Friday, March 29, 2013

Year two.

Today marks the begining of my second year as a civilian.

One year ago, yesterday, I woke up in the morning, in my old childhood bedroom, at my mother's house in Houston, Texas.

I was 29 years old, with a pregnant wife, 3 months along, carrying twins.

I had no job lined up, no apartment, no home of my own.

A large dog and a couple of cats were already on my "payroll" as well.

I no longer had anyone to make me get up and out of bed, or telling me that I needed to put on a uniform and shave my face.

I was, after 11 and a half years of active military service, alone and adrift in the civilian community.

All I had was a few new suits, a decently polished resume, and a mountain of determination in my heart.

I had no option to hang out and meet up with old friends. I didn't have the time to kill, nor the money to burn through, to even realistically move into my own apartment.

I felt angry. I was upset at myself for all of the turmoil and chaos surrounding my transition to the civilian world. I wanted to be a civilian, but I also wanted more time to line things up and work out plans in order to become successful.

Time is never on your side when awaiting discharge.

It's never too early to plan what's going to happen after the last day you have to put on that uniform.

Once it comes off, and goes into the storage box, attic bound, a change seems to happen.

It is a change that can either go very wrong, or very right. And the decisions made at that point are so critical, as they can determine the next few years of life.

Will it be a constant battle and struggle? Or will it be a ride of excitement and creativity?

I have worked tirelessly to ensure the latter.

All of the skills that I learned in the U.S. Air Force have helped me to transition into a new position in life.

One that demands leadership, professionalism, and poise.

Many times during my duties working in the community, I am one of the few Veterans that people are exposed to. So the burden is on me to show that we are a capable and respectful bunch.

Over the past year of life, I had two beautiful children, started a brand new job in an industry new to me, performed weeks of charity work, given jobs to veterans, helped homeless veterans find a place to live, and networked with other successful veterans to continuously develop and enhance our local community and the lives of those around us. 

For me, the transition is scary and challenging, but is also the most rewarding time of my life.

What are you doing to plan your transition? Who have you networked with? Do you understand the value of personal presentation? Can you adapt your resume and skillset in order to translate your worth to a civilian employer?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The War at Home: The Struggle for Veterans to Find Jobs

In today’s tough and competitive job market, it can be challenging for any adult to land a decent job. Though education can definitely improve outcomes, sometimes it’s not just about the degree. Experience can also play a major role in helping people find jobs. Yet in some cases, experience can work against you. Just ask one of the many college-educated military veterans who serve their country only to return to find a job market that doesn’t want anything to do with them.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for female veterans was 8.8% in January, compared to 7.5% for men and 7.7% for female civilians. And with an unemployment rate of about 20%, members of the National Guard and Reserve are faring far worse in the job market.

The Veteran’s Plight in the Job Search

Bruce Hurwitz created Hurwitz Strategic Staffing to promote the hiring of veterans.

“Twenty percent of jobs in the military have no civilian counterpart,” he said. “A truck driver is a truck driver, a warehouse manager is a warehouse manager, and a software developer is a software developer. But a sniper…”

Army veteran John Lee Dumas said he had zero anxieties about finding a job after graduating college and had been told that his military experience would give him a leg up on other candidates. But things didn’t turn out that way.

“I quickly found out that I was lumped together with recent college grads for entry-level positions, and that an employee that had two years experience at a job in a similar industry was considered way more qualified than I was, despite my four years as an officer in the army,” Dumas said.

When Dumas did find work, he said it was difficult to acclimate to the civilian office environment.

“I often found that my peers and above had a hard time dealing with my direct approach and attitude about tackling problems head on, often asking for forgiveness rather than permission,” he said.

Dumas found entrepreneurship was a much better fit for him, and he now uses the skills he acquired in the military to run Entrepreneur on Fire.

Statistics suggest that employers do want to hire veterans. According to a Career Builder survey, 65% of employers said they would be more likely to hire a veteran over another equally qualified candidate, while 29% of employers say they are actively recruiting veterans to work for their organizations.

So what’s the problem?

