnight stay at a MicroTel when I stopped by the two headhunters's offices in Atlanta.  Expect that your will be considerably greater, considering the state of the economy and the cost-cutting measures companies are putting in place.

If you are like me and you have been deploying, you should have a certain chunk of money socked away.  If you are pending a deployment, you have the opportunity to sock a lot of cash away, so do it.

The biggest outlay you can expect to endure will be the travel expenses from attending job fairs, conferences, and (unless you are flown in by the company) flying to the geographic area where the company wants to interview you.  Multiply this across five, ten, or fifteen sorties to sit down and interview with a prospective employer, and you can guess what the total is going to come to over a very short period of time.

You may, in fact, need to save on top of these efforts in order to put more money away for other needs.  Like the 5 February post mentioned, you might need to hit your EAS, relocate (without a job in hand) and begin the search anew in the area where you think you want to settle down.  All this takes a chunk of funds.  If you are married, you will really need to sit down with your significant other and work out a budget for these outlays, so everything is above board and the both of you can understand the way ahead.  Failing to do so is only going to cause aggravation for the both of you, at a time that is already stressful.

There's not much more to add beyond this folks.  Expect your campaign to come at a cost.  Prepare for it.

And enjoy some Foo Fighters:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#9: Dream job, or crazy idea?

JMOs are going to be optimized for a certain range of jobs, so when you start your campaign towards securing one, don't be surprised if the same ones continue to turn up over and over.  While working with one of the JMO headhunter companies, it seemed as though he was deliberately referencing sales jobs for me, despite the fact that I did not want to explore that route (this speaks a bit to the motivations recruiters operate under in earlier posts)

It was almost comical on a couple of occasions.  The discussion went a bit like this:

"We have a few positions we think you might be interested in, working in regional areas close to you."

"I take it they are either service rep positions or something like sales (rolling eyes)."

"This is what the industry calls inside sales.  You aren't making any cold calls.  And these companies have already purchased the product..."

"Sounds exactly like sales, but with a slight twist."

'Well, you're not giving me much to work with right now, and this limits you..."

I had no problem being limited by not looking at sales positions as possibilities, because I simply did not want to do that at that point in my life.  I worked in sales as a teenager, and learned to dislike the rules that world lives by.  I in turn put my foot down and refused to discuss the various positions that cropped up a few times.

Did I shoot myself in that same foot?  I don't think so, because I felt pretty comfortable that I did not want to work on a commission based scale, subject to the at times helter skelter nature of market forces.  There can be tremendous gain found in sales positions, no doubt, but I just was not interested in doing what needed to be done to succeed.  Your experience, personality, and desires for financial gain may differ, so analyze those aspects and if you want to go that route, bravo!

I have a very close friend who secured his first post-JMO job at GE, working sales of industrial lighting solutions.  He has had a few other jobs in sales since then, and is now working communications solutions for mostly government contracts, and he seems to enjoy what he does.  He was open to the sales construct, and has done well with it, so I am not anti-sales.  I just think the JMO about to leave the military will still be hit with a barrage of job openings that are sales oriented.

On the note if networking, the guest poster from 5 February confirmed what I knew to be true back over ten years ago.  Networking will expand your knowledge of the various fields and jobs out there that a JMO likely knows very little about, since the intervening time between college/commissioning and the present may not have offered many opportunities to stay current with trends in their field of study in college, or their area of interest.  Go to that post to learn a few techniques he mentions that can assist you in developing a base of knowledge of the field that does interest you.  It seems you could be surprised at what happens as a result.

I'll also offer that the Internet has expanded the power an individual holds in this regard a thousand-fold.  There are a multitude of forums, groups, and even Facebook pages where you could rub elbows with people who are already in the profession you are looking to enter.  Taking their opinions with a grain of salt, you can still tell pull out a few details about the field that you might not have heard about before.  

