Post-Military Resources: Understanding TAP (Transition Assistance Program)

What is TAP?

Military veterans ought to recognize the acronym, TAP as the “Transition Assistance Program” which is an indispensable resource for military Soldier and professional civilian shaking handssoldiers who are transitioning into the private sector.  TAP offers information, important document access, as well as specialized training for Service members — prior to separation from Active Duty — in preparation for various types of employment or education.

Incidentally, TAP was recently redesigned to offer an even more effective level of assistance to separating Service members and their spouses.  The change stemmed from an interagency collaboration which aimed to make military transitions easier by providing necessary information and resources on a more comprehensive, accessible level.

Transition GPS

Under the redesigned TAP, transitioning Service members have the opportunity to acquire skills and expertise which will allow them to meet the career standards established by the Department of Defense (DOD).  Known as Transition GPS (or “goals, plans, success”), the training program includes a wide range of methods and curricula directed by various partners (DOD, DOL, OPM, VA and the Military services).

The five-day mandatory workshop also includes added optional days of training, based upon the Service member’s selected post-military path. Transition GPS is divided into three sessions:

Two days are devoted to training under the core curriculum, which includes review of personal finances, VA benefits, mentorship, and family adjustments.

Three days will be dedicated to Department of Labor workshop, which focuses on resume writing, job interview drills, practice job searches, and social media/networking basics.

The final two days are optional, and spotlight three different post-military pathways:

  1. Educational:  Information on financial aid and classroom adaptations
  2. Working:  Guidance on technical career training and certifications
  3. Entrepreneurial:  Instruction on small business start-ups

VA Briefings

TAP attendees will learn a great deal about benefits and services for which they are eligible as U.S. Military veterans, through the VA Benefitssoldier - interview I and II briefings.  Both briefings are vastly interactive, and activity-based.

  • VA Benefits I:   Information on health care, education, compensation, home loans, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, counseling, and employment benefits, is provided during this four-hour briefing.  This particular program helps attendees facilitate their own personal strategy in regards to VA benefits.  The class has a 50-personal capacity and is also open to spouses and family members, who are encouraged to attend.
  • VA Benefits II:  This supplemental session is a two-hour briefing which includes video presentations and provides a summary of the eBenefits portal as well as further useful facts regarding VA health care services and benefits; including process for disability compensation.

Military veterans who have recently entered the private employment sector have a clear advantage after utilizing a service such as TAP, regardless of their career path of choice.  Even those who decide to pursue further professional development services within the private sector can trust that any new expertise gained will only be enhanced by the fundamental and comprehensive knowledge attained through TAP.

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart Cooper & Coon specializes in career transition services for senior-level military decisions makers and government agency employees by assisting candidates in locating companies who welcome both their leadership and organizational talents.  

Military Veterans: Employment Rights and Resources

The number of military veterans with service-related disabilities has risen in recent years by approximately 16 percent. Disabled veterans who are considering civilian employment should first be aware of their rights before entering the job market.

SCC Leaving MilitaryHere, we review two major federal laws and resources which offer needed protection to veterans with disabilities, whether they are seeking civilian jobs or are already employed.

“Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights” (USERRA)

Under USERRA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against job applicants or employees based upon military obligations or status.  Additionally, it shelters the rights to reemployment for individuals who either involuntarily or voluntarily leave their civilian jobs for military service.  This includes District of Columbia, U.S. Reserve forces, and National Guards.

Employers are required to make “reasonable efforts” to assist military veterans who are returning to civilian employment so they may become properly trained and qualified for the job duties they would have performed, if not for their military responsibilities; regardless of service-related disability.  If a veteran cannot perform the necessary job functions due to disability, the employer is required under USERRA to make reasonable efforts to help the veteran meet the criteria for a job of corresponding pay, status, and seniority, including duties for which the veteran is either qualified or potentially qualified to carry out.  This may consist of offering free training/retraining for the particular position.

