Apr 06

Hiring and Retaining Veterans in the Private Sector

Hiring veterans has been a focus for many companies across the United States. Placing a veteran in a job can can be an automatic “win-win” for both the vet and the company; unfortunately, getting a job doesn’t always mean staying in the job, without careful research and effort on both the company’s part and that of the transitioning service member. Retention in the job takes effort and finding the right fit from the start.

I asked CALIBRE Systems executive vice president, Craig College, to share his thoughts on this issue.

VSB: Why is it a priority for your company to invest in the recruitment and retention of veterans?

College: One in three CALIBRE employees is a veteran, and many more are spouses or children of veterans. We know the value that veterans bring to the CALIBRE team and our clients (more than 60% of CALIBRE’s business is Defense related).Veterans provide combinations of values, skills, experience, loyalty to the organization, and dedication to the mission that are exceptionally valuable to our company. Their proven ability to function as part of a team is critical, because teams of organizations and skills are often key to client success.

VSB: What are some of the strategies you consider to be most successful in retaining veterans, once they are hired?

College: We adhere to CALIBRE’s First Principles, established when we were founded in 1989: operate ethically, deliver superior quality, and continually renew our skills.  Veterans can associate with a culture that is derived in large part from those First Principles.

As members of the military, veterans own their units’ missions. As CALIBRE employee-owners, veterans again own the mission and share in the benefits of employee-ownership. Our company gives veterans challenging projects and responsibilities. We train them, give them the tools they need, and coach them without hovering over or leading them through every step. Specifically, veterans participate in CALIBRE University, our internal educational program that familiarizes employees on the responsibilities of employee-ownership, required skills as a member of a team, management of portfolios of programs, and service as a CALIBRE senior leader. We teach the CALIBRE employee-owner culture, strengthen management and leadership skills, and prepare our employees to accept greater levels of responsibility and authority.

Communications are critical to ensure veterans know where they fit in the organization and that they have a sense of their potential career paths. We know that veterans want more than just a job; they want a successful career as part of a growing company.

CALIBRE also funds tuition assistance, education, certification boot camps and other training. We know that many veterans wish to continue to develop professional skills and we support them in that effort.

VSB: What advice would you give to military leaders in transition to the civilian workforce as they contemplate their possible career pathways?

College: Your best chance of finding a great job is to use your network and not rely on job sites and cold-call responses to company job listings. Build a list of people to contact—ex-bosses, friends, classmates, and vendors in the private sector who may be able and desirous of assisting you. Be honest with yourself about the kind of work you want to do, where you want to do it, and the kind of relationships you want to build. Find your passion and follow it.

Study the companies that you contact. Develop an idea of what you would want to do (not what you could do) at that company.  Be ready to discuss how your skills and experience demonstrate a good fit for the company. You must be able to answer two questions succinctly:  What do you want to do? What will you contribute?

Companies want to place you in a position that you are passionate about to minimize the chance that you will work a short time, get disgruntled, and leave. Hiring someone is a costly business; companies hope to avoid unexpected turnover.

Companies want to place you in a position that you are passionate about to minimize the chance that you will work a short time, get disgruntled, and leave. Hiring someone is a costly business; companies hope to avoid unexpected turnover.

Establish 24-hour communications—personal email accounts and smartphones—are key to follow-up connections. I received my first interview request while on travel in Europe.

Gain an understanding of financials as part of your industry preparation. Budget management as done by most military personnel is only a part of the financial framework that you’ll need to understand.  Additionally, if you are interested in program management, earning your PMP certification is a differentiator.

VSB: How do you think companies can do a better job ensuring a good fit for their veteran hiring?

College: Learn precisely what the veteran wants to do and where and how.

Seek to understand what made the individual successful in the military—sometimes a veteran’s career may not sync obviously with private sector opportunities; how many combat infantry positions exist in the private sector? That said, the underlying skills, attitudes, and dedication may be just the mix to become exactly what a company needs.

Seek to match preferences and experiences to opportunities in your company. If no opportunities are available, offer to share what you know about the veteran with colleagues in another company.  We should want all veterans to succeed—even if not in our company.  They may become a future teammate or client elsewhere.

During the onboarding process, assign a sponsor, preferably a veteran, to the newly hired veteran to ensure a smooth transition. Personal connections are key to success.

VSB: Any other advice to share with those in transition from military service?

College: Start your process by meeting informally with your contacts. Discuss aspirations, ask for advice on your resume, and use these opportunities to practice your interview skills without pressuring the interviewer for a job.  The interviewer will know you are looking but will appreciate the opportunity to offer advice without the immediate pressure of you requesting a position.

Veterans hiring events and outreach programs can be a great source of contacts and opportunities to refine resume and interview skills. Don’t hesitate to develop a resume using your specific military positions, responsibilities, and accomplishments so a hiring manager can quickly determine if you are a fit for contracts supporting Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.

After you have tuned your resume and practiced interview techniques, you will be ready to handle focused job interviews. Your coaches will recommend hiring managers with whom to speak.  Your resume will be polished.  You will be confident in your ability to handle interview situations.

Don’t be afraid to ask interviewers to share your resume with their associates in other companies if they don’t see a fit in their organization.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to find a good fit. This may be your first chance to pick your next job (instead of accepting a military “assignment”) so try not to be impatient.  Good people will find good fits.I completed 150 engagements over several months before offers began to flow. Pursue all avenues of interest, be persistent—and don’t give up!

Finally, remember that you are offering a company an opportunity to hire a skilled, experienced, and dedicated employee that will make the company more successful—do not feel as though you are asking for a favor.

Dr. Craig College is Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at CALIBRE Systems. Dr. College joined CALIBRE in October 2012 after 34 years of government service as a military officer and civil servant.  A recipient of the Presidential Rank Awards of Distinguished Executive (2001 and 2007) and Meritorious Executive (1998), Dr. College received a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics, both from Stanford University.

Jan 24

Find Your Post-Military Passion

Finding the right fit, both personally and professionally, is a key goal in transition from military service. Where to live? How will skills and experience translate into a satisfying second career?  These were just two of the many questions that Captain Sean Mahoney, USCG (ret) asked as he began his transition from Sector Commander into leadership roles in the nonprofit sector, starting with the launch of a brand new organization.

