Jul 08

Career Transition is Not One Size Fits All

Mike BruniI was delighted to meet Mike Bruni who joined us as a luncheon speaker at a recent Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Military Executives in Transition Workshop.  Mike has more than 17 years of experience in human Resources, recruiting & staffing.  He joined SAIC (now Leidos) in 2005  and was instrumental in standing up a centralized SAIC/Leidos Military Recruiting Program, Operation MVP to recruit top talent from all branches of the Military.  Mike continues to lead the program to this day. 

VSB: Mike, as a Talent Acquisition Manager focused on recruiting top military talent for Leidos, what do you see as the most important things senior military leaders should highlight in their outreach to a prospective private sector employer of interest?

MB:  I’ve noticed that most veterans structure their resumes as generalists, combining all of their career experience. The best practice in the market today is to highlight specific skills, especially those that the person in transition wants to emphasize and that are more in line with the desired career track or occupation that one is pursuing. The more detailed and specific you can be in marketing yourself and in structuring your resume, the higher the likelihood of getting noticed and ultimately presented with an opportunity. Marketing as a generalist, particularly in the government contracting industry, tends not to get one much traction.

The more detailed and specific  you can be in marketing yourself and in structuring your resume, the higher the likelihood of getting noticed and ultimately presented with an opportunity.

VSB: What are some of the more common missteps you’ve seen transitioning military leaders make as they begin their pursuit of civilian job opportunities?

MB:  I don’t know that I would describe this as a misstep, but I believe one of the challenges that transitioning military leaders face is the ability to articulate and translate their expertise to potential employers. How certain experience and expertise translates can be confusing. The more research one can do on a particular industry or company, the better prepared one will be in pursuing that organization.

Career transition and job seeking is not a “One size fits all” approach. Preparation and the ability to market oneself to the intended audience is crucial. For instance, the marketing stance that you would take in pursuing a government contractor that provides services back to the Department of Defense would be very different from a marketing stance pursuing a large multi-national retail chain. The experiences and expertise translate differently to each intended target. Understanding your intended target audience and doing the research to tailor your marketing to that organization is the process to employ in order to overcome that challenge.

 (T)he marketing stance that you would take in pursuing a government contractor that provides services back to the Department of Defense would be very different from a marketing stance pursuing a large multi-national retail chain. The experiences and expertise translate differently to each intended target.

VSB:  What advice would you give to those trying to develop their personal brand to better stand out from their military and civilian competition?

MB:

  • Assess yourself to find out what you really want to do and what you don’t want to do.
  • Figure out in the marketplace who is looking for you and your expertise. Think about it this way: Who is most likely to find me valuable and an asset to their organization with my skillset?  Once you can answer that question, target and market to those organizations.
  • Organize your search and prepare yourself well before you approach a prospective employer.
  • Blanketing a particular market with your resume is counterproductive in many ways. The more thought-out, prepared approach has a higher likelihood of being recognized and standing out from the competition.
  • Organizations today are not only looking for qualified candidates, they are also looking for the “Best Fit”. They want employees who fit into the culture and can easily adapt to their environment. Do the research in advance to learn about a target organization’s culture, work environment, etc. 

VSB:  How much do you rely on LinkedIn as a means of identifying prospective candidates?  How would you advise transitioning senior military leaders to develop positive visibility on LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites?

MB: LinkedIn has over 300 million users. It is a very powerful and heavily used tool by prospective employers and recruiters; today almost 97% or recruiters state that they use LinkedIn for recruiting, so ensuring you have a solid LinkedIn profile is a no-brainer:

  • My advice to anyone in career transition is to set up a LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn is a great platform to market your skills and expertise.
  • Market yourself with a professional picture.
  • Maximize the fields to showcase your experience and career highlights, and upload material that shows the audience who you are (PPTs, Tailored Resumes, Podcasts).
  • Use LinkedIn not only to broadcast your profile and as a means of advertising yourself, but also a proactive tool to seek out strategic contacts, researching organizations, and contributing; seek out companies, groups, recent and former contacts, fellow Service Members, and connect.  Build a robust network and get recognized.
  • The more you use LinkedIn, the more exposure you receive. Also, it is much more fun for a recruiter to use than an Applicant Tracking System so recruiters tend to spend more time on LinkedIn; it offers what a resume doesn’t. It brings to life your profile and resume.

 

(T)oday almost 97% or recruiters state that they use LinkedIn for recruiting, so ensuring you have a solid LinkedIn profile is a no-brainer.