USERA is applicable to employers and companies of all sizes, and covers all veterans, including those with or without service-related disabilities.  The “Department of Justice” (DOJ) and the “U.S. Department of Labor” (DOL) are responsible for enforcing USERA; more information can be gleaned at www.dol.gov/vets.

“Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA)

The ADA, which is implemented by the “U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission” (EEOC), disallows private, local, and state government employers with over 15 employees from showing discrimination against any individual based on disability.  Veterans who meet the description offered by the ADA are protected by the law, regardless of whether or not the disability is service-related.

According to Title I of the ADA, employers are prohibited from participating in unfair treatment of an employee or job applicant based upon a disability or history of a disability.  This incorporates all facets of employment, such training, hiring, job assignments, promotions, American Flag and tagstermination, and any other employment-related actions or privileges.   For instance, an employer must not decline to hire a veteran on the basis that he or she has PTSD, received a prior diagnosis of PTSD, or because the employer presumes PTSD is present.  According to the ADA, employers have access to a limited quantity of employee medical information; and any type of poor treatment (such as retaliation or harassment) is also prohibited under the act.

The ADA also provides eligible disabled employees and applicants with reasonable accommodation from the employer when applying for and/or performing their jobs, as well as the opportunity to reap equal privileges and advantages of employment. This encompasses access to the same areas of employer facilities that other employees are allowed, as well as employer-supported job training and social activities.  This particular law is enforced with the exception of excessive hardship to the employer.

To be considered under the ADA, an individual must fall under the description of an “individual with a disability”, which includes:

  • Having a physical or psychological impairment which greatly inhibits one or more significant life activity.
  • Possess a documented history the impairment, such as the condition prior to treatment.
  • Already receiving employer accommodations for existing impairment, regardless of significant limitations.

Employees are considered qualified if they are capable of meeting the employer’s job requirements, such training, education, skills, licenses, or employment services; and are capable of performing the job’s basic necessary duties, with or without the presence of reasonable accommodations.

For more information on the ADA, visit www.eeoc.gov.

For information on other veteran employment protection laws, please access the following resource links:

State Benefits at Military.com

Veterans Preference Act – U.S. Department of Labor

Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference

OPM Veterans Employment Initiative

 

 

 

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Why Military Vets Make Great Business Leaders

A strong resolve and the ability to make hard decisions are not only common, but necessary traits of military soldiers.  Therefore, it is no corporate militarysurprise that as veterans, they maintain the ability to show strength and composure during difficult and stressful situations, especially in positions of leadership.

Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families conducted a recent study concluding that military veterans hold many of the characteristics that employers commonly seek in top job candidates.  The report, entitled “The Business Case for Hiring a Veteran”, indicated exactly which traits helped veterans succeed in the workplace.  Researchers discovered that among the most useful, were complex team-building skills, a keen commitment to organization, and “high levels of resiliency”.

Of course, there is considerably more at stake in a military environment as opposed to a civilian employment setting, however many of the same military philosophies can be applied to achieve successful results in the corporate private sector.

The military ethos enforces and emphasizes the importance of the team beyond the individual. This framework can be easily and productively applied to business, where a team is only considered as strong and effective as its weakest member, especially in newer organizations. Within the context of a team, results are more readily achieved by calling upon the combined specific strengths of each member, rather than relying on separate solo efforts to reach a challenging goal.  The ability to work as an integral part of a greater whole as well as organize and build an effective team structure is just part of what makes military veterans shine in civilian leadership positions.

SCC-team-player-team-leaderWhether on the front lines of combat or within a competitive business situation, it is the responsibility of the leader to strategize ways of surviving and securing an advantage over the enemy (or competitor).  A capable leader keeps a long-distance view of the situation, avoiding distraction and derailment, while also empowering the team.  Both military officers and business leaders also understand how to create a sense of accountability, not only within the team, but within themselves; for it is their example that sets precedence for the group.