VSB: Sean, what were your key concerns as you approached your transition into the civilian workforce?

Mahoney: First, I had to weigh the pros and cons of leaving the service compared to staying in for a few more years.  The ability to stay in this location ended up being the deciding factor because we loved the area and had developed many friendships.  Once that decision was made, I focused on finding a fulfilling second career in an area that interested me and would allow me to maintain the strong relationships I had in the community.  I spent a lot of time considering what sectors and positions were the best fit for my skills, interests and experience.

VSB: What did you learn during your first year in the civilian workforce that either surprised you or that helped shaped your path forward?

Mahoney: I was surprised at how demanding it was to launch a startup organization!  It is a relentless effort that involves business plan development, hiring staff, leasing office space, procuring equipment, branding, marketing, website development, creation of internal policies, fundraising, and more.  It is also an exciting process, and nothing beats the satisfaction that comes with the successes of a startup. In the end, our nonprofit initiative was very successful and greatly exceeded all initial goals, but that took enormous effort by all involved.

At the same time, it was remarkable to me how much transition-related administration was left to do after separation, and many of these details can’t be completed until the final farewell with DD-214 in hand.  These include changes to taxes, medical insurance and providers, retiree IDs, drivers’ licenses, vehicle registrations, investment accounts and perhaps a move or two. These items sound minor until they’re added to the challenging learning curve and workload that comes with starting a new career.

VSB: How do you think your military service prepared you to become a leader in the nonprofit sector?

Mahoney: Initiative and leadership are critical to success in any professional sector.  Many of us take the significant leadership training and experience we’ve gained in the military for granted, because we’ve been in an organization that emphasizes leadership for our entire careers.  My background with supervising and developing people, planning and implementing projects, leading units and departments, and overcoming challenges has been absolutely critical in my nonprofit leadership roles.

VSB: What advice would you give to those weighing the pros and cons of a post-military career in the nonprofit sector?

Mahoney:  The nonprofit sector is larger and more diverse than you might think.  In fact, it accounts for 10% of all jobs in the US, making it the third biggest sector behind retail and manufacturing.  There are many types of nonprofit organizations serving many different causes, so do your research.  Consider what you’re passionate about.  Is it working in the arts, or helping children, veterans, immigrants, or the elderly?  I enjoy coming to work every day because I genuinely care about the mission of the American Red Cross, which is to prevent and alleviate human suffering.

Avoid the temptation of starting another nonprofit before doing a thorough gap analysis; there are 1.4 M nonprofits in the United States, so it is likely there is one near you that is addressing the community need you may have identified.

Realize upfront that most nonprofits are very lean and resources are scarce. Everyone on the staff needs to roll up their sleeves, wear different hats, and be personally committed to performing and sustaining the mission.

VSB: Other thoughts you’d like to share with colleagues approaching military to civilian career transition?

Mahoney: Focus on the “what do you want to do?” question.  General answers like “something in senior management” aren’t helpful.  Do some soul searching and narrow this down – consider taking a skills and interest assessment if you’re having trouble defining your next career path.  Be able to tell people in your network your specific job interests; this will make it easier for them to help you if they become aware of a related opportunity.

Once you have that answer down, make sure you’re networking.  You’ll never know what event or personal connection will lead to your new position, so stay as active as possible. When you do see that ideal job and submit your application, it is critical to follow up and personally contact someone at that organization.  People like to hire someone they’ve met or who has been referred to them, so you need to stay engaged in the community. 

You will get that interview.  When you do, you’ll have to thoroughly prepare, but remember that the interview is just a meeting and conversation, so it’s nothing you haven’t done before.  Know in the end that you’ll land on your feet and excel! 

Sean Mahoney is Regional CEO of the American Red Cross of San Diego and is a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain. Prior to his current role, he served as Executive Director of zero8hundred.



Jul 02

Taking Time to Find the Right Fit in Civilian Life

SanteeMany senior leaders in transition from military service are reluctant to take much time off before beginning a new job in the civilian workforce. Retired Major General Jay Santee is an advocate of using the time in between to actively network, visit family and explore life goals with one’s partner or spouse to determine what comes next.

VSB: You retired from military service just about two years ago, following a 33-year career in the US Air Force. How would you describe the transition process for you and your family back to civilian life?

Santee: I found the transition process to be exciting, liberating, and fulfilling.  I took to heart many of the things taught in the transition courses and listened carefully to those in my ever-expanding network. There was a lot of sage counsel.  First, I made taking time off after the retirement ceremony a top priority.  I viewed this period as the summer between high school and college that I never got. During the transition period, I played so much golf I got shin splints!  I scheduled my 20-minute networking meetings around my golf rounds.  These networking meetings provided me with thought-provoking insights and kept me engaged in work topics and thinking about what I wanted to do in the next phase.

Many think the transition is about finding a job…Getting a job should not be the focus. Getting the right fit should be.

I also viewed this period as a time for my wife and me to determine what we wanted in the future.  This was her transition too.  We traveled to see the sights we’d missed along the way.  We went to see family.  All the while, we spent time discussing our future, our desires, our needs.  I worked hard to listen to my wife; she was always a step ahead of me.  Her advice and counsel about what was important to me was always correct since she knows me better than I know myself.

Many think the transition is about finding a job.  I found it to be more about finding the right avocation for the next period of life’s adventure.  I’d been in high school.  High school was great but I don’t want to go back.  I’d been a cadet.  That was great but I don’t want to be a cadet again.  I’d been in the Air Force.  It was great, but I don’t want to go back and fly jets again.  Those things are who I was.  Today and tomorrow are who I am and they hold the adventure!

I also viewed this period as a time for my wife and me to determine what we wanted in the future.  This was her transition too.

VSB: What do you see as the top three challenges military leaders face as they prepare to meet their civilian and military competition in the civilian workforce?

Santee: The company I work for values collaboration and team work.  We work in the public interest.  It’s a great fit for my personality, leadership style, values, and passion.  This made my transition successful.  I’ve seen others in transition who continued to struggle.  While there are likely many reasons, I’ll touch on three.