VSB: Any other advice you’d like to share with our audience?

MB:

  • Give a lot of thought about what you would like to do. Think about whether you would like to pursue a second career, act as a consultant, etc. Once you assess that and figure out what is it you want to do, then focus on where you would like to do it.
  • Ask yourself these key questions: Which companies appeal to me? Which companies offer the type of opportunity that I want to take on?  Is this the type of company that will be a good fit for me?
  • Performing this self-assessment and preparing way in advance of submitting a resume or going into an interview will benefit you in both the short and long term. Understanding the landscape sets you up for long-term employment and growth.
  • Align the opportunity and organization that you pursue with your own personal goals.

 

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Jun 20

” Leverage Your Military Leadership “

As a senior military executive, you have demonstrated your leadership skills as you have built teams, provided vision, and given the leaders of tomorrow the opportunity to learn and grow. Moving forward into your next career, how will you “leverage” your military leadership and highlight the specific skills you will bring to a private, public or nonprofit employer? 

bernadine_karunaratneRecently, I connected with Bernadine Karunaratne, President, U.S. Government Consulting Services, at Korn Ferry, where she leads the firm’s Leadership and Talent Consulting government team. She addressed several key points including employers’ desire to find candidates with the right personality fit, in addition to having the right skill set to do the job successfully.

VSB: What are some of the best ways for senior military leaders to highlight their strengths and talents with retained recruiters?

BK:

  • The first step is having the right mindset. As a transitioning military leader, you have world-class training that makes you a valuable asset to many types of civilian organizations. Take the time to analyze those skills and strengths.
  • Highlight differentiators and commonalities between military work and “civilian” work in resume, CV, and interview. Determine and define transferrable skills.
  • Prepare ahead of time walk-throughs of military leadership events/examples and how they relate to or can be utilized in non-military situations.
  • Emphasize servant leadership. Military leaders exemplify the concept of a leader acting selflessly, helping their charges improve their effectiveness in pursuit of their particular Service’s mission.
  • Play up your strengths as veterans; as a group, you are known for precise communication, individual accountability, impeccable execution and natural leadership. Don’t forget to showcase this during the interview. All four skills are in high demand, regardless of position. Give yourself credit for strengths that many non-military job candidates lack. Other key skills to play up: poise, ingenuity, and ability to handle stressful situations well.

Go into transition with goal of advancing and developing your career, not just switching from military to civilian. 

VSB: Based on your experience, what are the most common mistakes made by transitioning military leaders as they begin their job search in the civilian workforce?

BK: 

  • Failure to step away from military top-down leadership style versus a collaborative sometimes ambiguous decision-making style. Leaders need to adjust their perspectives, for example, on hierarchy, chain of command, and urgency. Those concepts are not unimportant, but depending on the organization, processes and projects will probably be handled differently. 
  • As people who have most likely been in service for several years, military leaders have ingrained ways. They sometimes have the inability to leave military jargon and approaches behind. They need to keep the discipline and dedication without the “ma’ams” and “sirs” and “oh-800” instead of “8 a.m.” Employers appreciate the demonstration of accountability towards a role, but perhaps not the rigidity or adherence to rank. 
  • The worst thing one can do during an interview is to use acronyms and military terms that will mean nothing to a civilian recruiter.  Speaking in plain English and presenting a comprehensive story about oneself is more relevant to a potential non-military career.

(M)ost failures in hires are based on fit, not capability. As we have found out in matching executives with companies over the years – people are hired for what they know, they are fired for who they are.

 

VSB: How do executive search firms ensure a good cultural fit between prospective candidates and the hiring company?

BK:  In most instances companies will find three to four qualified candidates per executive position. All candidates will have equal experience and qualifications for the job. Yet only a few will “fit.” In fact, most failures in hires are based on fit, not capability. As we have found out in matching executives with companies over the years – people are hired for what they know, they are fired for who they are. Of course all roles will not fit all people, but veterans who successfully make the transition will be flexible in their approach to new roles.

 

VSB: Many senior military leaders are seeking an opportunity to work outside the defense sector in their second careers. What advice would you give to help them market their talents and experience more effectively to non-defense related employers?