Just as the military is mission-focused, so are successful corporations.  Although a business wager is not a life and death situation, both officers and executives must keep focused on the plan toward ultimate success (or victory).  Just as training, groundwork, and strategy are crucial during combat, the right skill-set mixed with proper planning and follow-through is also a must in the business world. Moreover, understanding how to respond when a situation does not go according to plan is an expertise that translates particularly well from the military into the corporate world, and it’s also another area where military vets show great strength in leadership.

It is within the discipline, tenacity, and directive abilities of military veterans where leaders of all kinds can realize and measure their own capabilities and standards of excellence in the business world and beyond.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

 

10 Ways Military Vets Benefit Their Civilian Employers

Military Networking - Soldier and Civilain Shaking handsMilitary veterans possess a built-in work ethic, which translates to a strong sense of dedication, discipline, and reliability in the workplace.  Additionally, many of the skills and expertise acquired during their time in the military are invaluable assets to employers in all types of industries.  However, despite these facts, it is often difficult to make the transition from the military into the private sector, which is why veterans should never lose sight of their true importance and worth to the civilian work force.

Here are some of the most positive attributes military veterans consistently offer their civilian employers:

1.  Ability to Lead

Soldiers receive special training where they acquire the ability to inspire, motivate, and lead. They are adept at taking responsibility for their duties and actions; all attributes of a superior leader.

2.  Strategic and Organizational Skills

Meticulous planning and the capacity to create and maintain an organized work space is a valuable proficiency common to military veterans, making them indispensible to any work environment.

3.  Capacity to Work Under Pressure

Military training often converts into an elevated threshold for pressure during stressful situations.  Staying cool during high-stakes situations and the ability to view the larger picture are also favorable characteristics to civilian business leaders.

4.  Team-oriented

Teamwork is fundamental to all areas of the military, and subsequently, most jobs in the civilian sector as well.  However, the intensity and degree of collaboration learned by and required of soldiers is in a category all its own, and therefore, highly valuable to civilian employers.

5.  Strong Work Ethic

Since soldiers are conditioned to work until the task or mission is completed, employees with military background are known for applying this ethos to their post-military employment. Timeliness and attention to detail are also common qualities found in veterans, making them often relied upon as key employees in the civilian workforce.

6.  Technical Competency

Technological know-how is essential for military recruits, and the army is where some of the most advanced technology is learned. Members of the military are often among the first individuals to learn and adapt to brand new technological advances as well as the latest global business developments.

7.  Goal-oriented

Veterans have learned to maintain an enormous level of focus and dedication; the concept of giving up or quitting before a goal is reached is simply not an option.  This is strongly advantageous to civilian business leaders who often share a similar mindset and seek employees who do, as well.

8.  Honest and Loyal

There is simply no room for deceit or dishonor in the military; therefore, when an employer hires a veteran, they can be confident in the star-stripe-flag-american-old-glorycharacter and honorability of their new employee. Also, an individual loyal enough to pause his or her own life to serve their country is sure to apply the same ethos to other aspects as well, including post-military employment.

9.  Compliant

Military veterans understand that specific structures and policies are implemented to ensure the well-being of an organization and its associates.  They believe in maintaining a level of respect for rules as well as those who have implemented them.

10.  Maintain Transparency

Parallel to honesty, transparency is highly valued in today’s workforce, and soldiers customarily exhibit this quality.  Owning up to errors and avoiding cover-ups is highly upheld by both the military and civilian employers, alike.

It’s clear that veterans present an exclusive set of skills and principles that are often uncommon in today’s workforce.  Be sure to include these competencies when preparing your resume, cover letter, job application, or interview responses; and do not lose sight of your immense potential when making the often challenging transition into civilian employment. 

