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Category Archives: Veterans Transition

20150110_172457_Richtone(HDR)We are making the same mistake with returning Vets as we made in Iraq the first time.  We failed to promote the better option.

No 22 push-ups for me, no challenges, just actual work.  All of the foundations do enough awareness and believe me, there are enough egos behind the initiatives.  The awareness, beyond fundraising, can be doing more harm than good if you ask some epidemiologists, as highlighted by Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point”.  Find a brief review of the concepts here in the New York Times.

We hear PTSD and suicide as if they are near synonymous… and I will say the word or claim of PTSD is over used and overly romanticized.  PTSD is not a disorder, it’s a natural human response to exposure of a reality that we hope most will never know.  Beyond that, the knowledge is a burden that must be carried.  It’s not treated; rather learned to live with.  But, I’m not focusing on PTSD.  I want to focus on romanticizing the suicide rate and victimizing.

Want to actually impact the suicide rate for Vets?  Give them something better to do, a better option.  Show them they haven’t lived through the best part of their life.  Give them expectations, not excuses.  Just like American Military Generals recognized, one of the primary mistakes made in Iraq was failure to build an infrastructure after taking Baghdad.  An Iraqi is less susceptible to be convinced to become a suicide bomber, or be bought as a soldier, or fear their family starving, if they have a sustainable way of life, an income, and a contributing role in their community.

Don’t give Vets hand-outs, sympathy and aimless “hugs”.  They all have a time and place, but are not the solutions alone or collectively.   Put the Vets to work and demonstrate their impact and purpose that is still ahead of them.  Sometimes that means giving them expectations.  Sometimes that means giving them the chance to fail.  All the time it means guiding them to understand how they are translating and demonstrating themselves to others, and most of the time that means equipping them with a meaningful career path.

There is no, single correct career path for any person, Veteran or otherwise.  But with Veterans, going from a role of indescribable purpose, to a role where you aren’t sure if you have a purpose anymore, or if you add value, or if you can provide for your loved ones… it’s tough.  Add the burden of knowing what it really means to have friends, to love, and to sacrifice.  They know what it means, and why it is so important to put others before self.

No good gripe or complaint is worth it without a suggestion.  What’s my suggestion?  Spend less time romanticizing the visible symptom and create a solution for the source.  How do I do that?  Well, I chose to be a part of Four Block; we work on career development for Veterans.  Not a two day, or two hour workshop where we forget about you after.  Not a once a month phone call or Skype.  But a comprehensive, content retaining, and impactful, LONG-TERM solution to promoting successful transitions of Military Veterans into productive members of society.

They say idle time is the devil.  Well, idle ambition is a death sentence.  Let’s focus less on romanticizing the excuses, focus on holding each other accountable for desired expectations and reminding us all that we have a purpose.  Change the narrative.

As is always the case with my articles here on LifebyDamien.com – views and thoughts are my own, and I welcome yours in the comments as well!

 

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Yes, we’re all dumb – enough to make mistakes – and then we learn.  In a way, that is a part of the self-deprecating culture I miss about the military.  We are all very hard on ourselves, and while also served with an occasional dose of – ahem – “confidence” we also ridicule ourselves more often than anything else.  Well, ourselves and each other.  I have grown to realize there is a productive measure to that ridicule that improves individual, collective and team performance.

When a working team establishes a communication environment that allows for straight, sometimes brutal, but honest and even more often comical, communication – there is very little left unsaid.  Why is that helpful?  Because it ensures that all members of a team are voicing their observations when they thinks something is awry.  If you are doing something that can be done better, you’ll be told.  If your performance is good, but can be better – you’ll be told.  If someone disagrees with you – you’ll be told.  The guess work is taken out, and the perceived friction point can be addressed.  This reduces what I’ve been introduced to as “office politics”.  If we’ve learned anything in a democratic society, it’s that “politics” and “efficiency” often get in each other’s way.

Of course, there needs to be moderation.  No team should suddenly start verbally lashing out at each other (nor should they ever really be “lashing out”).  First, everyone has to believe that everyone else in the team is more concerned about the TEAM’s goals and objectives than any individual’s objectives.  Team-orientation over self-orientation is a topic of its own, and gets into the foundations of team building.  But that will be it for today – let’s keep it short.  How honest have you been with your team lately?

*You might have noticed the title was intentionally, incorrectly spelled as “were” instead of “we’re”.  It’s a play on words… making “dumb” only temporary, until enlightened.