BK: 

  • Go into transition with goal of advancing and developing your career, not just switching from military to civilian
  • Social networks liked LinkedIn and old-fashioned face-to-face networking are invaluable in showcasing talents in front of a different set of potential employers. 
  • Define your purpose and brand.  This is easier said than done, but with the help of a coach or a program like Leveraging Military Leadership Program (LMLP), a transitioning veteran can really explore how a leader would define him/herself and what he/she represents. For example, if you led large teams in deployments to new regions, highlight change management and leading globally under adversity for a corporation entering new markets. 
  • Emphasize your leadership skills, especially those that apply universally. If you transformed a group of soldiers or introduced a technology platform to streamline processes, those are skills that could be of benefit to a plethora of organizations. 
  • Ensure that you ask yourself, “Am I applying for the appropriate jobs?” Especially at the senior level, leaders must seek jobs that match their level of experience.  
  • Adapt your job title so it is more familiar to those non-military people looking at your resume. This can be done by explaining your responsibilities and helping to make a connection to a non-defense job title.

Jun 14

Continuing to Serve in Your Post-Military Career

dailey-head-shot-civ

Over the past two years, I have interviewed several former military leaders who decided to pursue the nonprofit sector as a second career or as  a volunteer experience. It is clear that many find the continued commitment to mission and a desire to help others to be a natural fit following a long military career.  Retired USAF Chief Master Sergeant Frank Dailey, II  has found his nonprofit career to be especially rewarding.  Currently, he serves as Director of Therapeutic Programs at Heroes on the Water.

VSB: How did you decide to give the nonprofit sector a try? 

Dailey: When I retired from the military, I was not in a hurry to jump right back into business world, I had a short stint as a contractor and realized it was not my cup of tea.

Part of my personal resiliency was to volunteer with a charity, Heroes on the Water, a 501(c)3 that takes wounded, injured and recently returning warriors kayak fishing as a part of their repatriation and resiliency. I was used to analyzing processes and looking for improvements, so I wrote a paper and sent it to the president of the charity. In it, I challenged him to be proactive and directly engage returning active duty members with the tools they would need to reduce some of the stress.  This paper caught the eye of the senior leaders on the Board and the President and CEO.  Within a few weeks, I was interviewed and put on the team. From a hiring perspective, I will warn everyone that the nonprofit community often moves slower than even the military in bringing someone on board.

VSB: Were you concerned about the likelihood of a lower salary than one might gain in the private sector?

Dailey: I was lucky enough to have strong investments coupled with a full military and medical retirement that provided a combined salary better than what I earned on active duty.  It is always a dream to have a job that had me fishing and working with our nation’s best.  It was an easy positive choice for my family and my life.  My family was happy with the person that emerged from the uniform.  I was told by one of the my trusted mentors that you will often have three to four career changes before you find the right one.  Working with a charity introduces you to a broad range of leadership roles that will build your experience.

VSB: How has this experience eased your transition from a military career into civilian life?

Dailey: By doing something I truly loved and feeding my servant’s heart, it made me stronger and a better advocate for Veterans and the community.  I had a lot of stress lifted off my shoulders because I was providing for my family.  My sense of pride in what we are achieving is a reward you cannot measure; it made rising at 4 am to get on the flats with the guys, just a day in the office.  Our impromptu business meetings are held on the water.  Most importantly, I am able to help other people who have been through something few would ever comprehend and am able to help them on their journey all the way home!

One thing I find in my work is that most of us joined to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, by doing something that feeds that desire to serve.  We can achieve a true sense of who we are beyond the uniform.

VSB: What advice would you offer to those currently preparing for separation from military service?

Dailey: If you are able to accurately predict your income and retirement and manage your debts and needs, taking time for a year of service may be the best thing that you can ever do.  Doing this will allow you to adjust your priorities, put a price on quality of life, give you a chance to focus on the wounds you have endured during your time in the military and focus on service.

One thing I find in my work is that most of us joined to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, by doing something that feeds that desire to serve.  We can achieve a true sense of who we are beyond the uniform.  It also introduces you to a host of different experiences.  In January 2014, the President and CEO and I visited 21 members of the Congress and Senate.  We briefed multiple General Officers and titans of industry at the Pentagon, Boeing and the HQ Veteran’s Administration.  Never underestimate the impact and potential of time in the nonprofit sector as the springboard to your next career.

Heroes on the Water (www.heroesonthewater.org) is a nonprofit organization that serves our nation’s warriors by providing healing and rehabilitating kayaking and fishing outings that are physically and mentally therapeutic through a nationwide community of volunteers and donors.