Think of it as the ultimate career day you first experienced in elementary school.  This is where you can break away from the mold of the mundane that the JMO recruiter might have to offer, and get into the field you dream of as the perfect fit for your lifestyle, interests, and personality.  It's not crazy at all, but it will probably require a substantial investment in time to get into that field if you don't have professional credibility already established.  

There is a certain degree of never-say-never to it all though, as I know a computer animation professional who has worked on such hits as Speed Racer, who served as a Civil Affairs Soldier and was self-taught to some degree.  Same for a Marine LtCol I know who broke into computer network security after a few courses, and a self-study.  Although they embarked on a personal campaign to get to where they wanted to be, and took substantial risks along the way, they seem happy and content.

For today's music selection, here are a few live songs from a Gorillaz Demon Days Live 2006 performance at the Manchester Opera House.  A little moto and a little mellow.  Enjoy.

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.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A few articles of note...

While drifting around on another transition forum, I came across these links to recent articles that most of you will find worthwhile.
Warriors in the Workplace (CNN)
Battle Tested (CNN)
The New Warrior Elite (CNN)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Post your updates, pros and cons, and insights on Facebook

I set up a parallel Facebook account to support this blog and allow for folks to provide timely input from their personal experiences.

Look it up at Transition Campaign and send a friend request.

#7: The Junior Military Officer headhunters - * We need your personal experiences with them!!!

Ah yes, the JMO headhunter/recruiter, notorious and famous (depending on the source) for either wedging JMOs into jobs they did not want feel to motivated about in the first place, or securing that power job the JMO absolutely had to have, in exactly the area they wanted to be in, and for a sweet salary that makes them the envy of their friends.

I have been out of the business game for a bit, so I will have to freshen up on my information, but the headhunter tends to fall into the former category for a good many JMOs looking for a job.  There are a number of them out there, and it would be beyond the scope of this post to name them all and try to dissect their style of recruitment and marketing, but I can at least talk about my personal experience to serve as a frame of reference for a marginal and a not-so-good experience.  Hopefully, as this blog catches on, other JMOs who have been through the process will comment here and provide updates on the headhunter(s) they went through during their transition, and describe the pro's and cons.

The JMO headhunter outfits seem to fall into two categories: large volume with less hands-on work with you, and the smaller outfits with of course a smaller client base and opportunities.  Across the two outfits I worked with when I made a transition ten years ago, none of them had any not-for-profit opportunities available, and they all centered on a fairly predictable range of entry-level management, production supervision, and sales jobs.  That's not saying that they were bad, but let's face it, that dream job allowing you to showcase your talents with expository writing and critical thinking, design, or other artistic qualities, probably won't be found with a headhunter.

The headhunter process is fairly straightforward.  The company develops a client base of companies and corporations that desire to recruit JMOs to work for them in typically supervisory (but at the entry-level) positions, with responsibilities for a range of production outputs, or sales positions (either indoor our outdoor, as they call it at times).  There may be a random research analyst position thrown in here and there, but I don't recall them when I was in my campaign.

From that client base, the headhunter receives the requirements for the number of positions the company has open, as well as the hiring requirements for the individual jobs.  They in turn look at their pool of JMOs who have signed up for representation, and then try to make a match.  Once the JMO is hired on, the company receives the commission agreed upon by the client company.  If this all seems fairly straightforward, it isn't.  In fact, the headhunters themselves can use slightly shady marketing tricks at times to pull JMOs in and get them to use their "services" as opposed to another outfit.  Once you are on board, the various outfits can treat your transition with widely differing styles and techniques, and various results you may or may not like.  At the end of the day though, there is one truism, and that is you are not their client.  Just as a guest blogger has mentioned already, the company retaining the services of the headhunter is the client.  You are just one blip on the headhunter's corporate timeline, and may not enjoy the experience of a headhunter representative laboring to tailor a plan that suits your goals.  It is, after all, about money.  Time is money, and if you are taking up time then the amount of effort on their part is going to decrease, from what I have seen.

