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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.

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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.

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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?

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.

Overly delayed, but as promised, let’s start looking at the different profiles a high-potential U.S. Military Veteran will likely fall into.  I like to give a broad breakdown of the Veteran Profiles that are most likely to be seeking to enter the non-military workforce.  In doing so, there are four main groups.  I have also described and made the case for one of the four groups in the recently released Hiring Manager Resources published on the New York Stock Exchange Website (I’ll link the work at the end of this article).

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

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

The four main groups of Non-Retiring Veterans are:

–          Senior Military Officers (SMO)

–          Junior Military Officers (JMO)

–          Senior Military Enlisted (SME)

–          Junior Military Enlisted (JME)

Many have heard of the JMO, as they have become a highly targeted candidate pool for both corporations and placement agencies alike.  Where else can you find a pool of talent with post-degree work experience, and a resume of leadership and responsibility that often includes multi-million dollars in assets and organizational command often exceeds 300 people?  The problem is, they only represent 7% of the military – and not all 7% exit the military.  The amount of JMOs actually exiting the military is closer to 2% of the entire military assuming 67% of the military’s JMOs are retained after their first 4 years of service.

For the following summary and description of each group, I will be referencing my own work as published on the New York Stock Exchange website.  Not every member of the military will perfectly fall into the following four groups.  However, for organizations looking to hire Veterans, a clear understanding of the following groups will best prepare you to close the communication gap, and understand the majority of the Veteran population that are currently entering the workforce.

Four Main Categories of Non-Retiring Veterans

  • SMO – Sr. Military Officers (Executive Group)
    • 12+ years of service
    • Often with Master’s credentials and positioned well for Executive and Fast-track leadership programs
  • JMO – Jr. Military Officers (Professional Group)
    • 4-8 years as a Commissioned Officer
    • Highly sought after professional group for Junior and Mid-level Management roles in med-large companies
  • SME – Sr. Military Enlisted (Skilled Group)
    • 12+ years of service
    • Various levels of education and degree progress
    • Often are technical-skilled experts in their job field
  • JME – Jr. Military Enlisted (Skilled Group – Early Growth Stage)
    • 4-8 years of service
    • Mostly hold a High School diploma upon exit, if not a GED.
    • This group is further broken into two categories:
      • JME pursuing/has a degree
      • JME not pursuing a degree

You will notice that “JME pursuing/has a degree” is bolded.  That is because it represents the most under-targeted group that I argue should be considered as equally positioned to JMOs when considered for entry-level and junior leadership roles requiring a degree.  JME within our targeted service time of between 4-8 years of military service make up nearly 50% of the military per 2011 numbers!  That is SEVEN times more than the JMOs.  Additionally, with the onset of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, JMEs are pursuing college degrees at the highest rates seen in history.

This unique set of circumstance creates a large pool of candidates with 4-8 years of leadership training and experience that is unparalleled outside of the military.  Of which many have now earned or are near completion of a degree with the most current curriculum in academia.  Where else can you find a degree holding candidate, with a Quarter-Million-Dollar leadership education and looking to start their career at a salary under $60k/yr?  No Ivy-league school can compete with that.

Stay tuned for next week, as I compare and contrast the great assets both Junior Military Officers and Junior Military Enlisted offer while also giving a more in-depth description of each group.  If you can’t wait until then – feed your curiosity by visiting The Veteran Associate Program page on the New York Stock Exchange Website.

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.

NYSE Euronext celebrates 2nd Annual Veteran Associates Program

NYSE Euronext celebrates 2nd Annual Veteran Associates Program – Photo Credit to Ben Hider at Ben Hider Photography

Through an initial vision, or a Call-to-Action of NYSE Euronext CEO, Duncan Niederauer – the NYSE developed the Veteran’s Associate Program.  After Niederauer’s idea was relayed to the Human Resources department, a program was developed from the ground up and implemented for the first time in June 2012.  The program offers a paid internship to Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are currently seeking or have recently received a degree.  It provides key exposure, education and experience in the corporate world to Veterans.  The Veterans, effectively demonstrate their value by demonstrating the high-value, highly sought after, intangible traits they have developed during their military careers.  These are the same traits that have made Veteran Specific recruitment a multi-million dollar industry for multiple agencies across the nation.

Now that there is some perspective, I wanted to boast a little bit about an amazing experience.  I also wanted to include the first ever, YouTube videos on LifebyDamien.com.  Below you will find the recordings of U.S. Military Veterans ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange.  You can find me in the July 5th closing, front and center as I push the button to ring the bell and my adjacent colleague strikes the gavel.

