In 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?
- 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?
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.