One issue is that veterans are too modest when it comes to stating their accomplishments in the military.

“For some reason, I’ve had veterans not tell me about their awards and honors, but it should all be listed – from commanders’ coins to medals of honor,” Hurwitz said.

Navy veteran Tim Graves, who has a career in workforce development helping companies understand the benefits of hiring skilled and experienced military veterans, agreed.

“[Employers] often complain that they can’t identify veterans because it is never on their resumes,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long ago you served, you need to highlight that service.”

The Career Builder survey found that 30% of employers said it’s not always obvious to tell whether a candidate is a veteran.

“Military veterans are not taught how to self-promote,” said Lida Citroen, who has a resource on her website specifically devoted to help veterans transition to civilian jobs. “To be successful in service, it is important to put troop and mission ahead of self. Unfortunately, when veterans try to enter the civilian marketplace, they quickly realize they don’t know how to sell themselves to potential employers.”

PTSD and Deployments: Disclose or Not?

Some employers can also be hesitant to hire veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“As for PTSD, there is concern. But there is a simple answer. ‘I have PTSD. I take medication and once a week I meet with a therapist. If I am having difficulty, I know who to call. But I want to say something,’” Hurwitz said.

Graves said that PTSD shouldn’t be a factor in hiring, but it is.

“Anyone who has been in a traumatic situation suffers from post-traumatic stress, but not all of them experience the syndrome of PTSD,” Graves said. “People with PTSD are also protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so if you are systematically screening out veterans from your process because of this bias, you will eventually have to explain your underutilization of veterans to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.”

Additionally, military reservists who could possibly be deployed may be hesitant to divulge that information to employers.

“They are protected under the law. I tell reservists not to bring it up, but if the employer asks, be honest about employment cycles,” Graves said. “They are protected under Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.”

Ted Daywalt, president of VetJobs, said he counsels those in the National Guard and Reserve to leave their military experience off the resume completely, due to a bias against hiring of NG&R.

The Trouble with Translation

Nearly every career expert will agree that translating military skills to the civilian workplace is one of the most difficult things to do for veterans on the job hunt.

“When you get out of the military, you need to know that things will be different,” said Army veteran Holly Mosack, director of military recruiting for Advanced Technology Services. “You have to realize that only one percent of the country has served in the military, so people can’t relate to your experiences.”

Hurwitz said vets should be more general in describing duties and veer away from graphic details.

“If you were responsible for a warehouse, you shouldn’t write that you were responsible for storage and distribution of bullets, mines, and guns because some civilian employers may become nervous,” he said. “All the civilian employer needs to know is that the veteran had to track 140 different units, each in quantities between 1,000 and 500,000, and successfully made 750 deliveries a day. A sniper can’t write ‘I killed the enemy without harming the civilians who were surrounding them.’ The sniper should instead write, ‘Focused and great under stress.’”

Steve Padhi, currently an active duty lieutenant commander in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, had a four-year break from service in which he held jobs as a high school teacher and an engineer-diver.

“Even though I had five years of active duty experience after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy with a B.S. in Ocean Engineering, both the education and the engineering industries viewed me as entry-level, plus a couple steps for maturity beyond the average recent college grad,” Padhi said. “It was understandable in light of the highly technical nature of the job, which didn’t exactly match what I had done in the military. The discouraging part was that I only realized what those active duty years really meant to me when taking stock of my position relative to the other entry level peers. I didn’t see myself the same as them in terms of managerial potential, but that is the nature of business in a technical field.”

A Sense of Entitlement

Interestingly enough, Graves, a Navy veteran, said that the largest obstacle for finding a job is often the veterans themselves.

“They often have the attitude that they are owed a job, and are under the impression that their skill set is more valuable than their civilian counterparts,” Graves said. “They have to understand that you can’t take a CEO of an organization, put stars on their shoulder, and expect them to be a successful general. Just like they can’t take their rank and walk in to the top of the chain of command in a civilian organization.”

Identifying and Leveraging Advantages

Dani Ticktin Koplik, founder of dtkResources, believes that in veterans’ outcomes in the job market to change, they should strive to understand the context and needs of the civilian workplace.

