Podcast 007: Planning Your Military Exit – Even if You Don’t Know When it Will Be

Have you thought about what you are going to do after you leave the military? Whether you’re one and done, or you stay in until retirement, you will one day leave the military. And the steps you take today can go a long way toward determining your post-military future.

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On this podcast, we interview Mark Deal, a former Nuclear technician in the Navy. He shares his story of self-development and planning for the future, even when he didn’t know what that future would be. In many ways, my story is similar to his, and I’m sure it will be similar for many of you.

Planning Your Military Exit - Even if You Don't Know When it Will Be

The big takeaway is this: “Develop a long-term path, and take short-term actions to get you there.”

Or, in military terms, “Determine your strategic goals, and take tactical measures to achieve them.”

There are many ways you can do this, and we’re going to go into more detail in the podcast.

Whether you are a Private in the Army, a mid-level or senior-level NCO, or a company grade or field grade officer, there is a lot of wisdom here. And the tips we discuss about education, training, and personal development apply to everyone at every stage of life – whether you are still in the military and contemplating your next move, or whether that ship has sailed and your military days are long over.

Planning Your Military Exit – Even if You Don’t Know When it Will Be

A successful mission isn’t successful if someone is left behind. That is why every special ops mission is planned with the exit in mind. How do we get in, accomplish our mission, and exfiltrate?

Your military career should be treated with the same care and end-goal in mind. Whether you serve 2 years on active duty, or 35, there are many steps you can take to prepare yourself for your next course of action, whether that is another career, or retirement.

With this in mind, Mark and I discuss the steps he took during his six-year enlistment that helped prepare him for his successful transition into the civilian world. After listening to his story, you won’t be surprised to learn he has been successful in business world as well.

Let’s look at Mark’s journey and some of his advice.

Do a Self-Assessment of Your Skills and Long-Term Goals

Give yourself options – in both your personal and professional life. Can you take steps in your career that will align with your long-term personal and professional goals? In Mark’s case, he was able to quickly qualify in his career field so he could use his off-duty time to pursue his long-term career aspirations. He didn’t have a career lined up while he was in the military, so he chose to pursue the study of classes that were in line with his military job. Mark studied classes related to mechanical and electrical engineering.

There are similar courses of action you can take, depending on your career field. For example, I was an aircraft mechanic. I knew many people who used their military training to get certified as an Airframe and Powerplant Technician (an A&P license is required by many commercial airline companies to work in aviation maintenance). There are likely similar certifications for many other career fields – computer and networking certifications, auto-maintenance, communications, and much more. Many career fields also have associated two- or four-year degree plans.

This is a great way to cover your bases and give yourself options. Had Mark chosen to remain in the Navy, he would have had a degree that was well-aligned with his career, making it easier for him to achieve an advanced enlisted rank, or pursue a commission had that been his desired career path.

Be productive with your time. Instead of using all of his downtime to play video games, or poker, he utilized his down-time to achieve his goals. For Mark, this meant taking classes while he was out to sea, while his ship was in dry-dock, and testing out of classes.

I took a similar path to Mark. I achieved my Bachelor’s Degree while I was on active duty. It was a lot of work – I volunteered to work the midnight shift for almost two years so I could attend night classes. I went to work right after class, went home to sleep, then studied for an hour or so before repeating the process. I also tested out of classes and took online classes while I was deployed.

Self-improvement isn’t limited to formal education. Mark also recommends loading a Kindle or eReader with books for your deployment time. You can always find a few minutes here and there to read. And an eReader is a convenient way to carry a load of books in a compact unit. This can include text books, non-fiction, self-improvement, and of course, entertainment. Personally, I like to read a non-fiction book, then follow it up with a good thriller – just to keep things interesting and give my mind a break.

Be intentional with your actions. We all have 24 hours in a day. And hopefully we have a lot of years in front of us. Mark’s advice: “Determine your long-term goals, and look at what short term actions you need to take to get down that path.”

strategic goals, tactical actions

Use your benefits and available resources to achieve your goals. Being in the military gives you access to many excellent resources. Mark mentioned he used Tuition Assistance and the GI Bill to help fund his degree both while he was in the military, and after he separated from the military. He also used a VA Loan to buy his first home, which saved him a lot of money on Private Mortgage Insurance. Here is a little more information about these benefits:

Start taking action today. I hope you find this podcast and information beneficial. The biggest takeaway is to take action, and the sooner the better. The earlier you begin working on your self-improvement projects, the longer you will have to reap the benefits.