I'm not going to mention the names of the companies I was involved in at the moment, as I do not know if their practices are the same as what I experienced years ago, and I don't want to color anyone's decisions by mention of a name alone.  It's been years, and they may have changed their strategies wholesale for all I know.

My headhunter experience began with a large company with regional offices in all the big cities, and teams of recruiters who worked fairly aggressively in getting applicants hooked into their pipeline.  I had heard from other JMOs that their process was largely one involving long-distance contact (even though email was still something fairly new and a bit cumbersome at times), job fairs that brought HR reps from the client companies together, and a client base that ranged the standard brick and mortar companies traded on the stock markets, as well some privately held companies that were still large.  It relied on mass mailing to advertise, but word of mouth was still fairly strong and in their court.  Although they had a large client base, their throughput only allowed the recruiters to follow a basic model of getting the resume, touching it up a bit, and then working to find the opportunities to line the candidate up with the company. My recruiter had been a JMO just a couple of years prior, and we worked exclusively by remote means, except for one face-to-face visit when I stopped by the Atlanta office, and it was clear to me he was not comfortable with that sort of contact in the environs of his cubicle.  He was paid a small salary, supplemented by commissions from landing candidates for companies.

This company used a process involving large job fairs sponsored by the headhunter company, where candidates got all dressed up, piled into a location, and then had a chance to browse the HR booths of the client companies in attendance.  More often than not, your resume and cover letter would be dropped off, you might be able to chat with the HR rep about the opportunities at hand, and other contact information would be exchanged.  Job interviews did not uniformly occur, and often because every candidate at the fair was dropping off a resume!  Overall, that was not the route I wanted to go, so I worked with my recruiter and looked at a few breadcrumbs he had, but I did not invest too much time in that avenue.  Out of the blue though, near the tail end my campaign this headhunter landed a bigger nibble.  I was flown out to the Dubuque, IA plant to interview with John Deere for a $55K production supervision job, with heavy responsibility for safety management.  I got the job offered to me, but it was Dubuque for crying out loud, and being a fairly homogeneous place, it didn't suit the sort of life I wanted to start for my family.  I was fortunate, however, that the job I ultimately took fell into my lap through networking at the same time, and I had the luxury of turning down the offer.

The second outfit was a smaller setup regionally located in Atlanta, with a few offices in other eastern seaboard cities, but nothing north of Washington DC.  I became very interested in them due to their program.  They advertised a process where they took your resume, refined it to the point where you had effectively translated all that military stuff into something a HR rep could go off of, and then they brought you in (on your dime though) to one of their regional development seminars where they spent the first part of the week grooming you in job hunt skills, interviewing techniques, and other small group activities that I think better prepared all of the candidates, and then brought HR reps in during the last two days for interviews in their hotel rooms.

The best thing I got out of that company was the work my recruiter and I did in unscrewing my resume.  I had a lot of good stuff (or so I thought) that read like I was a badass in an personal award context, but it didn't tell the company anything about me and why they should hire me beyond my good looks.  I had come up with a concise and well-laid out format that followed a style from the Knock 'Em Dead book of that year, but the recruiter knew I could highlight more with substantive edits.  That's where he coached me to look at my time and my work as an interaction with a variety of processes.  This was a novel way to look at things, because as junior officers we don't see the military as a number of processes; they are though, when you sit back for a moment.  He wanted me to think about times where I had identified ways to improve the processes to save time in man hours, lower material costs, or increase productivity.  It was hard, but he gave excellent advice and insight into what a large company's HR department would be looking for, and I had not picked that up from the other headhunter or KED.