Recently I’ve been tossing around this idea of a “Third Identity” for Veterans when referring to career and life, post-military.  I call it a “Third Identity” because Veterans typically had an identity of who they were before the military; they then assume a new identity in the military (as their life and experience in uniform would warrant).  Finally one exits the military and who the Veteran identifies himself to be post-military is rarely the same person he was before or during his time of service.  With all the variables that come with it – there is one common trait that builds the person, and should be minded: Integrity.

I don’t mean just integrity as in honesty; I mean “integrity” as in the consistency, or truancy of behavior.  For this, I’m going to attempt to weave a common thread through the theories, observations and expertise of three gentlemen far smarter than myself – as I’ve interpreted from their books.

20150622_211539

My Personal Jim Joseph Collection, Hardbacks and Kindle combined.

What do Jim Joseph, Joe Navarro, and Charles L. Allen all have in common?  They’ve all stressed the importance of consistency in behavior.  Why?

Jim Joseph is the largely successful, global branding guru – who has experienced success as an entrepreneur, corporate leader, professor, father and author – penning 4 great books (of which I’ve finished three and am due to order his latest “Out and About Dad”).  Jim’s series of “The Experience Effect” reiterates the need for consistency in business, employee, and personal behavior in order to gain positive rapport with a target audience (That is a gross over-simplification, but feel free to read up yourself J).  Jim says it best when wrapping up “The Experience Effect for Small Business”:

Live life consistently with the brand you’ve established for yourself and link it to your small business.  Make personal choices that are consistent with your brand, and make personal decisions that reinforce and support the decisions of the business that will aid in its success.”

Joe Navarro is an acclaimed FBI Interrogator and Investigator and has literally, written the book on detecting deception for the FBI.  You can read his work in “What Every Body is Saying”.  When Joe goes deeper into identifying deception, he repeats both the difficulty in doing so – but also, the importance of “Synchrony”.

Synchrony is as it sounds, when all elements of communication are synchronized in delivering a consistent message.  But, when the verbal message doesn’t match the non-verbal message (body language) something is off.  As Joe will explain, seeing this sort of “asynchrony” will cause discomfort in both the communicator and who the person is communicating with.  It makes sense – how uncomfortable is it to just say the word “No” while nodding your head yes?

Lastly, Charles Lawrence Allen is a published Psychotherapist and Counselor.  In his book, “Why Good People Make Bad Choices”, Charles describes the constant argument all people face.  The argument between stated (and ideally behaved/demonstrated) values, and one’s ego.  The ego, as Charles will tell you, has a purpose that contributes to human survival.  It also has a strong penchant for questioning one’s integrity.

In his book, Charles emphasizes, that peace within one’s self is found as consistency is established with stated values and demonstrated behaviors.  It’s a good read for anyone thinking about how their own brain operates, or why they keep grabbing the King Size candy even though they know beach season is coming up.

The common thread?  Consistency is good; Inconsistency is not.  Inconsistent brand experiences will end up losing your company money; enough so to constitute a national shutdown to commence a day of training (like Starbucks did).  Inconsistent body language – or non-verbal communication that doesn’t match what your mouth is saying, will result in discomfort and distrust with whom you are speaking.  Inconsistent actions that do not agree with your own stated values will cause stress and hyper-tension, discomfort, and lack of happiness.  These are all issues that we all face – and issues that Veterans must face in a condensed timeline when searching for their Third Identity.

That search will likely take longer than your savings account will cover.  However, making it through that identification phase as you find your identity will be much more likely if you take a moment to establish your priorities, and make conscious decisions to reinforce those priorities.  It will be visible with friends, families and on interviews; and to someone searching for a sense of purpose – it will be most importantly visible – in the mirror.

LinkedIn Sign

Every college graduate, and every transitioning Veteran (hopefully) face a million dollar question before finding their first job after college or the military:  “What kind of career do I want?”

It seems that many times instead of answering that question, time, demand, opportunity (or lack thereof), and pride result in the answering of a substitute question: “What job can I get that pays enough?”

Today, Four Block Veterans visited LinkedIn and heard from LinkedIn employees mixed of both Veterans and Non-Veterans.  The first theme – no brainer: They all loved working at LinkedIn.  I was happily surprised to hear two different, yet consistent and related themes.