I have included all 3 closing bell ceremonies as participants of the 2013 Veteran Associate Program were part of, if not the entirety of each bell ringing.  Lastly, I have included a brief video documenting the 2012 Veteran Associate Program’s Inaugural class, and their closing bell ceremony.

Learn more about the Veteran Associate Program, and how to create a Value-driving program in your organization at the NYSE Veteran Programs and Initiatives page.

July 10th, 2013 – Celebrating the Veteran Associate Program 2013

July 5th, 2013 – Celebrating the Veteran Associate Program 2013

June 14th, 2013 – Celebrating the U.S. Army 238th Birthday with Members of the VAP 2013

As promised, Celebrating the Inaugural Veteran Associate Program, July 5th, 2012

Followers of LifebyDamien.com have a fair understanding of my passion for placing well qualified Veterans into the opportunities they have earned and demonstrate themselves uniquely qualified to take advantage of.  It is my passion for the success of my fellow Veterans, and my dislike for the distaste of those who are strictly trying to extort the new buzzword/phrase “Returning Veterans” that leads to today’s article.

First, to my fellow Veterans – Be Warned.  Recruiting firms, more often than not are in this game for Money – Period.  Any marketing plot that will bring them money in the nation’s fastest growing industry in the 2000s (Based on $ spent by major corporations) is fair game.  Placing qualified Veterans is a HUGELY marketable ploy for many reasons.  The main reasons include that many Vets leave the military with unique skills, traits, talents and qualifications that make them the perfect walk-on candidate for DoD jobs, Contractor Jobs, and additional spaces through-out.  There is also the appeal it has to the general public that a company “supports our troops” and is “committed to returning Veterans”.  The truth is, FAR too many of these companies are making claims of commitment, yet they have ZERO or negating proof to support such statements.

Recruiting Agencies, Staffing Firms, Placement agencies… are in it to make money.  Many which try to market themselves as “Veteran friendly”, are using the buzzwords and nothing more.  They have no idea, have not studied, and are careless in truly understanding why Veterans are unique in the traits they bare in addition to the skills acquired.  There is an AMAZING, and overly under-known agency, The Institute for Veterans and Military Families, that has completed and shared empirical research that speaks directly to the FINANCIALLY supported arguments that Veterans make high-value candidates for many of the roles in today’s business world and beyond.  The information is out there – it can be supported!  But don’t be fooled into thinking that all agencies are created equal and will have the knowledge equipped to help you, and guide you, as well as present you to employers.  If this raises question marks behind your brow – please do not hesitate to contact me directly.  I will work with you, do what I can – and it doesn’t cost you a thing!

EMPLOYERS:  Yes – be cautioned.  “Knowing a Veteran”, or just getting excited because your multi-thousand dollar resume screening software found a resume that belongs to a Veteran does NOT make you “Committed to Veterans”.  It doesn’t.  If you would like a start in the right direction, send one of your recruiters to the Certified Veteran Recruiting Program written by Emily King.  It’ll cost you upwards of $3000 or more including tuition, travel and stay for your employee, but that is a drop in the bucket compared to one placement isn’t it?  And what about the lifetime value of a new client that values your demonstrated commitment to Veterans and your quality service in its regard to the clients need and desire to hire Veterans?  Your recruiter will at least have had some sort of formal education to understand Veteran Transitions.  A returning Veteran is more than a catch phrase to add to your write-up when presenting a candidate.  Do your research, and then back it up with ACTION!  Action first, then profess whatever commitment you have demonstrated.  An idea without action is not commitment, it is an idea.

Employers, if you truly do want to crack the puzzle and understand how sourcing, presenting and developing Veterans within an organization is legitimately a smart business move that cannot be ignored, contact me – as I can provide consultation.  I know there are HR teams, and organizations that want to be a part of hiring well qualified, high-potential candidates into their organizations and are genuine in doing so.  I am more than happy to help.  If you are looking for your next gimmick, and aren’t ready to make a true commitment – please continue past and come back when you are ready.

For the record, there are some amazing Veteran focused recruiting firms out there, that TRULY know what they are doing, and they have developed relationships with organizations and companies that also want to make true commitments, while also seeing the great value of bringing Veterans into their organizations.  HirePurpose is one – and by the way, the Founder is a former Marine.  Four Block is another amazing organization – Leading Co-Founder, a former Marine, with co-founding Navy and Army counterparts.  Emily King has revolutionized recruiting of Military Veterans at the Buller GroupDiversant has developed an amazing training and work-to-hire program.