I remember going through an insane number of edits with that resume prior to the seminar in Houston, but in the end I believe they were all justified and beefed it up.  At the seminar, I gained a variety of new skills from the small group discussions, like making a point to drop the "sir" or "ma'am" when greeting the rep, and remembering to relax and avoid the left-hand-left-knee sort of posture I might revert to under stress.  I was also reminded that although the Corps might like intensity in action, words, and deeds, it could be a little unnerving to the rep to give them the "crazy eyes" during the interview.  Although they would enjoy seeing focus and sincere interest from the candidates, we all needed to bring it down a notch or two in terms of intensity.

The only thing that put me off about that headhunter was the fact that their client base had a lot of sales jobs, and I was nudged on more than one occasion to look at some of the sales positions, despite my flat out proclamation that I was not interested in sales in the least.

Across the two days, I think I interviewed with about seven companies, ranging to production line work in the central Florida area at pharmaceutical and check printing companies, to a production supervisor position in the Houston area for a homebuilding company.  None of the jobs really inspired me, and although I went on to a follow-up interview at the Orlando check printing plant, nothing panned out.

The biggest benefit gained from this headhunter was the resume and interview skills work.  Yes, I paid for airfare, rental car, and hotel room for the seminar. but it was a good investment.

Although I had one job offer and a few other serious nibbles as a result of my two headhunter experiences, the job I ultimately landed came as a result of networking with contacts at my Orlando duty station.  I had talked about my intention to leave the Corps, and an acquaintance saw an opportunity to line me up with a small business that was getting into the DoD contracting game after performing on a number of INS and VA contracts.  I ended up getting a painless interview, was able to negotiate my salary based on a few techniques I learned in a Karass Seminar I attended on the govt. dime, and landed the job.

I want to highlight that the strength of networking is what the guest blogging JMO from the 5 February post made mention of.  He provides excellent advice in that regard, and I recommend that everyone in their campaign should sit back and do some thinking about how to network themselves towards job opportunities.  It is a good way to supplement any work done with headhunters or cold interviews through the want ads.

One final point to this post and it is time to close.  With everything headhunter related, you have to remember that the recruiter is looking out after the client first and foremost, because lining a candidate up with that company puts food on their table.  Although they espouse a lot about integrity and principles in their work, it still boils down to money, and we all know what that can make a person do.  It's nothing malicious, but the guidance, advice, and coaching they provide might not be up to par with what you expect or want based on your career goals.  Don't be afraid to tell the recruiter that you simply are not interested in what they have to offer at the moment, and want to keep looking.  More importantly, start your campaign early enough so you can avoid becoming desperate for a job, causing you to hire on with a company that is less than optimal for what you want to do for a job, and in a location that is less than ideal as well.

If the recruiter's performance seems sub par to you based on what they advertise, ask for another recruiter to work with you.  Trust your instincts and judgment.  It could be that your recruiter is brand new, inefficient, or simply an idiot, so don't settle for poor effort and performance on their part.  Make them work for their commission and do what they say they are going to do.  Expect a little bit of car salesmanship along the way as well, but don't allow yourself to be patronized.  Again, it's not necessarily malicious, just the way they end up doing business.

Okay, get out there and work towards your goals.  Here's a dose of moto in that regard:

The lyrics don't have any connection to job hunting.  I just think that SSPU rocks.  If I ever became a superhero crime fighter, this would be my theme song.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

#6: Knock 'Em Dead 2010: The Ultimate Job Search Guide

This post is fairly straightforward and simple.  Buy the book.  Read said book from front to back and then again, making notes along the way.  Just like an instructions manual for a car, it will tell you secrets.  Follow the instructions and you will reduce a significant portion of the drama related to the format, content, and even mailing of your resume to potential employers.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A former JMO from my unit checks in

I asked John to let me post his email reply up on the blog, since he and I spent some time discussing the Kock 'Em Dead book and other principles behind a job search.  I asked him whether that advice had served him well or not, and here is what he shot back with the following (I will add in right here that his closing statement reminds me to advise that the decision to get out needs to be thought over carefully):

It's been a while.  Hope you are well.  I would be happy to share my experience with you.  Our discussions proved to be very helpful.