 

 

By Fred Coon, CEO

 

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Tips for Writing a Post-Military Cover Letter

When seeking any type of employment, a skillfully written cover letter should offer a valuable introduction, addressing aspects that are often more difficult to explain on a resume, such as work ethic and detailed accomplishments.  Since a great portion of Tips for Writing a Post-Military Cover Letterenergy and effort is rightfully expended toward creating a powerful resume, it is common for many job seekers to overlook the importance of a well-composed cover letter.  Moreover, as a former member of the military, you will also have the chance to reveal and explain qualities and achievements even beyond that of a civilian job candidate.

What to include:

A cover letter should be concise, yet allow you to elaborate on certain abbreviated aspects of your resume.  Choosing approximately two or three military achievements from your resume in addition to a couple of post-military accomplishments, such as volunteer work, internships, or education is recommended.  By expanding upon what is listed in your resume with some pertinent details and highlights, you are giving your prospective employer a better idea of who you are as a job candidate transitioning into the civilian workforce.  However, remember not to ramble or digress away from the main idea, as you don’t want your cover letter to carry on too long.

Bear in mind that your ultimate goal is to convince an employer that you are a perfect match for the position you are applying for.  Therefore, when choosing what to include in your cover letter, select aspects of yourself that are most applicable to your desired position.  The purpose of any cover letter is to support and draw attention to the most important sections of your resume, not duplicate its entire contents.

Your cover letter also provides you with a chance to let your prospective employer know why you have decided to transition into the civilian workforce.  This is particularly important if the position you are applying for does not have direct ties to your previous experience.  Research the organization you wish to work for.  Unless they are openly military-friendly or express a partiality for hiring veterans, focus on civilianizing your cover letter by drawing attention to exactly how you would fit into their organization.  An effective way to achieve this is by interpreting your skills and experience without use of military terminology, and by illustrating direct correlations between your own specific competencies and important aspects of the job description.

One piece of information you should not be afraid to duplicate from your resume is your contact information, namely phone number(s), email, and mailing address.  Some choose to include this in the closing line of the letter or under the signature line.  When writing a formal business style letter, mailing address information is usually included at the top of the letter.

What not to include:

When writing a cover letter, what to leave out can be just as important as what to include.  For instance, unless a job posting directly requests your salary history or requirements, this is something you definitely don’t want to include. Another practice to avoid is stating what the job will do for you; always keep sentences centered on what you can offer the employer.  For example, stating that the job will fit well into your post-military lifestyle or offer a stepping stone into a higher level civilian position, although maybe true, is not showing your potential employer that you are aiming to be a loyal contributing team member.

Additionally, you should avoid including extraneous personal information in your cover letter for the simple fact that it is unnecessary and can also be viewed as unprofessional.  Remind yourself that you don’t want to include specifics that you will not be able to accurately explain in an interview.  Moreover, don’t conclude your cover letter with a statement implying that you will follow up, unless you are absolutely sure that you will.  In other words, make sure you can back up what you write.

The next step: Cover Letter Tips for Vets - Hire me device screen

After you have completed your cover letter, proofread, edited, and proofread some more, now it is time to ask a civilian friend or family member to read it over.  If you are working with a job placement service, a recruiting representative should be able to assist you in this area as well.  Another set of eyes may be able to catch any small mistakes you might have missed, and this makes a huge difference when it’s finally being viewed by a prospective employer.  An external perspective can also give you an opinion as to the general style and tone of your letter. If a civilian is having difficulty understanding any of the military descriptions in your cover letter, you should probably address those areas and rewrite them in a clearer manner.

Transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce can be a hopeful and exciting time in your life, and through some simple guidelines and the right support, you may just find yourself landing the civilian job of your dreams.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Two Ways a Military Background Benefits the Boardroom

Military servicemen and servicewomen are a select group that can bring many unique attributes to the table, displaying several qualities that are very nearly unattainable without the singular experience and knowledge gained by their time in the military. We are going to examine two key points that serve to highlight some of these characteristics, and the way by which they can bring invaluable service to not only the boardroom, but the company at large.

