Military/Veteran Jobs and Benefits news of the day for 7/29/14

Good news story of the day

Effort advances to add names of 74 sailors to Vietnam Memorial  (Navy Times)  The crew of the destroyer Frank E. Evans is fighting once again, 45 years after their ship sank in the South China Sea after a terrifying collision.

Military Transition and Jobs News

HIRING: Veterans Job Fair at VA Loma Linda Healthcare System  (Press Enterprise) The VA Loma Linda Healthcare System will host a “Veterans Job Fair” event at its flagship facility, the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Veterans Medical Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fri. Aug. 8.

Job fair Thursday held at American Legion  (Marrietta Daily Journal)   The American Legion Post No. 294, at 3282 Florence Road in Powder Springs, and Unemployment Eliminators LLC will have a job fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.

YDC unit hosting job fair   (Union Recorder)  One building, to be known as the Bill Ireland Intensive Treatment Unit, will begin operations at the old Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) campus on North Glynn Street by next January.

Army officials on ‘pink slip’ controversy: We don’t have a choice  (The Washington Post)  For weeks, the Army has been taking a verbal beating for sending “pink slips” to officers while they were deployed.

DOT Expands Program to Help Veterans Get Jobs  (Military.com)   The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today that its waiver program that helps experienced veterans and active duty personnel transition into civilian jobs as commercial truck and bus drivers has been expanded to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Veterans News

House-Senate Negotiators Approve $17B VA Bill  (ABC)  House and Senate negotiators have approved a $17 billion compromise bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs and reform a program scandalized by veterans’ long waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.

It’s a Miracle! Congress Compromises on VA Reform Bill  (The Daily Beast)   Sure, the whole deal almost fell apart and took weeks longer than expected, but Bernie Sanders and Jeff Miller have come up with a $17 billion bill—and it’s expected to pass this week.

Survey: many combat vets worried about exposure to ‘burn pits’ (Christian Science Monitor)  One of the most surprising results to come out of a survey released this week by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) was in response to a question buried in the “general health” section.

Heroes Golf Course, on Veterans Affairs campus, is their cause  (Los Angeles Times)  A miraculous thing happened to Heroes Golf Course in January.

Benefits News

New veteran benefits in Floyd County  (KIMT.com)  There are new efforts in place to help make education accessible and affordable for veterans in Floyd County.

The rising cost of veterans’ healthcare and benefits  (The Los Angeles Times)  The House and Senate are expected to vote this week to approve a $17-billion plan to reduce the long lines for care in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system.

The VA Aid & Attendance Benefit – Don’t take No for an Answer  (Examiner)  Veterans are a valuable asset to our nation; they gave of their time, talents and physical abilities to defend our nation. And they deserve the best rewards for their service.

A simple summary of the new VA bill  (The Washington Post)  Congress is expected to vote this week on a bill to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs in the wake of a scandal over treatment delays and falsification of scheduling records at VA hospitals across the country.

Top TA & GI Bill schools: Most popular colleges cater to troops by taking classes to them  (Military Times)  Schools known for their flexible learning options are by far the most popular among both active-duty service members using tuition assistance and veterans and their dependents using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, government data show.

AF takes aim at obesity in dependents, retirees  (Air Force Times)  The Air Force is taking aim at obesity among dependents and retirees through two pilot programs that could eventually go servicewide.

Housing Buoyed by 20-Year High for Vet’s Loans: Mortgages   (Bloomberg)     During his third deployment in Afghanistan, Air Force Staff Sgt. Claude Hunter was so eager to return to the U.S. and buy a house that he signed a contract for a property that his agent showed him over Skype.

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Helping New Jersey’s Veterans Find Jobs: Recareering Event at Excelsior Medical on May 13th

New Jersey has over 463,000 veterans in the state, and unfortunately it has the dubious honor of having the highest unemployment rate for veterans in the country. According to information released by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the state had an unemployment rate for veterans of 10.8 percent in 2013.

Fortunately, there are some great companies that are eager to hire veterans.  Not because of a sense of pity, but instead because they recognize the remarkable value that someone who has served in uniform brings to their ranks; someone who will show up on time, knows how to lead and how to follow, how to effectively function in diverse and challenging environments, and the dozens of other traits that every veteran or transitioning military person has inculcated through their service.