“The reality of the civilian workplace – what it looks like, what it values, how it operates – is quite different from the military reality,” Koplik said. “Very simply, if vets want to secure employment, build a career, and succeed in the civilian sector, they have to accept what today’s business reality looks like. Business now is highly relational, collaborative, and interdependent which means that employers also look for candidates who ‘fit’ into their corporate culture, who understand and embody their corporate mission and buy into their corporate values.”

Koplik said this is often foreign to vets who succeeded in a military culture based on merit, in which expectations for performance are well-articulated, clear, and consistent.

“In the civilian workplace, competence is assumed and progression through the ranks is often a function of personal relationships, of visibility, and of the softer skills such as displaying emotional intelligence, being able to communicate and build rapport, and establishing trust.”

Citroen said she encourages veterans to become active on LinkedIn and other networks, both in person and online.

“They should join community groups and business networks,” she said. “There are great jobs that are not advertised, and the traditional ‘say and spray’ model of shooting out resumes is not as powerful at helping recruiters find you.”

Daywalt stressed that there are more than 200 skill sets used in the military needed by civilian employers, with leadership being the main skill.

He also said it’s important for veterans to avoid using military jargon, citing O*NET Online as a good resource to help veterans convert their military skill sets into civilian terminology.

Sara Sutton Fell, founder of FlexJobs, suggested that veterans market their supervisory experience to employers.

“Military personnel have extensive supervisory experience as they move up in rank. Not only do they perform as a supervisor and manager, often for numerous projects, programs, or units, but also as a mentor and professional development instructor,” she said.

Fell also stressed the importance of certifications obtained while in the military.

“It is all dependent on the career field of the member, but many gain extensive professional certifications that can translate into the civilian sector. Some such certifications are found in areas such as legal, hazardous materials, healthcare, engineering, transportation, accounting/finance, and information security.”

Recent efforts by the National Guard have already proven effective in putting Minnesota’s military veterans in civilian jobs, as reported by Minnesota Public Radio.

Acting proactively, a team of military officials accompanied government, education and business leaders to Kuwait where they spent a week on a military base and led troops through a rigorous set of exercises designed to help prepare them to job hunt. The exercises included sessions on resume writing and career planning and mock interviews. Of the more than 500 service members who returned from the Middle East without civilian jobs, guard officials said only 35 are still looking for work.

Career Resources for Veterans

There are numerous resources available to military veterans searching for employment. Here are a few:
  • Wounded Warrior Careers Program: Offered through the National Organization on Disability (NOD), this program’s purpose is to help veterans with serious disabilities achieve meaningful, rewarding and sustainable careers in the civilian sector. Career specialists work with the veterans, providing support and guidance to help them identify and achieve their career goals.
  • VetJobs: Sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), VetJobs is a job board which allows employers to easily reach all members of the military community. VetJobs was established in 1999 and receives 20,000 visitors a day.
  • Bonds of Courage: With a staff that includes veterans themselves, Bonds of Courage offers a variety of assistance to veteran job-seekers – from networking to preparation for answering difficult interview questions.
  • Feds Hire Vets: This veteran’s employment website was created as a direct result of the Executive Order signed by President Barack Obama regarding the employment of veterans in the federal government. The site includes information for veteran job seekers, transitioning service members, and veteran’s family members.
  • Veterans Green Jobs: Founded in 2008, this organization connects military veterans with training and employment opportunities in the green sector. Any military veteran who served 180 days or more and was discharged under honorable conditions is eligible for the programs.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Veterans Transition From Military to Civilian Life


When Stephen Otero made his way to Houston last May, he had a "resume, a few suits and a lot of determination." The Air Force veteran who served as a combat photographer came looking for work and hit pay dirt at a "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair.

Otero is now the public relations director for Security America Mortgage. Not only does the company specialize in home loans for veterans, they're in the business of hiring veterans.

"We like to train veterans to help veterans because it just makes sense," said chief executive officer Garrett Puckett. "They know the lingo."