Mark Deal, MBA

About Mark Deal: Mark is a former Navy Nuke.  He spent 6 years enlisted in the Navy with most time spent below the waterline on an aircraft carrier.  He now holds a BSEE and an MBA, but considers himself a reformed engineer.  He co-founded Foreign Investor Resource Group and is the host of the US Immigration Podcast.  Although he has enjoyed a diverse career track since he left the service, today we are going to focus on the early steps he took to help position himself for future opportunities.

You can find Mark on LinkedIn and Twitter @MarkDealMBA.

Job Seeking Tips for Veterans

The job market is tough for just about everyone, but veterans seem to struggle even more so with transitioning into a civilian career. However, this struggle most veterans encounter when entering the civilian job market isn’t because employers aren’t interested in hiring them. In fact, veterans have many qualities employers deeply desire in their employees including problem solving, self-motivation, team player, goal oriented, and the ability to work under pressure. One of the biggest reasons why veterans struggle to find work after their time of service is that they aren’t quite sure how to translate their experience into civilian jargon.

Job seeking tips for veteransBeing able to work with fairly foreign technology or manage a team under immense pressure are both impressive skills. But if you can’t describe those skills and achievements in terms an employer can understand, they simply won’t see you for your incredible worth. To better your chances of obtaining employment after service, consider the following to boost appeal:

Attend a Resume Workshop

Finding the words to best translate your military experience isn’t always easy. Don’t be afraid to obtain help creating the best resume possible by attending a resume workshop. Many area community colleges, community centers, and continue education centers will offer these workshops for free or at a nominal free, and they will not only show you how to word your resume, but also how to adequately format it to impress employers.

Prior to being discharged, the military should also provide you with an opportunity to attend a resume building workshop as part of your transition. If so, definitely take the opportunity to attend.

Practice Interviews

Getting your work experience and skills to look appealing on paper is half the battle when it comes to securing employment. In order to fully impress employers, you need to be able to be able to speak clearly about your skills and experience while also maintaining a professional demeanor.

Although most military members are used to being respectful to superiors, using “yes, sirs” or “no, ma’ams” during an interview can be off putting. Civilian employers aren’t used to such titles, have very little room in the business world, and only add to military personal stereotypes.

To practice fully explaining your skills and experience without the use of military jargon, attend practice interviews offered by local career centers and community colleges. If you are struggling with finding a place for practice interviews, at the very least have a civilian friend or family member formally interview you. If nothing else, looking on a few helpful job sites that offer interview tips are a great place to start. The practice, in any way you can get it, will help you speak more naturally and in a clear and concise fashion that will be more likely to impress employers.

Use Available Resources

Trying to weed through the dozens of career sites can be overwhelming and can quickly deter any job-seeker. To make finding the right career easier for you, look at the available job resources for military personnel exclusively. Seeking out a Veterans Employment Representative at the American Job Center and visiting the employment resources of the National Service Directory are great places to start, and there are also job search sites exclusive to veterans and the employers that wish to employ them.

Before you begin your job search, also be sure to deeply consider your short and long-term career goals. While everyone has to take a job simply for a paycheck on occasion, you don’t want to find yourself straying so far from your career goals that getting back on track seems impossible. If you find that your career goals will require additional knowledge, seek additional education or training which can often be provided by Veterans Affairs.

Your time of service doesn’t have to be limiting when it comes to finding gainful civilian employment. In fact, it should be empowering. Service members have excellent qualities that employers desire in their employees, veterans simply need to learn how to demonstrate those qualities in civilian terms. Take the time to learn the ins and outs of resume building and the art of the interview. You will have a better chance of success at securing a career which will make transitioning from military service to civilian life much easier.

August Nielson is the Human Resources Manager for Veterans United Home Loans, who is responsible for hiring over 1,000 employees in the past five years for a company named the #1 job creator nationally in the financial industry by Inc. Magazine as well as making the Great Place to Work top 25. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Google+.