The panel all discussed what they enjoyed about working at LinkedIn, and they all described the things they like by comparing it to the things they didn’t like at previous companies.  I should point out, that half or more, worked at rather big named companies previously – companies that many of our Vets, and college grads would hope to work at.  In making the comparison and exposing the contrasting company cultures – it was enlightening to see what came up.

All of the panelists described an empty feeling they had while at previous employers, that has been filled while at LinkedIn.  While there may be many reasons for why they feel, well, filled – it seems all agree it’s the culture of inclusion, creative thought, and ambitious greatness all tied together with enjoying the people they spend most of their waking hours with.  They all also noted – while I am confident they all make fair wages – that their initial concerns of wages upon finding their first job may have misled them to their first companies and ultimately the empty feelings they had before joining LinkedIn.

We heard a lot of great things from the panel, and are incredibly grateful for all of the panelists to take their time to share their experience with our Four Block students.

As the economy, or more importantly the labor market, begins to shift in favor of the employee, keep in mind that you should make no substitutions when answering your million-dollar career question:

What kind of career do I want and what do I need to get out of it?

What better way to wrap 2014 at LifebyDamien.com than facing the fire and comparing myself to how I did on the 2014 Goals and Bucket list?  Well – I’ll do that, AND set a new list of goals and bucket list items for 2015.

Deep Run Pano

Deep Run Pano

I think this is a great exercise for anyone who is trying to ensure they are on track for progression – and especially those who are looking for and/or are expecting change in the near future (1-3 years).  I have heard more advice, and continued to develop myself through 2014 – which has shaped my goals and intentions as I carry forward in my professional, and personal lives.

First, how did I stack up to my 2014 goals, objectives and bucket list?  In some ways: fantastic and in other ways: dismal.   I completed 3 of my 5 goals.  Of the 17 objectives I needed to hit in order to reach the 5 goals, I completed 11 of them.  Oddly enough, completing all objectives for a given goal doesn’t mean the goal was obtained (note to self on better setting objectives).  I also noted some goals, for which none of the objectives were obtained – lets me know what I put priority on.  My largest defeat was only in completing 2 of 8 bucket list items.

I want to run through them briefly, before laying out goals and respective objectives for 2015, along with an exciting “bucket list”! For details, refer back to my earlier post HERE in 2013 in Review:

Goal:  Begin my MBA at NYU:  While I did study for my GMAT, take the GMAT, and obtain a desired score, I did not apply to NYU, or any other MBA program. That has been delayed, and I am not sure when I will pursue – but hopefully soon enough.  I admit defeat here.

Goal:  Meet face to face with my company’s CEO, Robert Benmosche:  I met all of my objectives, but not the goal.  I have made great progress in what I was working on, only the CEO changed and a new CEO stepped in.  The work I have been doing has been discussed and recognized by the new CEO.  I was also able to speak with him, just a few months before he took his role.  So – I chalk that up to “close”, but this goal isn’t horseshoes or hand-grenades.

Goal:  Travel Outside of the Continental U.S.  I NAILED this one!  Passport, work trip to Canada, and personal trip to the Dominican Republic – it was a great goal to fulfill!

Goal: Write, Produce, Record and Master a complete song.  Fell behind here… I have not had as much time to enjoy my musical side.  However, I have been having fun… and a fully completed song may not be too far from the future.

Goal: Buy a House : NAILED IT!  A little off, as we looked at all sorts of options for buying.  What came to reality was a weekend house in the Poconos.  With recent developments and investments by larger developers in the area, and in selecting a home that is in the heart of multiple ski-lifts and Summer resorts, I think we made a great investment.  Not to mention, The prices make it seem like a forced increase in retirement planning – but I can hang out here (I’m here in our Poconos House as I complete this article) as I contribute to my retirement, where as I can’t hang out in my Roth or 401k.

For Love of Country - SIgned

For Love of Country – SIgned

Goal: Begin Writing a Book:  Okay, so I have begun writing… but still very loosely.  I can’t say I have a full on, fully bought-into book and outline. I very occasionally write a passage to add to the book, and I still consider multiple book ideas to pursue. Just which am I currently pursuing?  I’ll keep that one to myself for now.

Bucket List 2014:  I was able to go Scuba Diving while in the Dominican Republic, and during the home buying process, we were able to enjoy a great family trip to the Poconos during the Summer.  The rest of my bucket list was left behind.  There were several attempts to go skydiving, but last minute scheduling conflicts made it difficult.  Once winter kicked in, I knew it was off the table.