Knock Em Dead was a great help. As a supplement I would also recommend "PCS to Corporate America" by Roger Cameron who runs Cameron Brooks Recruiting for JMO's.  The books describe very similar tactics, but are written in a different style.  PCS is more general than Knock Em Dead and they really complement each other well.  I would NOT however recommend using any headhunter unless it is a headhunter local to the area in which the JMO wants to live.  National headhunters can show a lot of opportunities but only to those who do not place a high emphasis on location.

Another key takeaway regarding headhunters: The JMO is the product NOT the Client.  The headhunter is interested in getting people hired so they get paid.  They are not interested in seeing candidates achieve the highest salary in their most desired position.  They are interested in getting paid which may mean convining the JMO to take a job they don't really want or certainly one that isn't the greatest fit.  That is not to say they don't have their place.  It is just to say that the JMO needs to fully understand the headhunter agenda.

There are a few important things that I recognize now in hindsight.  Former Marine Officers are viewed as the cream of the crop in the civilian hiring world.  Just by being a Marine you will get interviews for positions that aren't even created yet because people see us as an asset, even if they don't need us at the moment.  I am not saying you can go in and boff an interview and land a job.  I am simply saying that my experience showed me that while people typically look for a reason not to hire a normal candidate people immediately looked for a reason to hire me.  I don't attribute that to anything more than the fact that we are somewhat of a known quantity.  Employers knew I likely worked hard, was ethical and moral, and had been in far more stressful situations than most in the civilian world.  I definitely recall you and [the battalion commander] emphasizing this point and I think it really is true.  If you can tell these guys to be confident in where they came from it will go far.

I personally decided that I wanted to live specifically in Tampa, FL.  So, I moved there and started informational interviewing.  I simply met with people in different fields and tried to find something I was interested in.  I always went into those situations being prepared for it to turn into a job interview and often times it did.  You can meet a lot of people and see a lot of different career fields this way because employers feel no pressure in this scenario.  They are just there to talk about themselves and what they do.  Everyone loves to talk about themselves which leads to them being in a good mood and generally liking the person encouraging them to do so.  People who like you generally want to help you. So, I found this to be a great way to get connected to people they know who ARE hiring.

It took me a while to get used to the lack of follow-up in the corporate world.  If I was still Capt XXXX and you sent me an email at 7am you would expect a response by noon.  If I said I'd call you before the day was over you would expect to hear from me by about 3-4pm.  I got very used to this and I liked the reliability factor of the Marine Corps.  In the corporate world if you call someone on Monday you may not hear from them until Friday.  If you are looking for a job, you may never hear from them unless you follow-up.  There is fine line between being a nuisance and properly following up. Based on our training we [err]on the side of thinking people are blowing us off if we don't hear back.  That is usually not the case and it shows real dedication to conduct follow-ups properly.  Letting people know you are very interested never hurts your chances.  It took me a while to get used to that.

What is the JMO worth?  I remember you telling me that if I played my cards right and did enough interviewing, eventually I could talk my way into a nice salary.  You were right.  I found that by being very honest about my salary expectations I was able to achieve a first year income which superseded the standard guideline. While many people feel 
that the JMO is worth about 70-85K, that does not mean you can't negotiate for more.  When asked about income I said things like "the highest salary I ever achieved was about $85K (which is Captains pay when coupled with housing allowance) and much of that wasn't taxed" That automatically leads people to the $85K side of the spectrum and if they want to match your old salary they really need to come up even a bit more.

I guess if I had to say one final thing it would be that it is tough to line a job up before getting out.  Unless they want to live in Southern California they are going to have to move where they want to live and THEN get a job.  Just tell them not to be scared about the process because they will do well and people value our experience. The most important thing you told me was that simple fact and it ended up working out.