There are many amazing companies doing amazing things such as GE, Macy’s and NYSE Euronext – but I cannot forget to add the amazing effort of networking and coordination for those who truly want to be a piece of solution, and that is the team at GoldenOrb.org.

I always welcome feedback, whether in support of my argument, or in support of higher learning through constructive argument.  I am not a fan of Group Think.

Please, don’t forget to stay in touch with me on LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter, @Mr_DamienB

My personal Brand Part I (Part I – of a three part series)

I was introduced to a concept called “I Incorporated” during my final year of college by one of my business professors, David Bennett.  It was mentioned often in our Career Development class.  Now, I had a concept of what it was before he mentioned it, but I didn’t have a title or a real grasp of it until then.  Since, I have found myself to be a very conscious purveyor of personal branding, or what “I Inc.” is referring to.

Branding is largely what differentiates products that would be commodities based on the consumers experience with that brand.  Or is it that unique experiences received by consumers through actively differentiating products that would be otherwise be commodities is “Branding”?  Maybe it works both ways.  For the sake of this article, the most important concept of branding in the larger sense is that Companies…ahem… successful companies, actively seek to provide their consumers with unique experiences through the companies’ products as an act of branding, in order to garner product and further, brand loyalty. The difficult thing about Personal Branding is regardless of what you say, your actions will constantly provide your audience data/information that will be used to make a conclusion about YOUR brand.

Jim Joseph, a Finalist for the 2013 PR News Social Media Icon of the Year Award, has a great series of books known as, “The Experience Effect” (you can see them listed here under Recommended Reading).  I believe a 3rd part to the series will be out soon enough.  Joseph starts the series with The Experience Effect with large scale branding.  The Experience Effect for Small Businesses is, well, self-explanatory.  The third – as I anticipate will follow the trend – and is sure to give great input on “I Incorporated”.

With this I ask: What do YOU want to be remembered for?  That is part of a brand isn’t it?  When you think of a brand, you don’t think of what they DO; you recall what you REMEMBER them for!

Let’s try it:

BP?…

Xyience?…

Exxon-Valdez?…

Coca-Cola?…

FEMA? …

Johnny Knoxville? …

Alright, the first things I recall: BP – Gulf Oil Spill, gas & snacks; Xyience – UFC, working out; Exxon-Valdez – Oil Spill in Alaska, Questionable drilling practices in South America; Coca-Cola – Caravan of lit-up Coca-Cola trucks, Polar bears, Christmas and great with Rum; FEMA – Have they ever figured out how to do their job? & Katrina; Johnny Knoxville – Jackass.

You might have had different experiences, so the brand associated with each figure or name may be different.  I venture to say that the more successful companies are both better at translating the same brand experience consistently AND better at making each individual experience unique – but still consistent with the branding they desire.

A Brand can have a positive or negative effect.  Clearly, when thinking of personal branding, we cannot afford a negative effect.  This is something I think about in my daily activities, my projects, my efforts, and my goals.  What am I doing that I can influence that is will build my brand?  Well, a good solid base is something I and my peers like to call, “being a good dude”.  Now, what do I want to be known for? Well – reliability, determination, drive…

I know that my brand will be incorporated in anything I do, and it drives me to do even better.  Every person I meet, every interaction I have, and most importantly every action or inaction I take and whether it coincides with what I say, is a reflection of my brand.  What will people remember of me? What do they recall when they think of LifebyDamien.com?  What feelings does my name provoke in others?  How am I, and how WILL I be remembered?  Needless to say, I have a lot of personal branding to do – and it is never over.

I look forward to building the Veteran Recruitment Division at Creative Solutions Services, and I know its brand, as a tool for Veterans and Corporations alike will be based largely, on the my personal brand – until it takes on a brand of its own.  I am leveraging my own brand, to gain initial support for this new product, this new brand.  My leverage will only go so far.  Even more so, if the VRD brand does not prove successful, my personal brand will take a hit.  If the VRD brand does grow to be successful, as will my personal brand grow in reliability.

Stay tuned for “My Personal Brand Part II” as we discuss “intent vs. result” and examine choices some have made to protect their brand and how the efforts turned out.   Then to conclude, “My Personal Brand Part III” as we discuss the conflict and what Veterans Need to be aware of as the dynamics of “I Inc.” change upon leaving the Military.

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