Okay, so now for 2015 Goals:

Goal: Record & Complete One Full Song

2014-12-31 18.07.26

  • I have neglected a lot of my down time, with an increased work schedule. I need to remember to keep some balance.  Not to mention, I do believe growing musically will also sharpen my mind and allow me to think and trouble-shoot in new ways.
    • Objective 1: Record a complete “Draft” of a song.  This includes 3 verses, a chorus, and all original instrumentals (guitar, and digital Audio tools found in ProTools)
    • Objective 2: Enlist the help, pro bono, of a musician and/or musical engineers to complete the song.
    • Objective 3: Record, karaoke type songs to work on my own vocals.

Goal: Return to a Committed Philanthropic Role (with Transitioning Veterans)

  • IMG_20141222_220743I really enjoyed working as a Mentor and Guest Instructor for the Fall 2013 FourBlock classes in New York. I would like to better manager my work schedule to allow me to do work with FourBlock once again.
    • Objective 1: Plan work travel in advance, working around dates and times needed to be in NYC.  I have previously only planned travel as I needed, and then schedule personal agenda items around work.  I think there is a way to make both work more harmoniously.

Goal: Run the Spartan Trifecta 2015, Tough Mudder 2015 x2

  • This last year I ran the Spartan Sprint (5 miles), and the Tough Mudder (11 miles). The longer I have been out of the military, the greater I appreciate the need to ACTIVELY seek and maintain physical fitness.  My body fat percentage has increase, and my physical stamina and strength have decreased.  So I guess the greater goal is to improve and maintain my physical fitness, and over all self-satisfaction.  But the goal of complete one of each distance Spartan event, and this year running the Tough Mudder TWICE back-to-back will be measurable, and indicative of my work to stay in shape.
    Tough Mudder Team Pic 2014

    Tough Mudder Team Pic 2014

    • Objective 1: Run a minimum of 6 miles per week.
    • Objective 2: Go to the gym, or complete at least 1 strength training work out per week.
    • Objective 3: Register for the races
    • Objective 4: Don’t let scheduling be an excuse

Goal: Confirm Education and Professional Value Building Plan

  • I have let work dictate my current actions, so much so that I have not allotted enough time/attention to the current time that should be allotted for an improved future. While I am not fully convinced that an MBA is exactly what I should be investing both time and money into – I know that I DO need to commit to some sort of professional development, and firmly commit to a career path.  This year should have a pivot point or two in it, and on the far end of those pivots, I should have enough vision to make an informed decision, and a commitment to my future.
    • Objective 1: To be honest – I think objective one is to speak to a career coach.  I am not sure what steps to take, but perhaps a conversation or two with some professionals I have looked to as mentors will be helpful.

Goal: Get Promoted and/or apply to AND Take On an Advanced Role

  • In the course of transitioning into the corporate world as a Military Veteran, I have completed the “step back and over” in order to take a step forward. Well… there is no time to get comfortable.  Now, it is time to step forward.  During the course of 2015 I will have been in my current position for 2 years.  2 years is my limit for staying stagnant without a move up.  As I see it, I am not here to make moves at an average pace.  I am trying to make up for a “late start” into the corporate world.
    Enjoy the now, but always be looking ahead.

    Enjoy the now, but always be looking ahead.

    • Objective 1: Self-Educate on potential roles within my organization
    • Objective 2: Communicate specific interest and my value proposition to the appropriate leaders in my organization
    • Objective 3: Take on a more active role in additional roles requiring leadership and decision making to help validate my worthiness to take on a more senior role than I am in now.

2015 Bucket List:

  • Go snowboarding at no less than 2 different resorts in the Poconos (Jack Frost and Camelback are in my sights).
  • Attend 1 professional sports game/event
  • Buy a small fishing boat (Jon Boat or Canoe/Kayak)
  • Attend 1 political event (something sponsored by or hosted by a local politician, etc)
  • Host a weekend retreat for friends in Poconos House
  • Build my first piece of large wooden furniture (likely a dresser for my kids)
  • Take an advanced Microsoft Excel Class (online or in person… but let’s be honest, likely will be online)
  • Attend at least 2 BJJ classes – just to stay in touch with it… I miss training 4-5 days a week.
  • Skydiving… maybe. I want to, but not sure I want to hold myself accountable to this one

Alright – that is all for now.

Big lessons from 2014’s goals – is that, for as many of the objectives/goals I did NOT hit, I would not have made nearly as many if I did not set them!  I am happy to have done so, and reflecting on the goals I didn’t make, or seeing how goals changed is a great learning experience – for me, and hopefully for those of you reading.