  1. During transition, make sure you have the right goals. Have fun. Enjoying your time should be a goal. Just like when you chose a college – look for a good fit. There are lots of colleges. There are lots of jobs. Which one is right for you and the employer? Getting a job should not be the focus.  Getting the right fit should be.
  2. As you begin your new job, learn from your new teammates in the company. Find a mentor you trust in the company.  It could be someone in the company who also transitioned from the military.  Remember that you are in a new organization. Realize that your solutions to problems are not going to be well received until people know you, trust you and like you. Be mindful and respectfully ask “why” if you don’t understand. Encourage your new colleagues to call you by your first name.   
  3. And finally, I never viewed my time in transition as one when I was in competition with other transitioning senior officers. I saw some that viewed it that way; they were lonely, stressed and seemed unhappy. Instead, my wife and I reached out to others we met in the transition courses. Some, we’d never met on active duty. We became friends and mentors to each other. This new network even led to us sharing job announcements and leads with each other. We didn’t compete. We succeeded together.

VSB: What guidance would you give to senior military leaders who are a year out from their own separation from military service to help them prepare for their transition?

Santee: As retirement from the military approaches you’ll find you have three jobs. You’ll have your military job that requires 100% of your effort up until the last day.  You’ll have the job to separate from your current job.  This includes medical appointments, final pictures and biographies, out-processing paperwork, and more.  These activities are a second part-time job.  And finally, you’ll have your job to find a new job — resume writing, researching, networking, and related activities.  This is a lot of effort and represents another part-time job.  You’ll have to balance each of these three jobs during that last year.  Make time for all three as they are all important.

That said, recognize you can’t adequately find the right fit until you are separated from military service and you take off the uniform.  Having three jobs gives you little hope of the kind of reflection and self-inquiry needed to successfully determine what is important to you and your spouse for the next phase of life.  You need that exhilarating transition phase to find what and who you want to be.  Things that were important to me when I was in the Air Force don’t matter to me now.  Much like things that were important in high school or at the Academy were not important to me in the Air Force.  You need time and introspection to figure out what those unimportant things are.

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

Santee: Build the network you want to have for the rest of your life.  Most people will be happy to give you 20 minutes of their time to share their expertise with you.  Think about the mentors you want to help guide you on the path ahead.

Retired Major General Jay Santee currently serves as the Director of Resilient Affordable Space at MITRE following a 33-year career in the U.S. Air Force. In his last military assignment, he served as Deputy Director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Jan 24


Change in leadership can feel quite abrupt and jarring, for both incoming and outgoing leaders. Working up until the last moment, outgoing leaders are often fueled by a sense of responsibility to give 150% until they walk out the door, a natural inclination to hang on to what may have been the best job of their military career, and by the desire to stave off the unknown of what comes next.

The presidential transition may be far grander in impact and scope, yet it reminds me of the stark contrast that so many military leaders face the day after the pomp and circumstance of the change in command ceremony takes place and the uniform comes off. The disconnect is palpable.

Transition does not happen overnight, nor is it completed when you are hired for your first civilian job. Finding your place, both personally and professionally, once you are out of uniform, is likely to take some time.

Those who weather these major life transitions best are committed to think about change well before it happens. Transition does not happen overnight, nor is it completed when you are hired for your first civilian job. Finding your place, both personally and professionally, once you are out of uniform, is likely to take some time.

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind, whether your transition is still three years away or if you are already separated from military service:

Don’t let the length of the process derail you; it is quite common, even for the most senior leaders in transition, to take a few detours before you land where you’d like to be.

Don’t be shocked that it may take you six – 18 months to land a job, not because you are unqualified, but because a) employers don’t know you b) you are not marketing yourself because you think your reputation and leadership speak for themselves c) you are still speaking in terms more relevant to the military community rather than articulating how your talents meet the specific needs of each civilian employer d) you are sitting at home online more than you are out of the house building your network, one person at a time and/or; e) the more senior the position you are seeking, the longer it can take to land the job.

Don’t hesitate to ask someone else for help or guidance. That might be a former colleague, a career consultant, your spouse, or a medical professional. While the onus remains on you to figure out what comes next, there are many who have either walked in your shoes or understand the unique challenges of this major transition who can provide insight and guidance, if you are willing to ask.

Don’t be cavalier during the networking process. No one owes you a job and you will need to demonstrate your market value, no matter your last title or former rank. Remember to treat each person you meet with humility and respect, regardless of their title or position within a company or organization. This begins with looking them in the eye as they speak with you, holding their business card out and looking at it to acknowledge it was handed to you and taking the time to say and remember their name, rather than immediately cramming the card into your wallet or pocket as your mind races off to who you will meet next.

No one owes you a job and you will need to demonstrate your market value, no matter your last title or former rank.

Do start as early as possible to begin to wrap your head around life after the military. While employers may not want to hear from you two years out, it is never too early to begin talking with your family, former service colleagues and other mentors about possible career pathways.

Do commit to stepping outside your comfort zone in the civilian community. If your only conversations each day are with people in the service, it is time to begin growing a broader network and finding mentors willing and able to provide some guidance navigating new terrain.

Do resolve to keep learning. As you consider possible second career pathways, recognize that, in spite of your tremendous military experience, civilian employers may be in need of someone who understands profit and loss statements or has other credentials which you may not currently have, but could potentially pursue before you leave active duty.

Do make LinkedIn your friend in an active, but strategic way. Recognizing the importance of cybersecurity, recruiters and employers are, nonetheless, making active use of this social media tool and if you are not present, they will have a harder time finding you. To be clear, this is not about cutting and pasting your resume into LinkedIn and waiting for something to happen. It is a powerful tool but requires a more proactive and thoughtful strategy if you want to stand out from the crowd.





Oct 10

Political Neutrality a Necessity in the Job Hunt

The 2016 presidential campaign has drawn many retired senior military leaders into the limelight who might, in a different campaign year, have been inclined to voice their opinions more privately. The somewhat sordid, tabloid-like quality to much of the news coverage can make it difficult to sit quietly on the sidelines. I have been quite impressed with those “undecideds” on the stage with the candidates who have remained poker-faced during recent political debates, while I stared at the television, hardly able to remain in my seat.