SC&C Military Transition Resume Advice

And make no mistake, the position of CEO is one of the toughest and most demanding in the civilian world, so it would seem a natural expansion to filling that role with an individual who comes already trained to face down a multitude of responsibilities and make the hard calls.

 

Military Exclusivity

 

First, we have to take a look at, as previously mentioned, the manifold levels of experience service in the military renders. This not only fills in crucial gaps of world experience and first-hand knowledge of other cultures and practices, but grants of a variety of perspective that is almost exclusive to the globalized military officer.

 

Also bear in mind that one of the single most important – and “unteachable” – traits for a valued executive is leadership experience. Everyone wants an executive with experience, but there are very few places to obtain a role with real, demanding leadership requirements without already having proven oneself. Enter the military — the place where comparatively young individuals can gain considerable leadership positions under the most extreme conditions.

 

Military Experience

 

As mentioned, individuals who lead the military lifestyle often have the opportunity to obtain a depth and diversity of experience that is difficult to match in other circumstances. While not all service members come directly under fire, the vast majority nevertheless learn how to keep a cool head in trying conditions – whether this takes the form of an emergency equipment failure or learning to operate under the withering and constant barrage of a drill instructor.

 

This degree of tactical detachment transitions extremely well in highly useful ways to the corporate office – once you’ve dealt with life-threatening situations and are cognizant of your ability to come through the other end, deadlines and harsh meetings don’t tend to hold quite the same impact that they might otherwise.

 

Professionals in boardroom

To Close

 

In all, we can well see that the motivation and the discipline that comes from dedicated military service can lend itself to profound advantages in the executive arena. The ability to cope with extraordinary duress creates a rich profile of exactly the characteristics one hopes to find in a business leader – namely, reliability and unshakable stability. We trust our service men and women to protect our interests overseas, and it stands to very good reason that they are worthy of our trust and respect in the boardroom.

 

By Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Is Your Prospective Employer a Military-Friendly Company?

With approximately 400,000 people leaving the military service every year, it is important to have resources that will help them transition into civilian careers.  Some veterans worry about this transition because of concerns that their skills and experience in the military may not be of any use to them or a prospective civilian employer.
Building with American FlagsFortunately, these days, there are many more military-friendly employers, in comparison to the 1990’s. After all, Americans would like to honor and thank U.S. veterans for their dedication and loyalty in serving the country.
But what exactly is a military-friendly organization? How will you know that a prospective employer is truly military-friendly?

1. Does the management team work with transitioning employees to help leverage their skills to a corporate setting?

The estimated unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans as of March 2016 was 6.3 percent compared to the 5 percent national unemployment rate. Although the US Department of Labor has helped veterans secure civilian jobs, veterans still have some hurdles in securing work outside of the military. For this reason, several private employers have announced their commitment to hire veterans and military spouses. In addition to their commitment, many of these companies have an affinity group for veterans that mentors the new employees and participates in the military community to ensure that veterans and/or military spouses feel that they have a community at the workplace.

 

2. Does the company offer roles that positively incorporate the standard skill-set of military trained employees?

Military-friendly companies will make sure transitioning employees are placed in a department where they can use their specific skill set in their work. They see the value of work offered by veterans who want to transition to civilian employment. These veterans are hired because of their leadership skills and technical know-how, in addition to the field experience they earned during their military service.

 

3. Are there any other ex-military employees already working there?

Don’t hesitate to ask around. If a company is military-friendly, you will find military veterans or military spouses working there. There are several military-friendly companies hiring veterans these days. There is a high probability that you will find veterans or military spouses you may already know, working for these companies. When you do find someone familiar, it is best to ask that person about the company and its practices, especially where the treatment of veterans and their families are concerned.