Jun 02

Applying for Senior Executive Service Jobs

Corliss-HeadshotEntry into the Senior Executive Service (SES) is a path often considered by transitioning military leaders interested in continued public service at the Federal level.  The application process is intensive and requires a clear understanding of the process, terminology and information expected. While you may be encouraged to create a two – three page resume for a private sector job search, the federal application process, and the SES application process in particular, has very different requirements.  Before you begin, you may wish to tap the insights and experience of former colleagues who have successfully navigated the SES application process on their own.

In the Washington, D.C. area, I recently connected with Corliss Jackson, President and CEO of Federal Job Results, whose company provides professional assistance to clients with Federal job search and application.  Corliss is a Certified Federal Career Counselor, Certified Federal Job Search Specialist and Certified Federal Resume Specialist.  I asked Corliss to help distill some of the core components of the SES process.

 



 

VSB: What are the top three things transitioning senior military leaders should keep in mind about the Federal government Senior Executive Service (SES) application process?

Jackson:    

1. The documents submitted by the applicant require approval from the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  OPM is looking for very specific experience in a very specific format.  It is important that the applicant know the format and information OPM is requiring so the resume and essays can be tailored to OPM’s needs.  If there is deviation from OPM’s expectations, OPM can reject the application.  If rejected, the applicant gets one chance to rewrite the package.  If it gets rejected again, there is an 18-month waiting period before the applicant can reapply to other SES positions. 

2. The appointment and security investigation process can take 6 to 18 months or more; it can be public and it may consist of multiple panel interviews from mid-level management to the highest levels of the agency. 

3. The best way to start on writing the SES application materials is to create a list of 10 major professional accomplishments and include the basic details.  Look at performance reviews, OERs, fitness reports, etc. for project details and results. 

 

VSB:  What is the difference between ECQs and TCQs? When should they be modified by the SES applicant?

Jackson:

The ECQs (Executive Core Qualifications) are standard.  They can remain the same for all SES applications.  Once a strong set of ECQs have been developed, they do not need to be modified unless an update is desired.    

The TCQs (Technical Core Qualifications) change with each application, based on the position’s focus.  For example, if applying to a position as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), there will probably be a set of two to four questions that would allow the agency to gauge the applicant’s experience in overseeing a financial organization, its processes and its employees.  TCQs are very specific to the position and generally will need to be rewritten (or at least reworked) for each SES application submitted since they most likely will be different for each application. 

 

VSB: Can you shed some light on the Context Challenge Action Result (CCAR) format? What is it and why is it so important in the SES application process?

Jackson:

In order to best understand that an applicant has the ECQs to be successful in his/her first SES appointment, OPM is looking for applicants to describe experience in a specific format.  Each ECQ should have two examples.  The first example needs to be about 3/4 of the response and very strong (with significant detail) and the other should be the last 1/4 of the response.  Of course, if you have two equally strong examples, use both.  The total page length for all five essays should be 10 pages for the full document, roughly about 2 pages per ECQ.

Each ECQ needs to reflect the CCAR format.  This is very important to OPM.  Actually typing these words into your document can be helpful as you write:

CONTEXT

CHALLENGE

ACTION

RESULT

Each ECQ needs to “prove” these competencies.  Think about wording and how examples can show these competencies:

 

ECQ 1 Leading Change

This core qualification involves the ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment.

Competencies

Creativity & Innovation

External Awareness

Flexibility

Resilience

Strategic Thinking

Vision

 

ECQ 2 Leading People

This core qualification involves the ability to lead people toward meeting the organization’s vision, mission, and goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolution of conflicts.

Competencies

Conflict Management

Leveraging Diversity

Developing Others

TeamBuilding

 

ECQ 3 Results Driven

This core qualification involves the ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to make decisions that produce high-quality results by applying technical knowledge, analyzing problems, and calculating risks.

Competencies

Accountability

Customer Service

Decisiveness

Entrepreneurship

Problem Solving

 

ECQ 4 Business Acumen

This core qualification involves the ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically.

Competencies

Financial Management

Human Capital Management

Technology Management

 

ECQ 5 Building Coalitions

This core qualification involves the ability to build coalitions internally and with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, nonprofit and private sector organizations, foreign governments, or international organizations to achieve common goals.

Competencies

Partnering

Political Savvy

Influencing/Negotiating

 

VSB:  Where can transitioning senior military leaders learn more about the SES application process and procedures?