Veterans bring all kinds of skills from the battlefield to the business world, Puckett said, including attention to detail, the ability to follow through and meet deadlines, and the capability to work under pressure - talents that come in handy in the high-pressure realm of real estate finances.

Director of operations Jason Noble said veterans can enjoy a long career in this type of industry and have the potential to do quite well financially. They already have the skill set, so it's just a matter of business boot camp to prepare them for a different type of front line, this one in the world of loan specialists, mortgage processors, underwriters, and real estate agents for the sister company, Houston-based Security American Realty.

"I've been in the mortgage business for a decade, and I can say the training, licensing, education and support here are second to none," Noble said.
While Security America Mortgage has long been recruiting veterans into corporate America, the company has recently ramped up its efforts as part of a nationwide call to put veterans to work.

During his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said an additional 34,000 troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by early next year. That means they will need jobs. And, in an August 2012 speech, Obama pointed out that "four years ago" there were 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the end of 2012, nearly two-thirds came home. They needed jobs. Obama challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans or military spouses, a goal that was not only met, but exceeded.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 29 percent of employers were actively recruiting veterans as of November 2012, up from 9 percent one year earlier. Sweetening the pot are several tax benefits through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program, in some cases worth thousands of dollars.

"Yes, there are tax incentives out there," said Mike Chandler, senior vice president of manufacturing for Dr Pepper Snapple Group. "If not, we would hire veterans anyway. It's the right thing to do."

Chandler was on active duty with the Marines from 1983-1987, followed by three years reserve as a field artillery officer. Now, at Dr Pepper Snapple, Chandler oversees manufacturing at several plants, including Houston.

He and Lain Hancock, executive vice president of human resources, work with recruiting firms to bring senior noncommissioned officers and junior military officers to the private sector. They also partner with online military recruiting organizations and work with the Texas Veterans Commission.

Hancock, a 1992 West Point graduate who served with the Army until 2003 as an aviation branch officer, said they bring in veterans at any number of levels, but most often as production supervisors and district managers.

"They bring the 'can-do' leadership attitude," Hancock said. "We teach them the technical aspects of the job."

Veterans do quite well during the transition from camouflage to white collar, Hancock said, because they know how to adapt to changing environments.

"They have worked with millions of dollars of equipment and have been put into ambiguous situations where they're expected to make decisions based on the training they've received," Hancock said. "They have been given a tremendous amount of responsibility early on in their military career - more so than you might see in someone coming straight out of college."

Link to original article: CLICK HERE

Friday, March 8, 2013

Direct Source on cuts implemented DoD Wide

This was provided to me from a source in the Pentagon.

Direct from the Horse's mouth on what is being changed right now with benefits.

FROM: Robert F. Hale, United States Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)

SUBJECT: Additional Guidance for Handling Budgetary Uncertainty in Fiscal Year 2013

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide some additional guidance to the Deputy Secretary of Defense's memorandum on "Handling Budgetary Uncertainty in Fiscal Year 2013", dated January I 0, 2013, to ensure consistency in the treatment of issues across the Department of Defense (DoD) as the reductions levied by sequestration and a year-long continuing resolution are implemented. All of these policies are effective immediately.

Congressional Travel Support

The Department will enforce strictly DoD's policies in its support of travel by congressional delegations (CODELs) and congressional staff delegations (STAFFDELs). It is DoD's policy that support for approved travel of members and employees of Congress shall be provided on an economical basis upon request from Congress, pursuant to law or where necessary to carry out DoD duties and responsibilities. Organizations need to ensure that travel of members and employees of Congress is sponsored by the DoD only where the purpose of the travel is of primary interest to and bears a substantial relationship to programs or activities of DoD and is not solely for the purpose of engendering goodwill or obtaining possible future benefits. Specific guidance is included in DoD Directive 4515.12 (DoD Support for Travel of Members and Employees of Congress) dated January 15, 2010. Some specific policies worth highlighting include:

• Military airlift will not be used for CODELs if commercial airlift is reasonably available.
• Within the Continental United States (CONUS), no CODELs may use military
airlift as commercial airlift is readily available.
• Military airlift may be authorized for CODELs when in a Combatant
Commander's theater if commercial airlift is limited or unsafe; every effmt must
be made to minimize costs.
• Spouses may accompany members ifthere is an official function as long as they
pay their own expenses and do not increase the number or size of aircraft required:
• Minimum number of congressional members for military airlift originating in CONUS.
• No less than 5 members for large aircraft
• No less than 3 members for small aircraft
• Tickets purchased by DoD for CODELs, STAFFDELs, and liaison escorts.
• Must be economy class; individuals may upgrade at their own expense.
• DoD does not pay for a member's personal staff traveling to his/her home
State/District; this includes travel, lodging, meals, or escorts.

All itineraries for CODELs/STAFFDELs must be approved by the escorting Service's 2-star Legislative Affairs Director to ensure that the itinerary is an efficient use of taxpayer's funds.

Tuition Assistance

All Services should consider significant reductions in funding new tuition assistance applicants after the date of this memorandum for the duration of the current fiscal situation.

Civilian Monetary Awards

Consistent with guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB Bulletin #M-13-05, Agency Responsibilities for Implementation of Potential Joint Committee Sequestration), the Department will not issue discretionary monetary awards for its civilian employees, which should occur only when legally required, until further notice. For bargaining unit employees, all bargaining obligations must be fulfilled prior to implementing the OMB guidance.

Participation in International Events

The Department should limit its participation in international events except in those instances where individuals are supporting Foreign Military Sales and the funds supporting these efforts are not being sequestered because the accounts are exempt from sequestration.

Demonstration Flying

All aerial demonstrations, including flyovers, jump team demonstrations, and participation in civilian air shows and military open houses will cease as of April 1, 2013.

Flyovers in support of military funerals will be given special consideration. To ensure consistency across the Department all exceptions and waivers for demonstration flying will require the concurrence of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs before approval.

Support to Non-DoD Organizations

All military support to non-DoD organizations for outreach activities will cease, except when the Department has authority to retain any reimbursement and is fully reimbursed for all incremental costs incurred in providing the support. This includes, but is not limited to, military equipment displays at civilian air shows, parades, and civic events.

Fleet/Service weeks as well as military open houses, and local community relations activities are permitted as long as the support/equipment can be provided locally and at no cost to the Department.

To ensure consistency across the Department, all exceptions and waivers for support to non-DoD organizations and special events will require the concurrence of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs before approval.

Military Musical Unit (and Ceremonial Unit) Travel

Military musical and ceremonial units will not be permitted to travel beyond the local area immediately surrounding their respective duty stations except when all transportation, lodging, and subsistence, are provided by the requesting organization and can be accepted in accordance with existing law and Department policies, or where the Department has authority to retain any reimbursement and is fully reimbursed by the requesting organization for all incremental costs.

Units may continue to perform locally both on and off military installations as long as those performances can be conducted at no cost to the Department.

To ensure consistency across the Department all exceptions and waivers will require the concurrence of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs before approval.

Additional guidance will be provided as issues surface that require a DoD-wide policy.

Robert F. Hale

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Day of Service - Project Video

On Saturday March 2, 2013 a group of Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and active reserve Soldiers banded together to complete "A Day of Service" community service project, to benefit (ret.) Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Schulz. Cpl. Schulz was medically retired from the USMC in after sustaining wounds from an IED blast in 2005. Steven and his mother Debbie reside in Friendswood, Tx and are very active in the Veteran community themselves. With only the two of them to take care of their home maintenance, tasks can pile up quickly. This is the first scheduled project accomplished through a partnership by the Wounded Warrior Project, Security America Mortgage, the U.S. Army 75th TC, Serenity Homes of Texas and the Association of the United States Army. Significant donations from Wounded Warrior Project, Security America Mortgage, Inc., Serenity Homes of Texas, AUSA - Texas Capitol Area Chapter, AUSA - Houston Sub-Chapter, Devers Delivers, Sherwin Williams, and The Mission Continues.

This video was created by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Theodocia Latham.

"A Day of Service" Project Coordinator - Steve Otero