 

4. Military-friendly companies give to veteran non-profits in a meaningful way.

Serious military-friendly companies do not call the media whenever they donate something to non-profits for veterans. Do some research and you will discover which non-profit organizations they are supporting. If you belong to one of the non-profit for veterans that they do support, these companies will usually match employee donations, and others even allow their workers to volunteer on company time.

 

5. Is the company marketed as a choice military employer?

Perhaps the easiest way to find military-friendly companies is to check the list of Top 100 Military-Friendly Employers listed on Victory Media’s site, MilitaryFriendly.com. Every year, this organization publishes the list with the ranking based on a survey comprised of 100 questions that is overseen by an independent advisory board of industry experts.

Handshake_across borders / military
Today, veterans have more employment opportunities and support compared to decades ago, when veterans who wanted to transition to civilian employment. However, veterans need to do research on their prospective employer. Veterans should choose organizations where they can use their military skill and/or experience and seek companies that truly support veterans and their families. Additionally, just like civilian employees, veterans should choose a company where they see themselves happily working for several years to come.

 

By Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Military to Corporate: How to Shift Your Communication Styles

communicating ideasThe transition from the heavily ingrained military culture to the corporate, civilian environment can be one of the greatest challenges facing post-duty service men and women today. And one of the key aspects of this transition is the manner in which communication differs in these starkly contrasting worlds.

It’s vital to understand here that this isn’t simply a “different way of doing things”; the subject today, is about fundamentally different cultures and different languages.

The Military

On the field, force of arms and virtue of rank carry the day. The demands of performance that flow from that environment are rapid-response, no hesitation, and unswerving commitment to the task at hand

A key concept here is that of military bearing. You have been trained to take a full dressing, up and down, and maintain an impassive discipline. The civilian world operates under different rules, where that manner of communication occurs only if something has gone very, very wrong.

You’ll also be accustomed to an exacting precision of both conduct and hierarchy. Both of these, though the former more than the latter, will be far more mutable in the civilian world.

 

The Corporate

In the boardroom, the spoken and written word is the driving force.

One of the key differences that may take the most adjustment for soldiers is the environment which fosters creativity, or collaboration. The blending and melding of ideas and the free flow of working concepts is the heart of innovation. As such, many roles, attributes, and responsibilities are flexible and fluid as collaborative projects spanning multiple departments flow back and forth – this is the realm of lateral strategy and assignments.

One of the greatest advantages to the corporate field is that the more matrix-oriented organizational system (rather than the militaristic ladder dynamic) is the near-unbounded potential for rising up the ranks – and fast, depending on your skills, leadership, and networking abilities.

 

The Common Misconception

One of the most persistent misconceptions is that military members are only good for following orders – their contribution to the corporate structure is simply carrying out directives. Rather, the truth is that many, in their time in the military, are taught leadership skills that are of rare quality in the civilian world, such as: fast decision making, taking full responsibility, keeping a cool head no matter what’s happening, and so much more.

There will be an adjustment period – acknowledge and accept that. It is both normal and perfectly understandable. It also helps to know that your biggest challenge is in the narrative, because it is a very well understood issue.

Conclusion

Group sharing ideas in office settingThe journey from one side of the uniform to the other can be a daunting one, in both the coming to and the going from. The most important thing to know is that you’re not alone, and there are resources and people ready and waiting to work with you toward your next successful steps.

By Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Top 7 Interpersonal Skills

In any business environment, whether dealing with a customer or a fellow employee, interpersonal skills are indispensable. People who lack interpersonal skills are like fingernails on a chalkboard, or sand in the gears. They make all interactions more difficult.

What are these skills?

  • Verbal communication–Which words we choose and how we express them
  • Nonverbal communication–Body language, hand gestures, and facial expressions
  • Listening–Paying attention to correctly process information
  • Negotiation–Professionally discussing, and then reaching an agreement
  • Problem solving–Firefighting vs. Predictive Analysis
  • Decision-making–A professional environment requires a professional solution
  • Assertiveness–Self-confidence is vital; others must trust your decisions

Verbal Communication

SC&C Interpersonal SkillsClarity of speech is essential; no mumbling. Maintain an even and level tone; no yelling allowed, despite any provocation. The most effective communicators understand the principles of common courtesy. Applying that knowledge automatically makes you a better communicator. Most importantly, remember that what you have to say is not a monologue or a diatribe.