Excelsior Medical is one such company.  On May 13th they will be hosting a daylong recareering workshop for transitioning military and veterans.  There is no cost to veterans and meals and parking are included.  The event will include one-on-0ne mentoring with veterans who already work at the hosting company as well as human resources experts and hiring managers who will work with the veterans to improve their resumes, refine job-seeking skills like interviewing and effective social networking, and to interview qualified veterans for jobs. Space is limited to 20 veterans at Excelsior Medical on May 13th.

To register and reserve a seat at the event, follow this link  http://www.mvpvets.org/mvpvets-event-interest-form or go to the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program website at www.mvpvets.org and follow the “Mentor and Veteran Workshop” link under “events”.

A few thoughts on job and career fairs, part 1: Niche Events like Military MOJO

I have participated in more career and job fairs than I can count, and I have also had plenty of conversations with others who have made the circuit of job-seeking events.  Many of those I chat with are frustrated, and some of them have reached the point of “job fair fatigue” that they are giving up on attending them.

A lot of their frustration comes from an unclear set of expectations for what job fairs are about.  Not all job fairs are the same, and not all career fairs have the same goals, opportunities, or areas of interest.  Just like everything else in life, job and career fairs are different, and if you don’t recognize that going in then you, as a participant, will likely become frustrated and disillusioned.

There are many different types of fairs, and each of them provides a different service and experience for the transitioning military or veteran participant as well as for the companies and organizations that attend.  The underlying goal for fairs is universally the same – to provide avenues to employment for vets and those in transition – but how that goal is achieved varies with each and every fair.  To help those who are not familiar with the differences am writing a string of posts to highlight different types of events.

The first type of career fair is one that is focused on a specific niche of transitioning military and veterans.  Military MOJO is one organization that specializes in matching transitioning and veteran military officers and noncommissioned officers who have earned college degrees.  They have four conferences spread across the country throughout the year (in Austin, Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., and San Diego)  Dozens of companies are on hand at each conference to meet with hundreds of veterans, and a part of the engagement process includes resume review and placement of resumes onto a database that is accessible by participating companies.

Military MOJO’s next conference goes in Austin, Texas on March 27 and 28.  To learn more about the conferences, you can read the Military MOJO Conference Press Release.  If you for some reason you cannot follow the link, I have reposted the contents of the release below:

MOJO (Military Officers Job Opportunities) is a premier hiring event pairing commissioned military officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and non-commissioned officers holding degrees with national employers seeking veterans for leadership opportunities.  MOJO will be hosting four events this year in Austin, TX; Virginia Beach, VA; Washington, DC and San Diego, CA. Candidates and companies interested in this unique opportunity are invited to visit Military MOJO’s new website at http://www.militarymojo.org for more information on how to attend.

These events will showcase Commissioned Officers (formerly and currently commissioned): meet exclusively with Junior Military Officers (JMOs) and Senior Military Officers (SMOs) from the ROTC, OCS, CWO (Chief Warrant Officers), National Guard and graduates from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, Merchant Marine Academy, Naval Academy, West Point, Norwich College, The Citadel, Villanova, VMI, and other military schools. Senior Non-Commissioned Officers: meet with SNCOs (E-7, E-8, E-9) who are experienced high-potential, skilled leaders. They have hands-on technical and functional training, four-year college degrees.  Transitioning Non-Commissioned Officers:  meet with young, ambitious, college-degreed transitioning NCOs who potentially have previous corporate experience. These candidates have a minimum four year B.S. or B.A. degree from an accredited university and some have their MBA’s.  Candidates skill set/experience will include: STEM, Six Sigma/Supply Chain, Operations, Logistics, Project Management, Sales/Marketing, Manufacturing, Cyber/Intel, Consulting, Government/Defense, and many areas of Engineering.  Most candidates have TS/SCI, CI & FS POLY Clearances.