No matter how many retired admirals and generals line up publicly to lend their names to either candidate during this hotly contested race, there are many more within the retired military community who hold a wide range of perspectives on the candidates and the issues we face as a nation. Some will argue that individual political opinions, especially those of retired senior leaders, should remain undeclared even after separation from military service – an unspoken expectation that military leaders remain above the political fray.  In the end, it is up to each individual to determine how best to practice good citizenry and love of country once separated from military service.

That said, demonstrating restraint in voicing strongly-held political viewpoints is not an option if you are searching for your next career. Whether you are a former E-3 or a retired general, you will take yourself out of the running for your coveted position if you are unable to demonstrate an ability to work with civilian colleagues whose political, religious or personal views differ from your own.  During your job search, avoid commentary or political attacks on the other candidate. This guidance holds true whether you are online on your personal Facebook page, on LinkedIn or at a networking event. Vehement political declarations have no place in the workplace, nor in the job hunt. If you decide to provide personal commentary, be prepared to accept the potential professional consequences.

You never know who will provide entry to your next professional opportunity. The best way to keep your options open is to avoid alienating a prospective employer with your “well-reasoned” political commentary and analysis, no matter how thoughtful and worthwhile.

Aug 14

Veterans Are Good Fit for Nonprofit Sector

Some time ago, I had the pleasure of meeting U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Eden Murrie as she was getting ready to step away from her military career.  She was contemplating her options and trying to assess how best to apply her talents and experience in a new career. Today, Murrie is Director of Government Transformation and Agency Partnerships at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. I asked for her thoughts on military transition into the nonprofit sector.eden-44rtlogo

VSB: What did you find most appealing about a post-military career in the nonprofit sector?

Murrie: The most appealing aspect of the nonprofit sector is the chance to further a career of service in support of missions that are bigger than any one individual or than the bottom line focus of the for-profit sector.   I am involved with several nonprofit organizations and the dedication, professionalism and passion of my new comrades is incredible.

VSB: How did you determine the nonprofit sector would be a good fit for you?

Murrie: First, I did a number of informational interviews with people working for nonprofits or serving on boards of non-profits.  These conversations gave me great insight into the challenges and opportunities facing nonprofits and perspective on what is typically expected of employees and board members.

I decided to take classes and received a certificate in fundraising management from the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Indiana University.  This allowed me to build connections with many nonprofit professionals who served in a variety of  positions in a wide range of organizations.  I not only learned a great deal from the professors but also from my classmates’ real life experiences in the sector.

We have to do more as a community, and as mission-driven leaders, to introduce ourselves to the nonprofit sector as creative thinkers who are able to innovate and find solutions to difficult problems using limited resources.

VSB: What do you see as the skills that transitioning military leaders have to offer that are most valued within the nonprofit sector?

Murrie: Former military leaders have direct leadership experience and bring talent and integrity that could be applied in a nonprofit organization as potential board members, chief executive officers or chief operating officers. These individuals have built experience and skills that can greatly strengthen a nonprofit organization’s operations and capacity. More specifically, former military leaders:

  • Have confronted resource challenges, personnel shortages, changing technology and shifting public policy priorities. To overcome these challenges, senior military leaders are adept strategic thinkers and change agents. They know how to operate in difficult economic times, helping their organizations to do more with less. These leaders know how to build a case to obtain resources to carry out the mission.
  • Are adept at building and sustaining relationships with internal and external stakeholders. They have extensive experience developing and communicating strategies and priorities to stakeholders and working with diverse teams to bring plans to fruition; they are skilled communicators and can relate well to a wide range of audiences including the Congress, the international community, industry and other non-governmental organizations.
  • Understand the importance of achieving the mission through collaborative decision-making and shared effort. They have had to integrate different perspectives and approaches to achieve their mission effectively and efficiently.  This involved collaborating, listening to diversity of opinion and recommendations, and then rolling up the shirtsleeves to lead the team to help get the job done.
  • Are able to remain calm under pressure and to think rapidly to find solutions to difficult problems using the limited resources at hand. They are trained to adapt to new job requirements, teams and cultures and are quick studies, rapidly learning their new organization’s unique challenges and opportunities.

Throughout our careers, we have applied our talents to make the best case for additional resources; we are ready to apply that experience to support a nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts and mission.

VSB: What have you learned from your nonprofit board service?

MurrieEducation about the responsibilities of being a board member and about all facets of the organization is critical.  An uninterested or uneducated board can, unfortunately, let a good organization go down some very bad paths.

Just like for-profit entities, nonprofits organizations need guidance and oversight from their Boards of Directors.  A nonprofit’s fiscal and governance policies are very important, since these organizations are stewards of the donations they receive and must use those contributions for the purposes for which they are intended; contributors want to ensure their donations are used most effectively.

The board is critical is ensuring the brand and reputation of their respective nonprofit remains above reproach.

Additionally, board diversity in terms of race, gender, background, job experience, age etc is very important as differing perspectives on issues can lead to better solutions. 

VSB: Any surprises on your journey to date?

Murrie: I had more difficulty in entering the non-profit space than I anticipated.  While my military service and experience was respected and appreciated, several nonprofit institutions had some difficulty envisioning how these would be a good fit within a nonprofit’s culture or setting.

We have to do more as a community, and as mission-driven leaders, to introduce ourselves to the nonprofit sector as creative thinkers who are able to innovate and find solutions to difficult problems using limited resources.  Yes, veterans know how to take orders, but they are also quite talented at coming up with unique solutions to tackle the challenges at hand.

Throughout our careers, we have applied our talents to make the best case for additional resources; we are ready to apply that experience to support a nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts and mission.  We are quick learners, know how to build relationships and have the capacity to learn additional fundraising basics in relatively short order – we just need the opportunity to demonstrate these talents on the job.

Jul 04

Military Leadership: What Comes Next

As veterans prepare to transition from military service into new civilian careers, many find it helpful to supplement any service-sponsored transition workshops they have taken with those offered by key veteran service organizations or by other entities that approach the career transition process from a somewhat different vantage point.