The best way to interact with other individuals is not to lecture, but rather to utilize open questions. Closed questions usually generate a “yes” or “no” answer and are essentially useless. Asking someone: “How do you think we can improve X in the next Quarter?” will be much more productive. They feel like they’re contributing to the conversation, that their input is valuable, that you consider them an asset.

Nonverbal Communication

Stand at ease and keep your hands off your hips; avoid crossing your arms, which looks defensive and distant; don’t loom over other people. If you’re particularly tall, stay just a little further back to reduce the intimidation factor.

Use your hands as a visual aid to explain concepts. Keep a pleasant expression on your face whenever you can. A smile goes a mile in a business environment.

Listening

If a fellow employee tells you that a client is waiting for you in your office, and you then leave for lunch, the repercussions could be very damaging to the whole business. You might even be terminated for such a blunder.

Being very focused in a conversation with someone is no excuse for not registering important information from an interruption. “Harry…Mike is waiting in your office.” Do something uncharacteristic, such as holding your keys, to remind you that there is another task waiting; grab a piece of scotch tape and put it on your palm…just about anything will work.

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening —Larry King

Negotiation

The days of the Iron Fist are gone! When employees or clients complain or seek favors you must listen, discuss, and then develop a fair solution for everyone. And of course you can’t capitulate to every demand or request:

“I understand, Jacquie.  We have tried that strategy before. What I’d like you to do is speak to Bruce about it and figure out why it didn’t work last time. Then you can have a chance to implement it next month. For now we’ll stick with what does work—does that seem fair?”

Problem Solving

SC&C Problem SolvingFirefighting is a fantastic skill, but great problem solvers seldom need it. At the first sign of smoke they’re already working on a solution; they don’t wait for flames before they start considering whether a bucket of water will suffice, or if they should start looking for a fire extinguisher. The most desirable skill you have in this area is the ability to recognize a problem in development.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
― Albert Einstein

Word of warning: If your department runs like clockwork, if everything is always done ahead of schedule, and if the employees think you’re the greatest thing since the Internet, watch out. Make sure people know about all your good work to keep it that way.

Higher-ups have been known to come to the mistaken conclusion that the department is “easy”; that it “runs itself”, when it seems to work flawlessly. You can miss out on raises or promotions that way. File reports and toot-your-own-horn periodically!

Decision-making

Split-second decisions can result from familiarity with factors in other problems someone has experienced previously. Given the time, however, it’s very seldom that you cannot provide a better, more comprehensive solution when you dedicate some time to research and thought.

This is the time where you get to break the problem down into its components, examine options, and work out strategies and objectives. Snap-decisions are good for emergency situations; in almost every other circumstance thoughtful decisions are better.

Assertiveness

Louder is not assertive; it demonstrates an inability to think clearly and insecurity issues. People do not respect a wishy-washy leader.

Self-confidence is vital; others must trust that you trust your own decisions. Stick to your plan, and if you’re obliged to change your plan, make sure you have prepared a new and better plan, and explain the reasoning and changes to your staff.

Developing interpersonal skills is vital in every occupation. The ultimate secret is to be courteous, attentive, supporting, communicative, and a team player.

Job Search for Graduates

As you are leaving your military career, you can learn from the advice of recent graduates. Although you are different levels of your career, you can use these tips to be prepared for your next job.

College graduates need a place to apply their newly acquired skills. One person I know graduated in 1977, and two times since, most recently in 2012. Each time the consequences of graduating changed. Depending on the college, the administration staff, and the student & alumni associations, the experience can be quite different.