Jackson:  OPM’s website (ww.OPM.gov/SES) has information on the process, format and the competencies, along with examples. 

 

VSB:  Any other advice for senior leaders interested in pursuing a post-military career in the federal government?

Jackson: Networking works!  Figure out how to make it work best for you.

 

Individuals interested in professional assistance with the Federal job search and application process can learn more at www.FedJobResults.com.

Apr 30

Former Air Force Colonel Now University COO

longSuccessful career transitions require thoughtful preparation, careful planning, thorough conversation and a little bit of luck. 

You might take a few different paths before you land the job that suits you best and you may end up in a field different from the one you had anticipated.  The key is your ability to transfer your skill set seamlessly into a new organization.  Retired Colonel John Long did just that when he retired from the U.S. Air Force three years ago. Today, he is Senior Vice President and COO at his Alma Mater, the University of South Florida.

 

VSB: John, what do you enjoy most about your current job?

Long: Working in higher education provides constant challenges, both culturally and in technical application.  I learn something new every day.  I have an opportunity to interface with brilliant people on a daily basis.  I also have the self-satisfaction (as I did in military life) of preparing our young people to be productive citizens.

 

VSB: What are the key similarities and differences between your current job as Chief Operating Officer of a major university and the leadership role you played prior to leaving military service?

Long: The jobs are very similar from a functional standpoint.  As a Mission Support Group Commander, I essentially ran a “city.”  That is comparable to what I do now as Chief Operating Officer at the university.  Additionally, I have all budget and finance responsibilities — a natural fit for me since my field was Financial Management in the Air Force.

 

VSB: Would you have done anything differently to better prepare yourself for transition into the academic arena?

Long: To be honest, I had never intended on a career in higher education.  Like most retiring colonels, my initial thoughts were that I would start work in defense, possibly in a contract position, as I embarked on a second career.  But an opportunity became available at the university that matched my experience and skill sets, so I took advantage of that and accepted the job.

 

VSB: What advice would you share with senior military leaders in transition contemplating a post-military career in education administration?

Long:

  • Start your planning early.
  • Decide what your drivers are, location, proximity to family, weather, cost of living, salary, etc.  Once you commit to move and buy a home, you are committed for several years.
  • Networking is key and knowing someone who knows someone in higher education will be a huge advantage.  Looking at your Alma Mater is always a good idea.
  • Be sure to tailor your resume to the specific industry of interest to you.
  • Higher education, by its nature, will be cautious and concerned about whether a person with a military background can thrive in an academic environment.  Put people at ease, talk about the similarities between your military experience and how they compare to the job you are seeking.
  • Most of all, check your rank at the door.  No one really cares and, in fact, it will more than likely scare them away. 

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Mar 20

Retired Army Colonel Brings Excellence to Nonprofit Sector

Retired Army Colonel Al FaberIn the current hyper-competitive job search environment, doing one’s homework takes on new meaning.  Retired Army Colonel Al Faber, currently President and CEO of The Partnership for Excellence, shares his perspectives on what it takes to stand out from the crowd and make a difference after separation from military service.

VSB: Many of your former military colleagues are now in their last months of military service. What do you consider to be the key missteps to avoid as they prepare for transition into the civilian workforce?

Faber:

  • First, decide on what you really “want” to do, and don’t settle for simply “making-up” the difference in your military pay versus retirement pay. The more passionate you are in your search for a new career, the more successful you will be.
  • Don’t procrastinate, start now. Learn how to translate your military leadership assignments into comparable civilian experience. Read the resumes of those with similar positions you are looking for and adapt your military experience to their civilian experience. They parallel closer than you might think.
  • Focus on leading others and creating learning organizations that are agile, adaptable, flexible. The economy is just as dynamic as geopolitics, if not more so.

 

VSB: Would you have imagined yourself in your current role when you first left military service? Was it a direct path or more of a circuitous route?

Faber:  I don’t think any of us can see into the future and a particular role. However, knowing the “type” of position you are looking for is important. Some want to shed the responsibility of leading others and work independently, or from home. Others may want the excitement and fast days associated with staff work in government. For me, it was a direct path, knowing that I enjoyed people and leading organizations. I wanted a similar leadership role in the private sector and those are the positions I targeted and the networks I created.

 

VSB: You have served on several nonprofit boards over the past two decades. What have you gained from this experience?

 Faber: This is an insightful question.