Veterans Preference Points – How Your Military Service Can Help You Land a Government Job

Many military veterans qualify for Veterans Preference Points which are helpful when applying for a job with the federal government. Civil service jobs are often very competitive, and Veterans Preference Points can give you an advantage in the hiring process. While Veterans Preference Points alone won’t be enough to secure the job—you still must qualify, apply, and interview for the position—they may be enough to get you an advantage when the position is filled. Let’s take a look at Veterans Preference Points, what they are, how the process works, and how they can help you get a civil service job.

Veterans Preference Points Overview

Understanding Veterans Preference PointsHere it is in the government’s words: “By law (Title 5 USC, Section 2108), veterans who are disabled or who serve on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over non-veterans both in Federal hiring practices and in retention during reductions in force (RIF).

… Preference does not have as its goal the placement of a veteran in every vacant Federal job; this would be incompatible with the merit principle of public employment. Nor does it apply to promotions or other in-service actions. However, preference does provide a uniform method by which special consideration is given to qualified veterans seeking Federal employment.” (source).

Now let’s break it down: Veterans Preference Points exist to help veterans find work with the federal government. But it’s not possible to place a veteran in every job for a variety of reasons. But it is possible to apply a uniform standard to help give veterans an advantage in the hiring process. This is where the Veterans Preference Points come in.

Veterans who qualify for Veterans Preference Points based on their service will receive either 5 or 10 points on their civil service examination or experience and education evaluation. These points can place you higher on the list than other applicants. Many veterans who qualify for Veterans Preference Points also have Protected Veterans Status, which can be helpful in certain hiring situations.

Veterans Preference Points Eligibility Requirements

Here are the general requirements for Veterans Preference Points:

  1. You must have an Honorable or General Discharge
  2. Military Retirees in the ranks of Major, Lieutenant Commander, or higher, are ineligible unless they have a service-connected disability.
  3. Guard or Reserve active duty service for training purposes does not qualify.
  4. Veterans should claim preference on their federal job application or resume. Veterans claiming a 10 point preference should complete form SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference.

Veterans who meet the above general requirements will be able to earn either 5 or 10 Preference points, based on their service and other standards, listed below.

Types of Veterans Preference

Veterans Preference Points can be broken down into two classes: 5-Point Preference, and 10-Point Preference. These points are added to the passing examination score or rating of the qualified veteran. What follows is an excerpt of the ratings qualifications based on those listed on the Office of Personnel Management website.

5-Point Preference Qualifications - Eligible veterans include veterans who served:

  • During a war; or
  • During the period April 28, 1952 through July 1, 1955; or
  • For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976; or
  • During the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through January 2, 1992; or
  • For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred during the period beginning September 11, 2001, and ending on the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law as the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom; or
  • In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or campaign badge, including El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Southwest Asia, Somalia, and Haiti, qualifies for preference.

A campaign medal holder or Gulf War veteran who originally enlisted after September 7, 1980, (or began active duty on or after October 14, 1982, and has not previously completed 24 months of continuous active duty) must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty. The 24-month service requirement does not apply to 10-point preference eligibles separated for disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or to veterans separated for hardship or other reasons under 10 U.S.C. 1171 or 1173. The OPM page lists an FAQ section for Gulf War vets.

10-Point Preference Qualifications - Eligible veterans include veterans who served:

  • A veteran who served at any time and (1) has a present service-connected disability or (2) is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension from the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs; or (3) a veteran who received a Purple Heart.
  • An unmarried spouse of certain deceased veterans, a spouse of a veteran unable to work because of a service-connected disability, and
  • A mother of a veteran who died in service or who is permanently and totally disabled.

A note about qualifications for mothers or unmarried spouses: These are an abbreviated version of the requirements. See the OPM guide for more information.

How to Calculate your Veterans Preference Points: Use the Veterans’ Preference Advisor tool to determine your eligibility and number of points.

Veterans Preference Points Calculator

The Veterans’ Preference Advisor can help you determine eligibility.

How Veterans Preference Points Work

If you meet the criteria as described above, you will be eligible to have either 5 or 10 points added to your passing examination score (score of 70 or higher), or have 5 or 10 points added to the numerical evaluation of your experience and education. These examination scores and numerical evaluations are used to compare your application to other applications during the hiring process.