Candidate registration includes individual resume review and career coaching, a networking reception, industry seminars and face-to-face interactions with national companies. Our volunteer team in comprised of former military officers and corporate executives who are committed to the mission of supporting veterans transitioning into the private sector. Company registration includes booth space, interview space, a recruiter focus group (best practices military hiring), networking reception with complimentary food, beverage & bar. Companies will receive resumes of registered candidates 2-3 weeks prior to the career fair. There are no extra fees for hires. For a list of companies currently attending the event click here.

The dates and locations for the 2014 hiring events are:

  •     Austin, TX – March 27-28, 2014
  •     Virginia Beach, VA – June 19-20, 2014
  •     Washington, DC – September 25-26, 2014
  •     San Diego, CA – December 4-5, 2014 

Each event will feature a company check-in, recruiter focus group, industry seminars/sponsorships and networking reception on the Thursday prior to the career fair to bring the companies and candidates together. The career fair will take place on the following Friday from 9am-4pm with a one hour lunch break.  To learn more about the conference and registration for the different locations, visit http://www.militarymojo.org.

About Military MOJO: Military MOJO hosts exclusive hiring events throughout the year to pair military officers with high profile employers. The niche career conference showcases candidates who are currently and formerly commissioned officers: ROTC, OCS, Service Academy – West Point, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, Merchant Marine Academy, Citadel, VMI, VA Tech, Warrant Officers. Some in attendance will be Wounded Warriors Officers.  To learn more about Military MOJO and upcoming events, visit http://www.militarymojo.org.

Their career fair is a great example of one that focuses on a specific niche of veterans, and if you are in that group then you should certainly check it out.  In my next post we’ll take a look at job fairs on military bases.

 

Transitionnews for 1/17/14

Transitionnews for Friday, January 17th 2014:

Good news story of the day

Gary Allen’s Maine to Super Bowl Run Begins January 24  (The Free Press)  Gary Allen, founder and race director of the Mount Desert Island Marathon, has run over 100,000 lifetime miles

Transition

U.S. Chamber Foundation and Goodwill Industries® Partner to Provide Career Services to Veterans and Military Spouses  (Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program and Goodwill Industries announced today a collaborative effort to offer comprehensive vocational services to veterans and military spouses who participate in Hiring Our Heroes job fairs and programs.

ACAP sponsors workshop highlighting higher education  (Belvoir Eagle)  Servicemembers learned about different methods for researching colleges during a two-day Army Career and Alumni Program workshop at Barden Education Center, Jan. 7 and 8.

Young veterans transition to civilian life  (KVIA.com)  The 1st Armored Division Army Band rocked the UTEP Union Plaza Monday afternoon in honor of Veterans Day.

ACAP: Think outside the box  (Army.mil)  Do you have tunnel vision when it comes to thinking about what jobs you could do when you transition out of the military?

Fort Bliss a winner in warrior transition program restructuring  (El Paso Times)  With the war in Afghanistan drawing down, the Army is restructuring its warrior transition units which care for wounded, injured and ill soldiers.

Free career counseling for vets  (News4Jax.com)  If you or someone you know is a veteran looking for that next career move, there’s an event Thursday that can help.

Job fair for veterans hosted in City of Milwaukee  (Fox6News.com)  There are nearly a half million veterans living in our state and many of them are unemployed. To change that, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Goodwill hosted a job fair for vets and their spouses on Thursday, January 16th.

Job Expo for Veterans in Bay Minette  (Local15TV.com)  Dozens of local veterans came out Thursday looking for work. The city of Bay Minette, the Alabama Career Center System and the North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce put together a job fair Thursday at the John F. Rhodes Civic Center.

Veterans

Up to 48,000 Afghan, Iraq vets homeless  (USA Today) Nearly 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were either homeless or in a federal program aimed at keeping them off the streets during 2013, almost triple the number in 2011, according to numbers released Thursday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Help for homeless Alabama veterans: Nonprofit Family Endeavors working to get soldiers off the street   (AL.com) For the past three months, the staff members of the San Antonio-based nonprofit Family Endeavors have been conducting what they call a “recon mission,” searching for homeless veterans under Birmingham bridges, trying to connect them with government services that could get them off the streets.

Veterans, dog trainers in Hampton Roads are pushing to recognize service dogs for PTSD  (The Los Angeles Times) Marine Sgt. Matthew Miller paid a high price for three combat tours in Afghanistan.