Another great thing about my goals for 2014… in my efforts to obtain them, I found myself making residual gains or achieved/did things I didn’t plan for.  While I didn’t get to a listed sporting eve, I did get to attend a professional soccer game at Red Bull Stadium, and went to the Eminem and Rhianna concert at MetLife Stadium.  I have also made myself more aware of looking towards the future and not delaying the future because I’m too busy with today.  I have been able to help many Veterans in their transitions just by happenstance even though I was not in an official role to do so – and I couldn’t be happier to do so!

2015 is about growing… as will 2016 and 2017.  I look forward to another year of growth and enlightenment – and hopefully to be made aware of new goals to make for the years to come!

Happy New Year!

It’s no secret that in today’s global economy, if you are not improving you are losing.  So if nothing else, you must be moving forward or in the general direction you aspire to go.

When guiding discussions about establishing “SMART” goals for students, transitioning Vets, or professionals I like to use the GPS analogy…  When using a gps, you must input the address in order to get directions to your destination.  With all the technology in the world, you still can’t arrive at your destination without identifying it.  Well, I’d like to add that – you don’t have the luxury of delaying your decision of where to go.  Actually, you HAVE to be driving… in some direction…At some speed until you can decide on a destination.

So… what happens when you are behind the wheel of a bus, that can’t slow down and you have no destination?  Well Sandra, stopping is not an option.  Thus, the title of this post… and what happens now?  What for those who have identified that you “don’t know what you want to be when you grow up” but have a career started?  You can’t stop the bus, but if you don’t identify your destination soon, you may be traveling in the opposite, or at least wrong, direction until you do.

Typically I like to propose a feasible solution or recommendation each time I highlight a conflict or hurdle.  This time, I don’t have one… or at least not a good one.  You might want to find your Keanu Reeves, a mentor, or an outside perspective that can help you get on course – before things blow up.

The Employer’s Equation:

Veteran Recruitment and Retention

One thing I learned in training to become an infantry officer or as a Marine officer in general:  You have to turn the map around.  In combat – that means you need to see how your enemy expects you to act, and then exploit their plan.  In the civilian world I see it as a mix of strategy and desire as described by the amazing and late, Randy Pausch, creator of the Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon University.

Randy says, in life there are walls.  But those walls are for other people; those walls help you because it keeps those other people from getting to YOUR dream.  If it’s your dream, you’ll find a way around those walls.  As a vet looking for a job, your opponent, your wall, is not an adversary; instead it’s the need of the employer.  If it’s YOUR job, then you will find a way to get over the translation wall and exploit the needs of the employer by demonstrating your ability to fill them.

But for now, I’d like to share an idea with Employers.  In the 1990s, only 3% of the nation’s population was made up of Veterans, while 8% of CEOs in the fortune 500 were Vets – that’s no coincidence.  That’s what happens when drive, technical expertise, and leadership ability come together.

When employers begin thinking about hiring Veterans into their company it starts with the question:  Why Veterans at [insert company]?  Truth of the matter is… they aren’t turning the map around, and they are asking the wrong question.  Let me correctly rephrase the question:

“Does [insert company name] deserve Veterans?”

Hiring Veterans makes business sense; it is not a philanthropic issue.  I’d like to point out a few issues that face employers who enact a Recruitment and Philanthropy only Initiative, and I present them as an equation that results in Turn-Over or Retention.

Philanthropy V. Business, PvB (negative values for Philanthropy; positive values for Business)

Culture Training, CT (a value of 0 for no training, and increasing positive value for added training)

Mining for Oil, MOe (An exponential, “force-multiplyer” of the sum of the previous two values)

Turn-Over / Retention, “Retention” (a negative product results in increased turn-over; a positive product results in retention and efficiency in recruitment)

Looks like:

Employer's Equation for Retention

Employer’s Equation for Retention

There should be a multiple in front of CT, as internal training on culture for the Vets, and leadership for managers is more impactful to the equation than the PvB in many ways, but I cannot identify a percentage to weight it.  I’m going to give a brief explanation of each component, and then I will explain aspects of the equation in my next article.