  • Boards hire Presidents and CEOs, so it is important to learn how they work and what they are looking for in a chief executive.
  • The networking is invaluable to future relationships and opportunities.
  • Most board members sit on multiple boards and you learn quickly it’s a smaller world than you may have thought.
  • The discussions in board rooms also provide insights to the problems they face as an organization and the solutions they are looking for.
  • Nonprofits may give some the appearance they do not have to “be profitable” but nothing could be further from the truth. Every organization has bills to pay, and to remain in business, must show income that exceeds expenses.

 

VSB:  Based on your own transition experience, would you share any final words of advice with senior military leaders currently in transition to the civilian workforce?

Faber:

First, learn the language. Learn to translate your military experience into something similar to:

  • Provided oversight for several organizational restructuring initiatives to meet the demand for greater efficiency and process optimization.
  • Institutionalized several supporting professional development programs to empower stakeholders, strengthen workforce engagement, and achieve unprecedented organizational alignment and commitment, while promoting diversity and inclusion to fully leverage human capital.

Second, network. Develop a personal business card and seek out those in a position to help. Get out of your “comfort zone” and confidently, and intentionally introduce yourself to others.

Third, once you make it into the interview you want, know more about them than anyone else. Do your homework, think strategically.

Last, be humble. They will know you just as well.

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Colonel Al Faber, USA (Ret) served as a Senior Army Aviator and Instructor Pilot in attack, reconnaissance, and transport combat helicopters. In addition to his current position as President and CEO of The Partnership for Excellence (www.thepartnershipforexcellence.org) he is a member of the American Society for Quality and American Mensa.

 

Mar 14

SUCCESS IN YOUR NEW MISSION: ARE YOU READY?

success in your new mission

Most senior leaders separating from military service have not had to look for a job since their teenage years.  This group of senior executives may be unfamiliar with the complexities of the civilian job search and may underestimate what it takes to land and retain the right position.

SUCCESS IN YOUR NEW MISSION: A Guide for Senior Military Leaders in Transition goes beyond the basics to help senior enlisted and senior officers transition more smoothly into the civilian workforce. Here’s what retired senior leaders are saying about this new resource:

Terrific insight from those who have walked in your shoes. Read it.

        - Admiral Thad Allen, USCG (Ret), Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton

 

A great read for those senior leaders approaching military retirement who may feel somewhat unprepared for the next chapter. 

        - General Ann Dunwoody, USA (Ret), President, First 2 Four, LLC

 

Steiner Blore brings together her extensive professional background in a range of sectors, career transition expertise, and insights gleaned as a military spouse into a must-read book for any senior military leader in transition. From her cogent advice on networking and the use of social media to her insightful discussion of the cultural and psychological aspects of separating from military life, this valuable resource equips readers for success in today’s hyper-competitive employment environment.

       - VADM Norb Ryan, USN (Ret), Pres. & CEO, Military Officers Association of America

 

(S)ome of the best insights into the unique challenges and opportunities faced by senior military leaders making the transition from military to civilian work life. I wish I had this resource when I was leaving active service a few years ago!

         - LT. General Guy Swann III, USA (Ret), Vice President, Association of the U.S. Army

 

…A succinct roadmap for the initial transition campaign…Read this book as soon as you are even contemplating leaving the military…

           – Brigadier General Eden Murrie, USAF (Ret)

 

Some may call SUCESS IN YOUR NEW MISSION a guide; for me, it was like reading the bible on transition. I wish this book had been around when I began to think about, and plan for, life after the military.

            - Alford McMichael, 14th Command Sergeant Major of the United States Marines

 

SUCCESS IN YOUR NEW MISSION: A Guide for Senior Military Leaders in Transition by Vera Steiner Blore is available at: http://www.amazon.com/Success-Your-New-Mission-Transition/dp/0991561309/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394711206&sr=8-1&keywords=success+in+your+new+mission

Jan 23

Getting Hired in 2014

After a long career in military service, many transitioning senior leaders assume their credentials and talents speak for themselves and are enough to land a good job. Unfortunately, this is not always the case:

  • Companies may presume it will be harder for transitioning senior military leaders to adapt to a new workplace environment and that they will bring a know-it-all attitude. How can you demonstrate your willingness to learn, understand a different culture and ability to work successfully across generations in the civilian workforce, given that your prospective boss may be the same age as your son or daughter?
  • Potential employers will read your resume and assume you know how to lead. What they don’t know is HOW you will lead a team outside of the military establishment. There is often an assumption that military careerists come with an aggressive, overconfident attitude; they wonder if you will “browbeat a team into submission” or roll up your sleeves and lead by example.