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Michael Hyter, the Office Managing Director with Korn Ferry. Mike and his colleague, Senior Client Partner and retired US Army Major General Randy Manner, were pleased to share their perspective regarding Korn Ferry’s Leveraging Military Leadership Program.

Hyter, Mike_072815_0027-2UpdatedPhoto

Michael Hyter

Randy Manner KF (2)

Randy Manner











VSB:  What is the Leveraging Military Leadership Program and how is it unique?

Hyter/Manner: A 2011 study by Syracuse University determined that about 80% of all transitioning veterans leave their first civilian position in less than 2 years. The reasons appear to be that veterans are inadequately prepared to explain and match their competencies to potential positions, and the personal impact of entering a significantly different culture from the deeply ingrained one characterized by military teamwork, service and sacrifice.

Korn Ferry’s Leveraging Military Leadership Program (LMLP) is uniquely designed to help bridge these gaps to help the veteran be happier and more successful in a civilian career.

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) mandated by Congress spends considerable time on helping veterans create their resume and develop traditional interviewing skills. Korn Ferry focuses earlier in the transition process by helping veterans increase awareness about their own passions and competencies as well as career possibilities in the civilian, education, and non-profit sectors.  After completing LMLP, veterans are able to clearly articulate their value proposition using competencies that potential recruiters, hiring managers, and others they meet through networking will understand and embrace.

Veterans must understand the values and attributes of the military service culture they are leaving behind. This is a non-trivial exercise because individuals are not typically able to identify those attributes of cultural values when deeply immersed within a culture. In addition, veterans must understand that they will not find a culture like it outside of the military. They must take steps to become aware of the cultural values of firms where they are considering employment, and adjust their expectations appropriately.

VSB: Any success stories from individuals who have gone through your transition course?

Manner: Here are a few perspectives of some of the veterans who have gone through LMLP:

“Korn Ferry’s LMLP is the only program I know of that focuses specifically on self-awareness: values, strengths, and passions, and how to approach your search for not only a second career but a meaningful life after the military. Too many programs skip over this step of self-knowledge, so as veterans we end up chasing either the paycheck or the responsibility or the comfort of what we did while we were in the military. I wish I had gone through this program before I got out; I might not be on my third job in two years.” – Hugo Lentze, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (ret)

“I participated in LMLP with less than one year to go before I retired from the Air Force. I did not have a solid idea of what I wanted to do following my transition and no idea at all of how to make that happen.  LMLP exposed me to the tools I needed to discover the values I wanted from an employer and the skills that I wanted to be hired for, this led me down the path to find the perfect job for me in the location of my choosing. I can’t recommend this program enough for veterans going through the transition process.” – John Oates, Colonel, US Air Force (ret)

“Just want to say my experience in the LMLP program was eye opening and enriching, having served 31 years in the military I didn’t know the first thing about what I really wanted to do after the Army. This program opened me up to a lot of opportunities. I now have a job with CACI as the lead engineer.” – Anthony Spicer, Command Sergeant Major, US Army (ret)

VSB: Mike, many senior military leaders in transition express an interest in joining a corporate board once they leave active duty. What do you see as the main skills they can contribute to a for-profit board of directors? How can they make themselves more competitive to secure those positions? What about nonprofit board service?

Hyter: Senior military leaders are collaborative team players committed to accomplishing the mission. They possess the following knowledge and skills which are applicable to for-profit and not- for-profit boards:

  • Leadership and organizational effectiveness from many years of helping organizations accomplish strategic and tactical missions.
  • Strategic budgeting with an ability to allocate limited resources to meet critical short-term and long-term objectives.
  • Organization strategy and structure in a dynamic environment.
  • Integrity and willingness to speak up on tough issues.
  • National security issue awareness and how these issues impact business success.
  • Government buying and contracting procedures.
  • Risk management and the tradeoffs required related to people, resources and processes.

VSB: From an employer’s perspective, how can those in transition from military service best distinguish themselves from their military and civilian counterparts in this competitive job market?

Hyter/ Manner:

There are four keys to success for the veteran to distinguish him or herself from others. In order to create a value proposition, veterans must:

  • Be truly aware of their passions and their competencies.
  • Understand and be able to simply explain their value proposition to prospective employers, providing examples of competencies without the use of military jargon.
  • Know the desired competencies of the positions they are pursuing; the better they understand them, the more effective they can be in explaining the power of their value proposition.
  • Veterans should not fret over “perfecting” a resume. A resume should “follow” the veteran after a call or meeting; there is very little value in flooding job web sites and firms with one’s resume.

VSB: Any other advice you’d like to share with military leaders approaching transition into the civilian workforce?

Hyter/ Manner: Two thoughts – one for veterans and one for employers:

Veterans must understand the values and attributes of the military service culture they are leaving behind. This is a non-trivial exercise because individuals are not typically able to identify those attributes of cultural values when deeply immersed within a culture. In addition, veterans must understand that they will not find a culture like it outside of the military. They must take steps to become aware of the cultural values of firms where they are considering employment, and adjust their expectations appropriately.

Employers can maximize the value veterans can bring to their firms by “meeting them half-way”. Examples include:

  • Training recruiters and hiring managers to understand the nuances of attracting and managing veterans
  • Identifying positions with required competencies which are very strong and prevalent among veterans
  • Conducting veteran training programs to more rapidly and effectively assimilate veterans into the culture and way of doing business within the firm
  • Providing veteran Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as a forum for on-going support to help veterans achieve success in the company.

Applications are currently being accepted through August 1, 2016 to participate in the ninth LMLP cohort: https://kornferry.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9XBgZw8J3wBa94p

Michael C. Hyter is an Office Managing Director with Korn Ferry. In this role, Mr. Hyter leads Search, Korn Ferry Hay Group, and FutureStep for Korn Ferry’s Washington, DC and Reston, VA offices.
Randy Manner is Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry and a retired U.S. Army Major General. In addition to a distinguished military career, Manner previously served as vice president of American Management Systems and currently sits on a number of small company and veteran service organization advisory boards.