Korean War veterans joining World War II veterans in Senior Bowl program  (AL.com)  Veterans of World War II and the Korean War will be honored on the field before the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Jan. 25 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Program teaches veterans how to maximize remaining sight, maintain independence  (The News Tribune)  At 101, Carl Paul still likes to do things for himself.

Slidell veterans cemetery slated to open in April  (The Times Picayune)  Muddy roads will soon give way to asphalt and bare ground transformed with sod and landscaping as construction of the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery near Slidell enters the final stages.

Auto auction drives to benefit veterans  (Cinicinnati.com)  The 43rd Barrett-Jackson auto auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., will feature film and television stars, famous singers, celebrities, race car drivers and retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Sam Deeds.

Veterans Affairs

5 More Ways VA Is Helping Out Vets   (The Huffington Post)  The Department of Veteran Affairs doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

Vets get look at new VA clinic  (Mansfield News Journal)  Veterans who toured the new $14 million Veterans Affairs clinic Thursday night during a private reception marveled at the building’s design and, in particular, the massive skylight above the spacious central waiting area.

VA benefits briefings part of revamped transition program  (MyGuidon.com)  The Department of Veterans Affairs  new VA Benefits I and II briefings are  now available at Fort Leonard Wood as part of the revamped Transition Assistance  Program.

Keeping veterans healthy  (Mining Gazette)  Local and regional Veterans Affairs officials and about two dozen of the veterans they serve gathered for a town hall meeting at the National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet Township Wednesday for a town hall meeting aimed at helping veterans understand the services available to them.

Golden Hammer: VA hit for waste, lack of oversight on medical implants  (The Washington Times)  The Veterans Affairs Department wasted more than $3 billion over 10 years on medical implant purchases — and is now losing track of those implants once they’ve been put into patients, potentially putting veterans’ health at risk, according to a new watchdog report that’s drawing attention from members of Congress.

Gates skewers Congress, VA backlog on ‘The Daily Show’  (Military Times)  Congress has made it virtually impossible to cut the time it takes for veterans to get the services they need from the Veterans Affairs Department, said former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Benefits

Veterans Advocate: Budget Bill a ‘Total Betrayal’  (NewsMax.com)  The House’s $1.1 trillion spending bill, passed Wednesday, cuts most veterans’ retirement benefits and is a “total betrayal” of those who served in the military, says the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Senate Sends Omnibus, Pentagon-Funding Measure to Obama’s Desk  (Defense News)  The US Senate on Thursday evening passed a government-wide spending measure that would give the Pentagon nearly $600 billion to buy new weapons, address readiness problems and fight America’s wars. The final vote tally was 72-26.

VA bill offers chance to repeal military pension cut after passage of spending bill  (The Washington Post)  Congress on Thursday gave final approval to a massive spending bill that will trim pensions for younger military retirees, but lawmakers still have a chance to end the controversial provision before it takes full effect in 2015.

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Transitionnews for 1/15/14

Transitionnews for Wednesday, January 15th 2014:

Good news story of the day

Returned letters, Purple Heart open book on deceased WWII vet’s life  (Air Force Times)  Nancy Cederman knew this much about her uncle’s life: Kendall Morrow was born in 1915 in Canada, the first of five children and the only son of Edwin and Mable Morrow.

Transition

Hire a Hero begins staffing effort to create path to construction, trade jobs for veterans  (Equipment World)  Hire a Hero, a program designed to transition former U.S. soldiers to the civilian workforce, has not been enough to get veterans into jobs such as those in construction, says the Armed Forces Support Foundation. which runs the program.

Transition GPS helps Airmen navigate civilian life  (28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs)  Many Airmen who are preparing to separate or retire from the Air Force struggle as they transition back into civilian life. As a way of making sure they are ready for any challenges they may face, the Air Force offers a workshop designed to set them up for success.

Paying Veterans To Give Back  (The National Journal)  Tristan Williamson didn’t cut his hair for three years after being discharged from the Navy.

RIF board to convene June 16; will consider captains, majors  (Air Force Times)  The Air Force will convene a reduction- in- force board June 16 to consider separating some captains and majors in overmanned career fields, according to an internal memo obtained by Air Force Times.