There is often an assumption that military careerists come with an aggressive, overconfident attitude; they wonder if you will “browbeat a team into submission” or roll up your sleeves and lead by example.

There may be little doubt that you can do the job; the key to getting the job is your ability to articulate the specific skill set and leadership approach you will bring to the table and how you will make a difference to the company or agency bottom line.

Successful job search and on-boarding strategies are just some of the critical topics that will be addressed at upcoming Military Officers Association of America Military Executives in Transition workshops in Alexandria, VA on Tuesday, January 28 and in San Antonio, TX on Thursday, February 13. For more information and to register, be sure to visit: www.moaa.org/career

 

 

Jan 07

Thinking About Transition into Federal Service?

salernoThe transition from the military into the federal government may be an easier career shift for many senior leaders than a move into the private sector. At the same time, there are a number of perceived and real differences that vary from agency to agency. I asked Brian Salerno, Director, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, at the U.S. Department of Interior, to share his transition experience from senior military leader to the Senior Executive service.

VSB: What advice would you give to senior military leaders seeking a civilian position in the federal government in the current budget climate?

Salerno: First, ask yourself if you really want to ride the tiger. Although life as an SES is less intense than it is as a senior military leader, there are still many of the same pressures and frustrations (budget scarcity, congressional hearings, etc) that we all managed while in uniform.

By comparison, I spent a year as a private, independent consultant. I had a lot more flexibility in my schedule, was successful in attracting clients and I enjoyed the variety of jobs. I could easily have kept going. However, I found that I missed the sense of mission that comes with government service. I decided that the more restrictive schedule and the inevitable frustrations were worth the tradeoff!

Budget realities are of course having an effect on staff levels and hiring, although this is affecting different agencies in different ways. As a retired flag, your leadership and management skills will be highly regarded, making you very competitive. However, the military is generally not viewed as having to deal with the same budget hardships as civilian agencies (if they only knew!) so be prepared to show how you have enhanced efficiency in a time of increased scarcity.

…the military is generally not viewed as having to deal with the same budget hardships as civilian agencies (if they only knew!) so be prepared to show how you have enhanced efficiency in a time of increased scarcity.

VSB: What are the key similarities and differences you have found between your current federal position and your previous military service?

Salerno: Several of the processes on the civilian side are similar to those we experienced in the military (e,g,. budget build, rulemakings, OMB oversight), however, many civilian agencies are not as robust in their capabilities. The area where I have been most surprised by the absence of capability is with IT and knowledge management – military services are far ahead of the civilian agencies with which I now work. This is both a problem and a challenge.

Congressional relationships: Military services maintain Hill staff who can help explain initiatives and policies to committee staffs. In return, the services get a lot of insight into what Hill staffs are thinking. In contrast, most civilian agencies do not have Hill staffs, and therefore the intelligence is never quite as good.

As a senior civilian leader, I have spent time on the Hill meeting with staffs and members, but never with as much advance info as I had when in uniform. The uniform brings instant credibility, less so with a civilian suit. You will still find a great deal of respect for your past service, but staffs will likely be more skeptical of your new agency’s positions than what you may have encountered when representing a military service.

The uniform brings instant credibility, less so with a civilian suit.

Finally, relationships with your workforce will be different than when in the military. My experience is that civilian agencies are less formal in their interactions. You will still be respected as a leader and as the boss, but be prepared to be addressed in a less formal style. Many will instinctively address you by your first name, although this is less common with former military. Also, workers will pay attention to your opinions and direction, but be ready to “sell” new ideas in a way that you may not have had to do before.

Working with political appointees is something most in uniform have experienced to some degree. However, it was not until I took a senior civilian position did I interact with political appointees on an ongoing basis. Political appointees place great reliance on networks, and somewhat less emphasis on the organizational chain of command. This can be useful in getting things done, but is different from the way most of us operated in our military careers.

VSB: Based on your own transition experience, what are the top three things military leaders should consider as they prepare to step away from military service?

Salerno:

a. Making the mental shift: You have heard this before: not everyone in government, like society in general, understands military service. They may be intrigued by it and respect it, but they may not to know what to expect from you and what a military mindset will mean for the workforce. Most of what they think they know about the military they picked up from movies. I found people were worried that I might expect military-style discipline from the workforce (this came out in the interview,) and as much as they respected my background, it was clearly not what they wanted in their organization. So depending on the department or agency, be prepared to offer some reassurance that successful military officers are actually quite skilled and sophisticated at inspiring people to perform well in their mission.