May 30

Post-Military Career Risks: Are You Ready?

Choosing the right path for your post-military career is a balancing act between many factors, including, but not limited to, your: interests, talents, financial needs, aversion to risk, family considerations, and the level of effort you are willing to put forward. Many veterans go back to school to pursue another dream job and some start their own sdvosb.

All of these factors came into play for Lisa Wolford, a Marine Corps veteran, when she decided to launch her own small business in 1997. I asked Lisa, from her vantage point as President and CEO of Constellation West,  to share some of the most important lessons she has learned along the way:Lisa Wolford's Headshot - Red Suit

VSB:   While risk was an inevitable part of work while on active duty, many veterans may be uncertain about taking the risk to start their own company in civilian life. What made you decide to take that leap?

Wolford: When I started my firm, I worked 100% billing directly to customers for my technical expertise.  At the time, 19 years ago, I was an architect for Client/Server technology.  I was also a single mother of two children and understood the need to plan ahead. I knew I needed to save before starting the company and would need to save even more, in order to have a backup plan for a rainy day. I think veterans who are interested in starting their own business need to assess their comfort level with risk and overestimate what they will need in startup funds.  Timing and understanding the business environment, which includes technical acumen, are essential to determining when and where to position yourself in business.

Sometimes it is necessary to create your own opportunity.  A basic question you must answer is, “how much risk can you tolerate?”  A veteran, particularly with a family, should do the necessary planning to ensure that the family’s needs will be covered, either through a military pension, if the veteran has one, through savings, or through a spouse’s employment.

The level and type of stress you will experience from owning and managing a business is different from being an employee.  The time it takes to become profitable may be years.  If you are honest with yourself, and the ones closest to you who may be affected by your desire to start and run a business, you will be better prepared mentally and emotionally to survive unknown challenges in the early years of doing business.  An honest risk assessment related to finances is an important activity you can undertake prior to finalizing your commitment.

There are franchise opportunities that are open to veterans that can be quite successful, but may require some upfront investment. Some veterans choose to start a company as a part time endeavor which is a fine way to start out.  Not everyone is going to have the same solution or strategy; individual goals and family situations will usually inform the approach to risk.

The bottomline that made me decide to take the leap was that I had the technical and business capability appropriate to the business environment. To make a better life for my family for the long term, I decided the time was right to go out on my own.

VSB: You describe Constellation West employees as individuals with the following characteristics: Constant learners, committed, loyal, hard-working, adaptable, principled, problem-solvers, integrity, passionate about mission success and more. This is a good description of many military leaders preparing to leave active duty. As they compete with each other, and with their civilian counterparts for a great job in the private sector, how can transitioning service members further distinguish themselves to help them stand out from their competition?

Wolford: I want our veterans to remember that they are very special breed.  If they don’t get an offer from a firm that they would have liked to join, maybe that was a huge favor to them.  There are firms that will welcome a veteran and be excited to have them on their team.  In my firm,  about 42% of my employees are veterans.  We understand the value that they bring to the table.

Veterans should also understand that leadership in private industry can be different that in the military. In all cases, you must adapt and make yourself relevant.  Whether you’re an E-1 or O-10, you must adapt your skill set to remain relevant in a rapidly changing business environment.  Skills learned 2 years ago, let alone 20 years ago, may not suffice in today’s market.

Become a constant learner.  Whether you get advanced degrees, technical certifications, or just-in-time training, you further distinguish yourself by providing meaningful solutions that can be implemented in a timely and cost-appropriate manner.  Keep your knowledge up to date with the audience (prospective employers, co-workers, teammates) and be able to communicate important and key elements to decision makers.  You distinguish yourself by being relevant.

Whether you’re an E-1 or O-10, you must adapt your skill set to remain relevant in a rapidly changing business environment.

VSB: Leaving behind a team and structure so integral to military service can be among the greatest challenges in adapting to the civilian workplace. What advice would you give to help military leaders in transition reframe their thinking about how teams form and operate in the private sector?

Wolford: One of the best skills I have honed is to leverage the strengths of others.  That means I have to listen, observe, ask questions, and challenge people.  The best solution does not always come from the first or loudest to speak.  I leverage the strength of those individuals or companies who can fill gaps in my understanding of technology, business, and the customer.

As a transitioning military leader, the approach you used in military may, or may not, work in the private sector.  Leave your rank at the door.  You do not need your military rank on your business card.  What you need is information that will allow you to assist someone else in meeting his or her need.  He, or she, will be looking for someone who listens, understands and can present a feasible solution, both technically and fiscally.

You do not need your military rank on your business card.  What you need is information that will allow you to assist someone else in meeting his or her need.

Finally, remember your potential employer, teammate, and customers have choices; they want to work with someone they like or with whom they can get along. Know what your customer needs and, if you can, meet that need; if you cannot meet that need, do not enter into a relationship or contract when you are in a weak position.  Know what you cannot change; have the courage to change the things you can; and the wisdom to know the difference. Leverage your strengths and the strengths of others.

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

Wolford: Sometimes you need to reinvent yourself; that often starts with attitude, a good support system that can deliver effective feedback, and the ability to change your thinking.  Leverage the strengths of others, along with your own strengths, to make a meaningful and positive difference in the business environment and in the lives of others.  Get some informal mentors – you can have more than one; and never stop learning.


Lisa Wolford is President and CEO of Constellation West, founding the company in 1997. As a service-disabled, veteran-owned, woman-owned, small business, her company is focused on delivering top cyber security, agile development, and IT systems solutions to help federal agencies tackle their toughest challenges.


May 07

Veterans and Executives Tackle Challenge Together

Christian-AnschuetzAs military leaders transition into the civilian workforce, it is not uncommon to hear both an employer and the hired veteran express frustrations that may stem from a disconnect in culture and understanding. Rarely is this due to the veteran’s lack of hard skills; instead, it more likely reflects the different paths and experiences that brought the veteran and the employer to their current roles.

I recently had the opportunity to connect with a very driven and dedicated corporate leader with a passion to instill greater understanding between veterans and corporate leadership by working together to overcome shared challenges.  Christian Anschuetz chairs the newly-created Project RELO which he describes in greater detail below:

VSB: Christian, what made you decide to launch Project RELO?