Changes to come for Army warrior transition units  (Fort Hood Herald)  The Army is restructuring the specialized units designed to assist ill and wounded soldiers through the process of assimilating back into the Army or transitioning out of service.

Transition program navigates military to civilian move  (50th Space Wing Public Affairs)  Transitioning back to the civilian world may be daunting to many Airmen, especially those who have grown accustomed to military life.

Veterans

New battles for student veterans require fresh strategies from colleges  (The Hechinger Report)  In 2008, the 9­11 G.I. Bill was signed into law, giving college­bound veterans the most comprehensive education benefit ever. As a result, veterans are choosing a collegiate path in record numbers.

Wright State selected as a top military-friendly school  (Fairborn Daily Herald)  Military Advanced Education (MAE) has awarded Wright State University the designation of a Top Military-Friendly University in its 2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities.

Veterans Job Retention Survey  (Examiner.com)  Yesterday, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University launched a nationwide Veterans Job Retention Survey.

Can Legal Services Lead To Better Health Outcomes For Veterans?  (The Hartford Courant)  In 2009, Edward La Pointe’s life hit bottom as he endured divorce, eviction, and homelessness. His earnings as a cab driver didn’t pay the bills and mental illness overwhelmed him. La Pointe, a Marine Corps veteran, was informed that he was no longer eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

46 years on, Vietnamese helmet returned (AP)  In 1968, young American soldier John Wast was scouring a battlefield in central Vietnam for weapons and intelligence when an enemy helmet with an image of a dove scratched onto it caught his eye.

Lawmakers push for veterans’ incentives  (Courier-Journal)  State lawmakers Tuesday pushed the Legislature to pass a bill that would give state contract preference to service-disabled veterans who own businesses.
Center for female veterans opens in Old City  (Philly.com)  Citing the growing number of women in the military, officials on Tuesday opened Philadelphia’s first center to provide services specifically for women veterans.

Agent Orange townhall meeting held to help veterans (WCYB.com)  The Tennessee State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America, along with co-sponsors Kingsport VVA Chapter 979, Johnson City Chapter 824 with support from Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council hosted the Agent Orange Town Hall Meeting.

Veterans Affairs

VA Extends Homeless Veterans Program  (The Wall Street Journal)  The Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday it is extending a grant program designed to help reduce homelessness among veterans, making $600 million available over the next two years for community-based programs and nonprofits providing services to very low-income veteran families.

Veterans Affairs committee orders review on Christmas carols ban  (Atlanta Business Chronicle)  The House Committee on Veterans Affairs has ordered a review of all VA policy prohibiting guests from wishing patients a “Merry Christmas” after four VA hospitals – including Augusta’s Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center – prevented letters, gifts and carols that contained religious phrases from being sung or delivered, reports The Augusta Chronicle.

Smartphone users access veteran’s Social Security numbers  (Examiner.com)  Early last month it was brought to the attention of many U.S. military veterans that their Social Security numbers are embedded in a bar code on their VIC, or Veteran’s Identification Cards, and can be clearly seen by scanning the card with a smartphone.

American Legion: Obama administration pushes false numbers on veteran benefit  claims  (The Daily Caller)  The American Legion disputed the veracity of numbers promoted by the Obama administration touting its success in judging benefit claim applications from  veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma  and other complex disabilities.

VA still dragging feet in answering congressional inquiries  (FCW)  The Department of Veterans Affairs’ pattern of selective responsiveness – and sometimes total unresponsiveness – to oversight inquiries from the House Veterans Affairs Committee has continued into 2014.

Delayed care has one Augusta VA patient fearing for his life  (Augusta Chronicle)  Michael Newton had an appointment at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center last week to have as many as 12 small tumors removed from his bladder.

Veterans initiative is ‘centerpiece’ of agenda  (Des Moines Register)  Gov. Terry Branstad is calling an initiative aimed at attracting military veterans to Iowa and matching them with jobs the “centerpiece” of his 2014 legislative agenda.

Benefits

VA Loans Reached a Record High in 2013  (US Finance Post)  In 2013, the number of home loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans  Affairs reached a record high as the loans gained popularity after the housing  bubble burst.