Philanthropy V. Business:

Recruiting Veterans is a business choice, and it makes business sense.  Just like any business venture with a measurable ROI, it takes investment and monitoring.   Philanthropy is more like what fighter-pilots refer to rockets as “fire and forget”.  You write the check, sign off on the agreement, and it generates smiles, warmth and a few positive PR effects without much follow-through needed.  It also has hard to measure ROI, and its effects cannot be controlled once committed.  If employers only see Vets as a philanthropy and PR topic, rather than the ability to increase training, retention and desire through-out the company – they will never get the value out of the investment.

Culture Training: 

As outlined well through experience and in documented surveys in Emily King’s book “Field Tested”, hiring a Veteran for their leadership and not helping them adapt to corporate culture is a quick way to increase turn-over (civilians don’t take well to command and control leadership).  However, adjusting this to more of a highly efficient, servant leadership style is easy to do if you plan for it.  Veterans also receive a full-time education on customs and courtesies of the military until it encompasses all they do –this needs to be readdressed with recently transitioned Veterans in the workforce.  Don’t think it is that powerful?  I will address this very issue in articles to come. In the meantime, feel free to revisit the second half of, Isolated.

Mining for Oil:

Veterans are like Mining for Oil… especially the good ones.  If a company recruits and retains a Vet, providing them with a positive experience – the Veteran will tell his friends.  High-quality Veterans that employers are seeking are often connected with each other.  You find one – and you find many.  This works in reverse as well:  Burn one good one, and they will warn off their buddies.  The result is a greater negative effect on Employer desirability in the Talent Market, and increased struggles for the company to find good talent.  With companies like LinkedIn now tracking an employers’ “Total Brand Index”, this is a force to be reckoned with.

I will leave it here for now.  The equation is my gift to employers.  Stay tuned as I carry out the next series of articles centered on this very topic.  Touching further on the level of friendships and relationships Veterans once shared, culture of training, mining for oil, and how quotas (often a product of philanthropy) can hurt your company.

As always – please share, and please share your thoughts.

On May 28th, 2014 Stop Soldier Suicide (SSS) will be hosting its 2nd Annual “Night for Life” fund-raising and awareness event aboard the USS Intrepid in Manhattan.  The name of the organization says it all.  It is a very harsh reality that after one of the nation’s most unique and longest armed conflicts, we are losing more Service members and Veterans to suicide than to combat – SSS claims that to be at the rate of 22 Service members and Veterans per day!  Needless to say, that is an astonishing number – but after spending more time than I’d like to admit to thinking about it, I feel like I unfortunately understand.

I’d like to reference something from my 2013 in Review Article posted here at LifebyDamien:

In the year that ensued I began to realize my greatest, most debilitating fear yet:  At 28 years old, I have already lived through the most rewarding, fulfilling, and greatest part of my life.  Now what? … realize[d] that MANY Military Veterans have feared the same after beginning their transition back into civilian life.

I’ve been separated from the Marine Corps, physically, for nearly 2 years now – after being a Marine for nearly 10 years.  I spent ages 18-28, critical development years (per insurance company actuaries and doctoral studies, the male brain doesn’t complete its development in reason and rational ability until the age of 25).  During that time I was exposed to a “normal” that nobody other than Vets will understand… and I’m not talking about combat.  I’m talking about love and companionship.

I’ve noticed that I’ve become a huge baby since leaving the Marine Corps – when I see heroic acts on TV, or examples of highly cohesive teams on Prime Time drama – I get mushy.  Seriously, NCIS, Hawaii Five-O, Band of Brothers, etc…  it’s not because of the psychological trauma the characters are exposed to – but because I see the unspeakable bond that can’t be put into words – and I miss it.  I miss it dearly.  I look back and from the outside, realize that the way we showed our appreciation for the sacrifices we made for each other were rather arrogant.  It was as if unspeakable sacrifice was not just the expectation – but deserved.  In the moment, the appropriate response to someone saving your life – or giving you the last canteen of water in the desert was “told you this was a bad idea – now what”.  Or “Thanks, I would have been fine anyways”.

That’s because it IS expected – because the bond, the love, the camaraderie was so thick and inclusive that anything less would be disrespectful!  I was so incredibly naive to realize my “normal” was the exception.  Service members get out of the military – and that camaraderie is gone.  We realize that our coworkers don’t care if you have to work late – they have their own plans.  The new normal of compassion is “Oh man, I’m sorry to hear that – I hope everything goes well” and 5 minutes later they are on and about their business.  People are afraid to ask for a ride from the one person in the group who has a car.