Anschuetz: Since leaving the Marine Corps as a Captain in 1997, I have had a varied and rewarding post-military career in the private sector. Sadly, my experience and career trajectory is atypical.  I know very few peer executives that have served in our armed forces.  I do, however, know many a veteran (both officer and enlisted) that has struggled to find a career in corporate America after leaving the military.

The reasons are numerous – from inaccurate mental models that typecast military members as hardcore command and control operators – to the stigma of PTSD which so many wrongly assume all vets now suffer.  Still, the most omnipresent issue is that corporations fail to understand the wealth and nature of experience that our vets possess.  And with HR policies and practices that immediately screen out those lacking college degrees and “appropriate” industry experience, many veterans find themselves swimming upstream.

There are many nonprofit organizations established to serve the veteran community; there are precious few that are working to help companies realize that they can build a better business if they infuse their workforce with the skills, background and character offered by our vets.

We sought to address this need using a unique approach to bring talent-hungry firms together with this great, under utilized, pool of talent – our veterans.  Project RELO was the result.

Project RELO aspires to transform corporate America’s perspective on the value and character of our veterans through intensive and immersive business leadership training exercises.

Project RELO aspires to transform corporate America’s perspective on the value and character of our veterans through intensive and immersive business leadership training exercises.  We do this by pairing small teams of executives with transitioning vets using an exhilarating, outdoor and off-road leadership curriculum.  Run like a military operation, participants bond over both scripted and unscripted adversity, forging deep and meaningful relationships as they are forced to rely upon one another to achieve shared objectives.

The veterans, domain experts in these environments, capably demonstrate their knowledge, selflessness, mission orientation and ethic, giving corporate executives the chance to experience this first-hand, and bringing about a gradual change in mindset about the quality and capacity of our veterans.

When the Project RELO exercise is completed, participants are presented with the profiles of 100 veterans they will collectively commit to place in their network.  With the intent of ensuring that as many of the 100 vets are hired, the newly formed network collaborates with the new understanding…that hiring a vet is more than a social good, it is simply good business.

Since our formal inception at the beginning of this year, we have attracted representatives from both large enterprises and mid-market firms; these include participants from Microsoft, LinkedIn, Northwestern Mutual, RL Canning, and others.  And, of course, we are just getting started.

VSB: How would you describe Project RELO and the impact this experience has had on those who participate?

Anschuetz: Project RELO can be described in several ways, yet two of my favorite descriptions are:

As a relationship boot camp – where low level adversity (although perceived adversity ranges from moderate to high) combined with environmental conditions, create a natural, immediate chemistry and “glue” that forges lasting bonds between participants that carry forward into their personal and professional lives.

Second, it is also an executive and veteran confidence course. Business leaders find pride and satisfaction in overcoming the challenges that occur naturally as part of a Project RELO mission. In our everyday lives, we rarely experience negative physical consequences of poor decisions, inaction, or failing to heed the advice of a team member in our respective workplaces.  On our missions, however, people can get cold, wet, or hungry if they fail to work with, and listen to, the collective team.  Overcoming these challenges during the Project RELO mission creates a strong sense of accomplishment and builds executive confidence.

Participating veterans may initially see business leaders and ask “What do I have to offer them?” During a Project RELO mission, veterans’ domain expertise allows them to help the executives navigate some of the challenges they face.  This demonstrates to the vets, in a palpable and direct fashion, that they do, in fact, have a lot to offer these private sector leaders.  And, of course, the conditions and environment warrant that the veterans see the business leaders simply as the people that they really are.  This demystifies the corporate executives, builds veterans’ confidence in their ability to interact with people of such position in the future and helps vets lessen their “fears” of the interview process.

We have seen tangible, meaningful acknowledgement by executive participants that they now possess an entirely new appreciation for our veterans.  Stated many times over that “I am just amazed at the competence and helpfulness of our veteran team member”, or “our transitioning vet could figure out the answer to any problem we encountered”.  And best yet, “I need to hire people like these vets into my company”.  The end result is the realization that the selflessness, mission orientation, and skill of our vets are valuable in virtually every context.

The end result is the realization that the selflessness, mission orientation, and skill of our vets are valuable in virtually every context.

Since our two Project RELO proof of concept missions in 2015, connections between participants continue.  For veterans and business leaders alike, virtually all have stayed in regular contact with one another.  On the business front, three businesses that had never done any work together before have recently inked a strategic partnership designed to give them a better position in the marketplace; this further illustrates that Project RELO is doing more than a social good… it is simply good business.

VSB: How do you think military leaders in transition can help dispel the myths that travel with them to job interviews or once they are in the workforce?

Anschuetz: There are a few basic things that veterans can do to help them land civilian careers.  I would advise vets to consider the following:

  1. Drop the jargon: Avoid acronyms and military lingo; it is often a put-off and/or intimidating.
  2. It’s all about relevance – Clearly state the relevant experience and background that you have; align it specifically to what the target audience needs. And do this fast.
  3. Skip the “sirs” and “ma’ams” – Similar to jargon, the use of this manner of speech comes off as foreign to most interviewers and employment prospects.
  4. Lead with loyalty and team – While corporate America struggles with both, hiring managers want to hire those that will be loyal.  Ensure that comes out.
  5. Maintain and infuse your pride – Be proud of your service to our country, and convey that passion and earnestness to would-be employers.  Firms and hiring managers want people that believe in what they do.  Show them you have a track record in that department.
  6. It’s all about the “mission” – In the end, employers want to hire people that get <stuff> done. Illustrate your track record of overcoming significant obstacles through your use of creativity and ingenuity; describe cases where, despite the odds, you achieved important outcomes or milestone. (Just remember to avoid the jargon!)

More strategically, I would ask veterans to immediately begin building their civilian professional network. This can be started long before a military member leaves the service as everyone is fully able to maintain contact with those that separate before them.  By seeking out, and connecting with, business leaders who are also veterans they can build a network that could help ease their transition from an employment perspective. I know I personally take calls from former Marines who reach out to me.  Semper Fi is forever.