Disabled veterans get back pension raises  (CNN)  Disabled veterans will get a pass from military pension cuts in a bipartisan budget deal expected to pass Congress later this week.

Advocates: COLA fixes miss the mark  (Miliary Times)  The massive omnibus spending bill unveiled by congressional appropriators Monday night includes restoration of the full annual cost of living adjustment for medically retired service members and eligible survivors.

Most Military Pensions Would Still be Cut Under Omnibus Bill  (Newsmax.com)  Veterans and their friends on Capitol Hill say that the $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill leaves in place most of the $6 billion in military pension cuts.

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The importance of differentiation

There are many career paths that you can take in the military.  The obvious ones include those that involve fighting, but there are a whole lot of jobs that don’t.  For every infantryman who carries a rifle into harm’s way there are anywhere from three to ten or more men and women in uniform who make sure that the grunt on patrol has the ammunition, water, fuel, and everything else he might need.  Every tank has a crew of four, but before it rumbles into the fight dozens of mechanics and ordnance specialists and electricians perform hours and hours of maintenance to make sure that the vehicle is in tip-top shape.  For every naval aviator who catapults from the deck of an aircraft carrier there are thousands of shipmates aboard who do everything from chipping paint from the rusty decks to keeping the nuclear reactors on line to making and serving chow.

Those jobs are all crucial in order for the military to accomplish its mission of keeping the nation safe.  Interestingly, within the military itself, even though all of those duties are important there is a definite difference in the prestige associated with them.  In the Marine Corps, for example, the infantry is considered to the ultimate expression of the service; everything else as they say is just support.  In the Air Force it is the fighter pilots who have ruled the roost for decades, and in the Navy the ship drivers and aviators are those who wield the most power.  For the Army, it is the infantry and armor branches that hold the most distinction.

Unfortunately the most prestigious positions in the military are also those with the least direct corollary to civilian employment.  There are no civilian infantry battalions, fighter squadrons, tank platoons, or aircraft carriers.  There are, however, plenty of jobs in those support areas that are often viewed as second class within the military.  The civilian world does not need artillerymen, but it does need electricians.  It needs truck drivers, and mechanics, and logisticians.

In short, the civilian world needs people with definable and useful skills.

Skills, for example, that an employer can put to work immediately without taking the risk of hiring someone who may or may not know enough about the business to be effective.

Unfortunately, many of the skills that those in uniform who have spent the majority of their time at the pointy end of the spear have developed are not directly transferable to the corporate sector.  Being a leader is great, and undoubtedly the leadership skills that our warriors have gained in Iraq and Afghanistan are first rate.  That is great for the military because leading people to do amazing things is what the military is all about, and the best military leaders we have are those who are dedicated to mastering their craft and being the most proficient soldiers or sailors or Marines possible.

Leadership in the civilian world is leadership in a different context.  An infantryman can demonstrate his leadership through arduous training, bravery, and a consummate grasp of tactics, weapons, and equipment.  By being a first rate infantryman, he can lead by example and inspire his fellows and juniors to shoulder their loads and step out to meet the enemy.  The best leaders we have are those who are the best at what they do: they are the best infantrymen or tankers or pilots or ship drivers.

The civilian world is no different.  The best CEOs are those who have dedicated themselves to learning their businesses inside and out.  They inspire their people to great achievement by understanding their industry and markets and customers and then being able to align the company’s employees to meet their goals and objectives.  They challenge their people and recognize those who excel.  Instead of using medals to motivate their corporate troops, they use other things such as money and stock options and trips to the Bahamas.  They lead by example and are masters of their craft.

It is here that the perception that many military leaders, particularly those in the combat arms, runs awry.  I cannot count the number of conversations that I have had with my peers and friends in uniform in which we talked about how we, the combat leaders, had all the skills that would make us tremendous leaders and invaluable assets to any company that would be lucky enough to hire us.

How wrong we were.