How do you go from a culture that is so incredibly cohesive, so incredibly driven by camaraderie, that lives by the idea that your primary responsibility is the mission, and the well-being of everyone else OTHER than you – to a culture where meeting once a week for a beer is the norm for “best friends”?  This isn’t PTSD, this isn’t TBI, this – is depression.  This is isolation.  Have you ever felt alone everywhere you went – regardless of who is around you?

Now, take that isolated, beaten down feeling and add it to the thought that you have already lived through the most rewarding part of your life.  Add that, to the memories of experiences you can’t stop reliving but won’t verbalize because you wouldn’t wish the visual on anyone you care about – or anyone with a pulse.  I might say “add” but the effect is compounding, exponential – and enough to convince 22 people a day that their life is better left – behind them.

I don’t ask you to truly feel and comprehend what I am writing about – but I ask you to recognize that there are many out there who do.  Stop Solider Suicide is one organization trying to take the number “22” and instead say, “Not today”.

RIP Uncle Charlie

With Uncle Charlie – 2007 Post-Fallujah

As I write this – I fight, to not repeatedly look at the single picture on my desk… it is not of my wife, my kids or my dog… it is of me standing beside one of the best friends I ever had; who felt life was better left behind him.  RIP Charles B Lock, or as my son knew him as “Uncle Charlie” 19 Jun 1985 – 9 March 2009.

The United States Marine Corps awards the right to carry the “Mameluke” Sword (Seen in Chrome and Gold) to Commissioned and Warrant Officers.  The Marine Officer’s Sword commemorates the jeweled Mameluke sword that was awarded to Lt. Presley O’Bannon after leading a small Marine Detachment to march over 550 miles through the desert before attacking and retaking the enemy’s, heavily-fortified, Derna, Tripoli position.

The Commissioned Officers' Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted's "NCO Sword"

The Commissioned Officers’ Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted’s “NCO Sword”

Today we focus on the Junior Military Officers [JMOs]:

So, let’s briefly go over the profile of a Jr. Military Officer.  I have to admit – I am not as excited about this group as I am the Jr. Military Enlisted – but that doesn’t make them ANY less valuable to the workforce.  On the contrary, my reduced enthusiasm is because JMOs are SO well positioned to take on roles in Corporate America!

First – the hard numbers.  When I refer to JMOs, I am referring to the bell of the curve for officers that:
–          Commissioned after earning a degree and have not had prior military experience as a JME
–          Served honorably for 4-12 years (considering those under 4 years doesn’t help as they are under obligation to serve for a minimum of 4 years, and frequently longer).
–          Previous salary ranging from $66k-$101k/yr (Tax adjusted equivalent: $74k-$115k/yr)
–          Make up less than 10% of the Active Duty Military

JMOs Typically
–          Directly responsible for Assets and equipment usually ranging in Millions to hundreds of millions of dollars.
–          Responsible for 5-150 personnel
–          Have had unparalleled leadership training, and leadership-development training to include proper implementation of performance evaluations, and performance evaluation systems.
–          Have hands on experience in organizational change and change management
–          Have “Employee Relations” and Human Resources expertise regardless of their military specialty
–          Have at least a SECRET DoD security clearance

Depending on the service, many JMOs will have a degree that is relative to their career field.  The Navy is the service where this is most common.  The Marine Corps would be on the opposite spectrum, as Military Occupational Specialties (jobs) for Marine Officers are assigned based on the needs of the Service, with respect to the Marine’s most desired role, and their performance.  At the same time, The Marine Corps is the only service that requires ALL Officers regardless of job, to attend the world’s highest rated leadership course, known simply as “The Basic School” [TBS].

From every civilian organization I have had conversations with, I hear a common theme – It is not so difficult to find someone great at their job; it is ever-difficult to find an effective leader that develops members of the organization at the team level.  In civilian organizations, the logic follows “I’m the best at what I do, and I have earned the right to be promoted into a Sr. role”.  That may be true – but technical expertise and leadership are far different.  JMOs are taught to lead FIRST.  Then they are given the tools of their trades.  Marine Officers spend 6 months, 60-100 hours per week, training with peers – solely on LEADERSHIP, refining their ability to develop OTHERS.  They are the Michael Jordan of corporate employees.  When they are on the court, the rest of the team plays better!

JMOs have experience in developing and being held responsible for the development of protégés, and the junior members of their organization.  Their measure of performance is based on their team.  This is a trait normally reserved for very senior and C-suite executives.    It doesn’t have to be – a JMO is willing and able to fill the void your organization has in developing it’s young talent, creating organizational loyalty, commitment, and efficacy.