Working in a civilian agency requires a mental transition. The Chain of Command is likely to be a lot looser. Many employees will feel free to communicate directly with you via e-mail. How you deal with that will set a tone. Personally, I have accepted such communications, because I want to know what people are really thinking. I miss having a Command Master Chief!

b. Know what you don’t know: When hired into a senior position, particularly into a non-military agency, a little humility goes a long way! You may or may not be seen as an expert in the agency’s procedures. It takes a lot of interaction with the workforce to convince them that you value their expertise, and that you will consider it before you begin to make significant changes.

c. Finally, salary and taxes…Consider your full tax burden taxes as you plan your finances. A safe assumption may be that you will pay a third of everything you make in federal taxes, factoring in your retired pay as well as your civilian salary. You might want to get a financial advisor to shelter as much as you can.

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Brian Salerno is a retired U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral.

Dec 30

Never Too Late for Career Reinvention

Marc-Miller-ConcreteRecently, I had the occasion to interview Marc Miller, consultant and author of Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for Baby Boomers. Having transitioned several times after a long career at IBM, Miller shared his perspective about switching professions later in life.

VSB: What do you believe are the most common challenges faced by senior executives trying to switch professional gears after a long career in one profession?

Miller: The biggest challenge senior executives and senior military have in switching professional gears is realizing that the culture and work environment in their new careers could be very different. For example, I have worked with a number of IBMers who have lived in a large monolithic entity for an entire career. Everyone they knew worked for IBM. Their vocabulary was IBMer. The culture of the work environment in which they had learned to work was dramatically different outside of IBM and they had to take steps to adapt to a new way of doing business. 

I have found this is the same for many senior military who retired and did not go into a government or defense related industry. The rules they followed throughout their military careers had changed or, more commonly, completely disappeared. They found themselves in a workforce environment in which there were no rules at all! This is really hard because all the assumptions they lived by for 20-30 years were no longer there.

The methods of finding employment also have changed dramatically in the last five years and are often ill-defined. This is stressful for those who have come to rely on a structured, predictable environment.

VSB: Is it ever “too late” for career reinvention?

Miller: In this day, you are never too old to reinvent yourself! Many of us will live to 100 and we will need to work into our 80s. I plan on reinventing myself again and again!

I am in my late 50′s and I am on my seventh career. Each of my career changes was what I refer to as a “half-step” career change. I had one foot in the old world, one foot in the new world and there was a relationship with someone who helped me to “connect the dots.” That relationship knew my skills, values and ethics and helped facilitate the transition.

It is not about being too young or too old to make a career transition, but about who will help you navigate the journey.

It is not about being too young or too old to make a career transition, but about who will help you navigate the journey.

VSB: What are the most important steps for transitioning senior leaders interested in stepping into a second career in which they have no direct experience?

Miller: The biggest challenge in switching careers when you have no direct experience in a particular field is learning to ask for help. Very likely, you will not be at the top of the food chain. The greater the transition, the more likely you will have to swallow some pride and ask for help. Yes, I am a guy and I do not like asking for directions. Asking for help is absolutely key! Finding mentors is equally important! I published an article in Forbes early in 2013 on this exact topic –> http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/02/08/the-key-to-a-successful-career-shift-asking-for-help/

VSB: How can senior leaders overcome the common misperception that they are “too old” to begin anew in the workforce?

Miller: The senior leaders who perceive that they are too old just need to find mentors who have reinvented themselves. I worked with a West Point alumni earlier this year. I asked him if there were alumni who had already made the transition that he had planned. He said yes. I asked him if he thought they would be willing to help him. He said yes. All he had to do was ask.

Remember, you are not the first or the last person who will make this transition. You just need to connect with those who have gone before you and ask them to share their experience and advice with you!

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Prior to his current role as founder of Career Pivot, Marc Miller’s career journey included 22 years at IBM, work with several thriving tech startups, a stint as a high school teacher, and a job in fundraising. An active member of the Launch Pad Job Club, Marc found himself counseling friends and associates on their career journeys and finally realized he’d found his vocation. Marc uses his extensive training experience to help people find fulfilling and satisfying careers. He has taught in more than 35 countries and has helped individual clients from a variety of industries.

 

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