Sure, corporations want great leaders.  Every company does.  They also want people who know their business or have a skill that the firm needs.  Therein lies the rub, and brings to mind a story from my days as a young and motivated Captain:

I once had an officer who was a student of mine at the artillery school.  He was a graduate of the Citadel, which is a renowned military college in South Carolina.  As a cadet there he rose to a high position of leadership in the Corps of Cadets, and he was without a doubt a fine leader.  That said, he was a lousy student.  When I asked him why this was so, he answered that he joined the military to lead men and learning about how to load and fire an artillery piece was interesting but not particularly relevant to his desire to be the next MacArthur.

I explained to him that leadership is not something that you have because of rank or position, but instead it is something that is earned through the respect of those you lead.  He would never be a good leader in the artillery if he did not show that he was a solid artilleryman, and to be a solid artilleryman he had to learn how to load and fire an artillery piece.  People who show up and start barking orders without knowing what they are talking about are idiots, not leaders.

That is the point that so many people in the military miss.  Sure, we all developed leadership styles that inspire young men and women to enthusiastically throw themselves into the crucible of combat, but those styles were largely based on our professionalism and mastery of our martial craft.  None of those same people would have followed us if we didn’t know what we were doing.

The lesson here is that if you, as a military leader, want to bring your talents to the civilian world you will need to more than just be a “leader”.  You will need to differentiate yourself and show that you can do more than just lead.  Can you read a balance sheet?  How about a profit and loss statement?  Do you understand marketing, or finance, or accounting, or any of the countless other things that make the business world run?

The corporate sector has lots of great leaders.  How would you feel, as an infantryman, if the CEO of a company was hired to become your battalion commander and take you into combat?  Would you follow him?  Of course not.  Why, then, do so many military folks drink their own bathwater and believe that they corporate sector is waiting for them to leave the service and take over their businesses?

To be competitive in the job market it is important for each and every person who transitions from military service to find something that they can offer a potential employer besides war stories.  Those who have learned a skill or trade, while maybe not being on the front lines and earning medals for valor, take those skills with them when the leave the service.  That is their point of differentiation that separates them from all of the other candidates for a job.

As a leader, what is yours?

Learning a new skill: Salary and benefits negotiation part 2

A couple of posts ago we started talking about the final step in the job search: negotiating your salary and benefits.  The company has already offered you a job, and in that sweet and exciting period of time between receiving the offer and accepting it comes the negotiation to determine your compensation package with the company.

We have already looked at many of the differences between military and civilian employment benefits, so we won’t go too deeply down that rabbit hole other than to point out that many of the benefits on the military side of the fence are not freely offered by civilian companies.  Take, for example, the military subsistence (meal) and housing subsidies.  You get them while in uniform, but they don’t come freely in the corporate sector.  All of those special pays and allowances that fattened up your military paycheck helped mitigate the comparatively low pay that comes with wearing the uniform.  An added benefit is that those pays are tax-free, which in the corporate sector is almost unheard of.

As a military man or woman you are also free to shop in the commissary, gas station, and PX, all of which provide subsidized food and goods that are free of state and local sales taxes.  While retirees can still enjoy shopping on base, for those who do not stay in for 20+ years or move home and have no base nearby it is no longer possible.  The subsidies, coupled with tax free shopping, are not offered by the corporate sector.  Once you get out you get to pay full price for your groceries and consumer goods, and you get to pay sales tax, too.

My point is that many of the monetary and non-monetary benefits that you receive whilst in uniform went a looooong way towards stretching your paycheck.  When you get out all you have to pay your bills, buy food, and fill your tank with gas is the salary that you are paid by your employer.  Since that is how the “real” world works, you need to make sure to get the best benefit package you can from your employer, and to get such a package you need to be able to negotiate.

Negotiation is a skill, just like any other.  You can get better at if you work at it, and the best way to improve is to practice and rehearse, just like you should for a job interview.

Before you start rehearsing, though, you need to do your research (as discussed in the previous post about negotiation) and then you need to craft a plan of action to prepare yourself.  Just like you would do in the military.

Unlike military plans, though, yours does not have to be intricate or complicated.

Your plan should contain those elements of compensation that you feel are important to you.  It should also contain those elements of compensation that are not important to you.

Why should the unimportant bits be included you ask?