When reviewing the resume of a JMO, or interviewing them and you notice a specific job skill they don’t have enough “experience” with – ask yourself:  Which will cost my organization more, teaching him how to use Salesforce, or sending my Salesforce Admin to six months of leadership training and a following 3 years of practical application?  You can hire one technical expert, and you’ve gained one savvy technical expert for your job field.  You hire a JMO, and you gain a team of motivated members of the organization; all constantly being challenged to perfect and grow their technical expertise.

How to Create a Veteran Associate Program (Hiring and Program Guides for Managers and Veteran Profiles included along with an incredible study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families out of Syracuse University.

The United States Marine Corps awards the right to carry the “Non-Commissioned Officer’s” Sword (Seen in gold and black leather scabbard) to those Enlisted Marines once they obtain the rank of Corporal (E-4).  The Marine NCO-Sword is the oldest weapon in continuous service in the U.S. inventory.

The Commissioned Officers' Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted's "NCO Sword"

The Commissioned Officers’ Mameluke Sword and the Marine Enlisted’s “NCO Sword”

Today we focus on the Junior Military Enlisted:

According to the most recently available (2011), complete figures I could obtain per the Dept. of Veteran Affairs, Junior Military Enlisted service members (Those enlisted members with 4-12 years of service, and in the ranks E-3 to E6) make up nearly 50% of the Military’s force.   That is the single largest group of any of the four groups described last week.

First, to reduce risk of carpal tunnel, I will refer to a Junior Military Enlisted service-member, or a Veteran of that group, as “a JME”.  The typical JME has spent 4-12 years on Active duty in the military and in addition to being immersed in leadership training that entire time, they have spent 2-10 of those years in a leadership role.  During which time they have been responsible for up to 30 direct reports (in cases much higher, and in cases never more than a handful).

JMEs with this leadership experience are experts at handling ambiguous situations and making decisions based on what they best understand their superior’s goal or intent to be.  This translates into becoming a manager in a larger corporation that can lead and employ his team, setting and meeting team objectives that are aligned with the organization’s strategic vision.  In the military we like to refer to it as “Understanding a clear Commander’s Intent while operating in a decentralized command structure”.

With the fruition of the Post 9/11 GI-Bill, JMEs are able to pursue higher education at amazing rates.  Based on size alone, separating JMEs who pursue higher-education vs. those who don’t would constitute adding a 5th group.  For ease of identification we will remain with four.  However, from this point forward, I will refer to solely the group of JMEs who pursue higher-education.

For the corporate world, where a Bachelor’s degree is required for employment, seeing a JME with a degree or in pursuit thereof is a great signal!  This means they are already demonstrating a prized leadership quality – Know yourself and seek self-improvement.  Not to mention they have taken Initiative to do so, maintain an internal locus of control, and are combating the ambiguity of financial pressures and security in order to complete their education as opposed to looking for immediate financial gain.  This is a distinction worth noting.

JMEs are SEVEN TIMES more plentiful than Jr. Military Officers (JMOs), and bare the same leadership and educational experience after completion of their degree.  It should be said however, that JMOs get more formal training in the honing and development of their leadership abilities.

To wrap things up, here are two points that are often over-looked by under-exposed and improperly educated Recruiting “Professionals”, often those who will only recruit or who have “clients” that will only hire prior “commissioned officers”:

  1. Formally, Staff-NCOs (Ranks E-6 and above) are charged with the development and mentorship of all JMOs until the rank of Major/Lieutenant Commander (O-4).  In practice, JMOs until the rank of Captain/Lieutenant (O-3) receive constant mentorship and development from JMOs (E-4 and above).  Yes – these NCOs or JME are exactly who have been developing these highly sought after JMOs!
  2. A typical JMO that gets out of the military after 4 or 8 years of service has earned a degree, and THEN gained his leadership training.  A JME who pursues higher-education will have received his leadership training first and then receives the most current in academic training while earning a degree.

 

I’d like to leave our brief description of the JME at that.  Next week, I will even things out a bit by diving further into the unique and valuable assets the JMO offers employers in today’s corporate world.

Until then, I hope to see as many Veteran seeking, or knowledge hungry Human Resource Professionals at the NYSE 2nd Annual Call to Action Forum on Nov. 1st at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, NY!

How to Create a Veteran Associate Program (Hiring and Program Guides for Managers and Veteran Profiles included along with an incredible study conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families out of Syracuse University.

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