Hope all this helps.  You were right about one other thing.  I do miss the Marine Corps.  I am not sprinting to my local recruiter, but I miss the guys and I miss the level of responsibility I had as a young lieutenant.  Most people in the civilian workforce don't ever get there until they are in their 40's.  I made the right call for me without doubt but I do have fond memories of the Corps.  Tell them to expect that too!

Edited to add: About a week or two ago, John sent me a cc: to a reply he drafted in response to a headhunter's email.  The correspondence was aimed at telling him about a $55K opportunity that the recruiter had picked up on, and required a hot fill.  John tactfully pointed out that $55K was woefully lower than what a JMO could potentially garner with a little effort.  

I thought it a little discouraging that $55K was what I was offered for a production supervisor job when I was looking...about ten years ago.  Wow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

#5: Accomplishments

I worked with more than one junior military officer recruiter when I was looking for employment about ten years ago, and one in particular did right by me with one simple piece of advice.   During the period when my representative was working with me on my resume, he pointed out that I was trying to tell the wrong story about my accomplishments.

This revelation threw me off a bit, because I had been, after all, a successful weapons platoon commander of a rifle company, with collateral duties as the embark and ordnance officer, and had been hand-picked to move on a more senior billet after a deployment to Okinawa.  I had a good billet progression and laid out my accomplishments under these billets in my resume.  On my first cuts at a resume, I had annotated the fact that I had successfully embarked and move a company's worth of individual weapons and personal equipment, where nothing had been lost, from California to Okinawa.  I also detailed my routine responsibilities for several millions of dollars of equipment assigned to the company.  I had done my duty in a "highly professional manner that contributed to the company's successful mission accomplishment and well-being of its Marines and Sailors."

Sound like an award citation?  Yeah, it is.  Right out of my award received after that Okinawa employment.  The problem is that although it reads well and says all the right things among military professionals, it doesn't tell a prospective employer the most important thing they want to know about you: What demonstrates that you can save the company money, time, or otherwise improve on its internal processes, and thus contribute to its bottom line in a positive way.

My first recruiter put it to me in an interesting way, and in a flash it all made sense that I had been looking at my resume the wrong way.  It was great that no weapons had become lost during the periods of embarkation to Okinawa, but I wasn't supposed to lose any weapons, so there wasn't anything notable about that fact and it didn't need to be on the resume.  What I needed to do, he explained, was look back on my military experience and analyze it to extract those times when I had changed a process to achieve greater efficiency, had accomplished a task while husbanding scant resources, or otherwise contributed to the unit's bottom line.

Highlighting bullets that spoke to these abilities was difficult at first, because we rarely measure success in the same ways that the corporate world might, but the recruiter coached me through a few ways to look at the issue from a different angle.  This was one of the few occasions in my first post-military job search where a junior military officer recruiter proved beneficial to my job search.

There are several bottom lines in the military that you could back on which can correlate to an accomplishment a corporate employer could find attractive.  Implementing safety and risk management principles to effectively reduce mishaps, and time lost due to injuries, can translate to an ability to save money for a company through reduced workman's compensation.  So does modifying work practices to be more efficient with fewer man hours involved.  And the same can be true if you identify how you made a process more productive.  You could even highlight how you might have instituted physical training or individual development programs that raised the overall PT scores of your troops, or were part of multiple meritorious promotions that your subordinates achieved.

I know it may seem difficult, because we simply do not think of our value as officers in this way, and although our billet accomplishments involve an often arduous, life-threatening existence, the corporate bottom line is just different, but your resume has to tell the right story.  Sometimes, that means taking the spotlight off of you, and putting it on the most important component of our modern military; the people who worked with and for you, and went into harm's way beside you.  How well they performed, if framed in the right context, can tell a lot about you.  The key phrases that make up your personnel evaluation file, or a few awards received along the way, will rarely fit properly into a powerful resume until you think about it from the corporate employer's point of view.