Because they are all part of the plan.  The art of negotiation is based on meeting mutual agreement, and getting to a point where both you and the Human Resources manager agree on your pay and benefits is based on the give and take that you both engage in during the negotiation process.  If you only have those things that are important to you on the list then you are at a disadvantage because negotiation invariably requires you to give a little to get a little.  You can give a little by sacrificing those things that are unimportant to you and, in turn, get a little something back that you truly want.

Here is an easy example.

You feel that flexible work hours are very important to you.

You also feel that health insurance is not important to you because you are single and already covered by the VA and TRICARE.

In the world of civilian employment the cost of health insurance is high and by all accounts only going to get higher.  The fact that you are willing to give up employer-provided healthcare is a significant savings to the employer.  Even though you never planned to use the company’s insurance you can “offer” to keep your current insurance plan (and save the company a lot of money) if you can have a flexible work schedule.

If you don’t have a plan to give up those things that you don’t really want or need then you are giving up a significant amount of leverage.  Be smart and plan your negotiation out!

Here are some basic planning considerations that I recommend you think about as you plan for your pay and benefits negotiation:

1.  What do you want from the company?  (Sure, you want a job, but what do you want in return for your time and dedication?)

2.  What does the company want from you? (Sure, they want an employee but generally want to pay as little as possible for one —  you will need to show the company that you are worth whatever you identify in the first question)

3.  What is the absolute minimum that you are willing to accept from the company?  (This is very important.  The Human Resources person has a lot more experience negotiating than you do, and if you are not careful they may well negotiate you out of the things that you think are very important).

4.  What is your alternative?  In official negotiating terms this is known as the “BATNA”, or Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.  In other words, what are you going to do if the company is unwilling to meet your absolute minimum?  (This is also important because you want to leave the negotiation with a job and not burn any bridges.  The best BATNA is to leave the negotiation on good terms that can be leveraged into another negotiation with the company that is ultimately successful for you both).

After you put together your simple plan you need to do a little rehearsing just like you did for your job interviews.  Find someone to conduct a mock negotiation with, and then listen to their feedback.  It will pay huge dividends.  I guarantee that you will be surprised at just how difficult negotiating can be!  By rehearsing you will learn if you are too brusque or direct or overbearing, all of which are very common traits that come with military service.  You want to be convivial and professional because it is what the company expects, and by rehearsing with another person you can fine tune your style of engagement.

Here are a few things that military people tend to do while they negotiate that end up working against them:

– Being too rigid and organized.  Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean that you need to unyieldingly stick to it.  Do not treat your plan as a checklist and start at the top and work your way to the bottom.  The negotiation is a conversation that will go in many directions before it is completed, and if you are too mechanical and inflexible it will hurt you.

– Being unwilling to engage in a dialog.  Often, military folks are used to just accepting “no” a bit too easily.  Remember, the Human Resources manager wants to hire you as cheaply as possible, and if you just roll over every time he or she says no then you are making his or her job pretty easy.

– Being ignorant of what benefits are available for discussion.  This goes back to the previous post about interview preparation: make sure to do your research!  If you do not ask for something I guarantee you will not get it.  At this stage of the game nobody is looking out for you except you!

– Being ignorant of how much money they really need to make.  A good rule of thumb is that you need to nearly double your base military pay to obtain the same level of compensation in the civilian world.  Taxes go up and tax-free benefits go away.   In the civilian world you get to pay bills that you may not have thought about: for example, if you lived in the barracks or in base housing you did not have to pay for electricity, water, natural gas, or trash removal.  Guess what- in the civilian world you get to pay for all of those things and more!

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Lessons Learned:

– Do some research on your own finances and see just how much money that you are going to need in the civilian world.  Remember- taxes take a big bite!  If you were in the civilian world you could count on 30-40% of your BAH and Subsistance Allowance to go to the IRS because it would be counted as income.  Find out how much money you really need.

– List out those benefits that are important to you and also those that are not.  You will use both lists during your negotiation.  Make sure that those benefits you want are offered by the company!

-Rehearse with someone — you need the practice.  Remember, the Human Resources manager does this a lot more than you do.

– Find out what your BATNA is and stick to it- it is OK to walk away from the negotiation if the result would be below your absolute minimum level of acceptability.