Network Company Recruiters

In its current iteration, if all of those bodies are on their toes, then each semester, just before the term ends, grads will be faced with recruiters from many industries, stationed strategically across the campus. Don’t fret if you still have a couple of years before you graduate; these folks are looking for a steady supply of young recruits on a permanent basis. There is no harm in getting in early.

Talk to their representatives and see if the company is doing things that interest you. You are developing a professional network, and this will be the key to landing a job.

Learn to tell a great story of how you grew up, an event that shaped your life or even a vacation that took you to a new place. People want to hear new perspectives. They want to get a sense of your ability to articulate, and they want to know that you are interesting—Monica Smith, founder and CEO MarketSmith and I.Predictus

Tell them what you’re good at; what you’ve accomplished; what makes you special. Stand out for them, and collect business cards. Don’t count on just giving them your résumé and hoping for the best.

Find out what they’re up to; if they can somehow be a part of your success strategy. If you are particularly interested in a company, keep them apprised of new accomplishments. Take an internship between semesters if available. Stay in contact.

Those that passively send out résumés, or post them to the most common job boards are not going to stand out. They will find themselves up against thousands of people with identical skill sets. You need to network your way inside a company by creating contacts.

Research Career Paths

You go to the airport with your bags packed and speak to the ticket agent:

“Give me a ticket to somewhere great!”

“Where do you want to go?”

“I couldn’t tell you—just make sure it’s exactly what I want.”

Not very realistic, is it? Instead, whatever your interest, it’s up to you to put some time aside daily to read up on your field. What are the big guys doing? What are the amazing little startups doing? Do you want to be a cog in the machine (nothing wrong with that—it took thousands to get the Apollo astronauts to the Moon and build the International Space Station), or do you want to be on the bleeding-edge and be the first person to walk on Mars?

Whatever it is, you have to have a pretty good idea of where you’re headed or you’ll never get there. Consider: Google has 57,000 employees worldwide. In the United States, if only one person in 100,000 wants to work there, you would have over 3,000 competitors. Luckily 90% of them send a single résumé on the “off-chance” that they might get noticed. The remaining 300 do a pretty good job, so they’re the ones that you have to outsmart.

Having a strong personal brand involves knowing where you’re going in life. Recruiters want to hire young people who have put serious thought into their futures— Alexa Merschel, campus-recruiting leader for PwC US

Know Company Terms and News

Know the vernacular, jargon, and industry-appropriate terminology when talking to recruiters or the HR department of your favored industry or employer. Try to avoid empty buzzwords, instead showing a thorough understanding of your subject.

Remember: nothing is more impressive than being knowledgeable about the company you’re talking to. Want a job at Dell? Ask about the overlap between storage protocols after the acquisition of EMC for $67 billion this year. Ask what the consequences of control of VMWare will have on worldwide Data Centers. You’ll see recruiters scribbling notes about you when you show insight.

Stay Active

Keep in touch with your contacts; stay aware of newsworthy events that are happening in their companies. Hook up with them on LinkedIn, following their commentary, and contributing to that community. You’ll reinforce your connection with them, and you will be visible to other people that might be looking for people with your skill set.

If your dream company doesn’t have any openings, try sending them a proposal for a new position that fits your skill set. Just make sure you explain how this new job will make them money, not just benefit your career—Andrew Strieber, producer—CareerCast.com

If you have graduated and still don’t have an offer, take part-time work in your preferred (or associated) industry to build your résumé. Perform related volunteer work for the same reason. Find an internship that offers a real learning opportunity.

Just be aware of illegal, exploitative activities, where you’re doing real work that is generating income for the company, if you’re not being paid. The law says they’re supposed to be offering you a learning opportunity, not profiting by having a “free” employee.

With that cautionary note in mind you can avoid companies with dubious ethics that feel entitled to exact a toll before they “honor” someone with a job offer. You’re smart; you know what ethics are. You’ll do just fine!