VSB: Project RELO suggests that firms hire for character – what does that mean?

Anschuetz: We propose that hiring managers and veterans start their discussions around the topic of character. The reason is that, while 90+% of hiring decision are made based on some technical qualification (college degree, years of industry experience, etc.), 90+% of terminations from a firm are the result of character failure (poor work ethic, integrity issues, inability to team, et al).  Firms that hire for character first get better employees, pure and simple.

At Project RELO, we have moved away from the traditional resume and have moved to what we call the Character Profile.  This approach allows vets to relate their character AND experience in a fashion that intuitively makes sense to readers while highlighting that which makes them a valuable asset. Among other things, the character profile enables vets to highlight what they know, the skills and talents they use to achieve success, lessons learned and what they can do to help a would-be employer.

VSB: For those companies unable to participate in the team-building experience through Project RELO, what advice would you provide to help build greater team orientation within the workplace?

Anschuetz: In addition to direction participation, there are three avenues through which to support this cause and purpose:

First, we welcome interested firms to take a pledge to help us engage transitioning vets. Specifically, Project RELO and our partner, Hire Heroes USA, will supply businesses with prepared resumes that firms can use to source talent for new or open positions.  By taking the pledge, a firm simply commits that it will engage some number of veterans (as determined by the firm itself), hire those they are able, and / or provide us with feedback as to how our vet applicants can improve their chances going forward and with their next potential employer.

Project RELO is also developing the capability to provide “Fused Leadership”, onsite training. By taking great examples of both corporate and military leaders, and fusing them into a single coherent program, Project RELO endeavors to help organizations improve their overall leadership skills while simultaneously highlighting the talent pool found with our veterans.

Lastly, we continue to seek corporate sponsorships to enable us to continue our work. We are a 100% volunteer-operated organization and completely self-funded.  Funds that are eventually raised in 2016 will enable us to expand the program beyond its current operations in Michigan. If your company is interested in becoming a part of this program, please reach out and let us know. Visit us at www.projectrelo.org to learn more.

Christian Anschuetz is Chairman of Project RELO and is a two-tour active duty veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  He currently serves as CIO of Underwriters Laboratories outside of Chicago.

Apr 21

Thinking about Retirement from the Workforce?

The decision to fully retire from the workforce should be made consciously and what that looks like may vary greatly, from person to person.  There are any number of factors that play into the decision and that can greatly impact one’s quality of life, relationships, as well as sense of purpose.

My colleague, retired Navy Captain Jim Carman, who currently serves as director of the Military Officers Association of America’s Transition Center, recently provided some food for thought on this question in MOAA’s Career Networking group on LinkedIn; his advice is reprinted here with his permission.

The Decision to Go Bye-bye

Jim CarmanOne of the most frequently asked questions is when to hang up your neck tie for the last time and say bye-bye to your day job?  There are no easy answers to this multi-faceted question.

My father-in-law stopped working at 52, and he enjoyed a full life until almost 89.  He never had an ounce of regret over his decision to quit early.  By contrast, I have a good friend who is a very youthful 76 and enjoys the structure, identity and contribution he makes through his day job.  He is also helping to incubate a start-up business and shuttles between homes in Florida and New England in his off time.  He is very good at his job and makes a difference for his clients every day.  Moreover, he tells me that his friends who retired in their 60s and used to roll their eyes over his decision to continue in full-time employment now view him with a degree of admiration for his meaningful role in the active workforce.

The decision to retire should not be made on impulse and must acknowledge that your retired years may outnumber your working years.

Based on discussions with a number of clients over the years, I think the decision to retire has four main elements: health, wealth, plans and job.

  • Retiring early will capture for your personal use some of the best years you have left.  Further, there’s a large body of evidence that suggests if you make it to 60 without any major medical issues and no family history of premature death, then you are very likely to live well into your 90s.  Certainly health conditions can change in an instant, but I’m comforted by the good longevity genes on both sides of my family.  Also, experts agree that psychological health can impact your physical health.  Retiring in your 50s or 60s may lead to a lack of intellectual engagement, which is critical for good health.
  • The slow-growing economy and low interest rates of the 2010s are straining many investment portfolios.  Accordingly, an annual withdrawal rate of more than four or five percent will probably deplete your principle before you reach your life expectancy.  Additionally, it’s difficult for many people to live comfortably in retirement on less than 80 percent of their current income.  If you think this number sounds high, consider the things you might like to do for your children and grandchildren.  These numbers get even more challenging if you shift your assets to a more conservative portfolio allocation of 40 percent stock and 60 percent fixed income investments.  Just 50 percent of working adults say they expect to have enough money to live comfortably in retirement based on recent polling and 71 percent of non-retired adults with postgraduate education in the same polling say they expect to work in retirement.
  • What do you expect to do with your time in retirement?  My father-in-law could play golf four or five times a week and enjoy every minute on the course.  Conversely, I have difficulty imagining life without the intellectual stimulation, cross-generational exposure and opportunity for continued growth provided by a day job.  My military career afforded the opportunity for my wife and me to see much of the world, and our only frustration with our present situation is fewer opportunities to share experiences with our far-flung children and grandchildren.  If you have plans that require long time commitments and the disposable income to support frequent travel, then you may be a good candidate for early retirement.
  • Do you have unfulfilled ambition or a strong desire to continue having impact?  If so, recognize that many employers will be concerned about investing in a candidate in his or her 60s, and your best option may be to continue growing where you’re currently planted.  If you elect to consider new opportunities, you will be competing with candidates young enough to be your children.  Demonstrating a high level of energy, a familiarity with technology and an openness to new ideas will be crucial skills in the interview process or to continue growing in your current organization.  If you plan to continue working, expect to crank up your game a notch to avoid the deadwood designation.

The decision to retire should not be made on impulse and must acknowledge that your retired years may outnumber your working years.  As you ponder retirement possibilities, seek the advice people you trust, your mentors and people who are living every day with their retirement decisions.  Continued participation in the workforce or through a range of volunteer pursuits may help you stay mentally sharp, socially engaged and more secure financially.

Jim Carman is a graduate of the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Director of MOAA’s Transition Center.

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