The highest possible score is 110 points: 100 on the exam or numerical evaluation of experience and education, plus the 10 point Veterans Preference rating.

During the application process, eligible applicants are listed on a roster in the order of their ratings. For scientific and professional positions in grade General Schedule GS-9 or higher, names of all qualified applicants are listed on competitor inventories in order of their ratings, augmented by veteran preference, if any.

For all other positions, the names of 10-point preference eligibles who have a compensable, service-connected disability of 10 percent or more are listed at the top of the register in the order of their ratings ahead of the names of all other eligibles. The names of other 10-point preference eligibles, 5-point preference eligibles, and other applicants are listed in order of their numerical ratings.

I’m a Qualified Veteran, Why Didn’t I get the Job?

Having Veterans Preference Points doesn’t guarantee you a job. But it does increase your scoring, and in some cases, places your application higher on the list. But it’s important to understand that the government has multiple ways to fill positions and there can be many reasons why one applicant is be hired over another applicant.

Veterans Preference Points also don’t give veterans a preference for internal agency actions such as promotions, transfers,reassignments, or reinstatement. Your Veterans Preference Points may, however, help your job status during a Reduction in Force (RIF).

For more detailed information about your eligibility and other benefits, visit the Veterans’ Preference Advisor tool, or contact the HR department at your local civil service office.

Protected Veteran Status Rights – Can Employers Discriminte Against Disabled Veterans?

Many military veterans struggle to find work after they separate from the military. There are many reasons for this. The economy is still in recovery mode, there may be a mismatch of skills between the veteran and the available jobs he or she is applying to, and sometimes employers don’t understand the skills veterans bring to the table.

Unfortunately, there can also be a stigma against veterans, especially those who have served in combat. A recent article on CNN Money stated that even though overall unemployment rates for veterans has dropped in recent months, some veterans are struggling to find work because some employers avoid hiring vets with PTSD because the employers fear there will be an “episode” in the workplace. A similar story was reported on MilitaryTimes.com. These fears and misconceptions are often unspoken, but they can be very real. Not only is this line of thinking wrong, but it is potentially illegal. Many military veterans qualify for Protected Veteran Status, which offers anti-discrimination protections.

anti-discrimination employment laws

There is no room for discrimination in our society.

I recently received a question from a reader who is struggling to find work. He asked:

Are certain industries opposed to hiring retired middle aged vets with service-connected disabilities?

This is a great question, and one that deserves a very careful answer. Employers have a lot of leeway regarding who they hire, and right now, there are often dozens, if not hundreds, or applicants for every job opening. With so many applicants, employers have an easy time of choosing who they feel is the best person for the job. But discrimination against veterans is a very important topic, and one that veterans need to be aware of.

I will do my best to cover a few relevant topics related to this question, primarily Equal Employment Opportunity laws and discrimination. Please keep in mind, I am not a lawyer, and this article is based on my understanding of the laws and how they work. While the law is very clear in defining certain “protected classes” of workers, companies are not obligated to offer a job to all qualified applicants, or to someone who meets one of the qualifications of a protected class.

Let’s take a look at what these protected classes are, and see how this relates to veterans, both with and without service-connected disabilities.

Anti-Discrimination Laws in Hiring

In the US, employers are prohibited from discriminating against certain classes of people with regard to employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay and benefits, retirement plans, compensation, promotions, assignments, transfers, layoffs, and other conditions of employment.

It is illegal to discriminate against people based on their race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disabilities, genetic makeup and family status. Here is a sampling some relevant national laws (please keep in mind some states have additional laws):

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (amended in 2008)

(Please see the EEO FAQ page for more info).

Protected Veteran Status Rights

protected veterans statusCertain military veterans qualify for Protected Veteran Status under The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). This law gives certain veterans some similar protections as the classes listed above, and also requires employers working with the federal government to proactively recruit, hire, and promote certain classes of veterans including: disabled veterans (determined as those who receive disability compensation from the VA, or would be eligible, but for retired military pay), veterans who served on active duty during a war or campaign when a badge was authorized, recently separated veterans, and veterans who participated in a U.S. military operation that received an Armed Forces service medal.

Rights under the Protected Veterans Status: “As a protected veteran under Section 4212, you have the right to work in an environment free of discrimination. You cannot be denied employment, harassed, demoted, terminated, paid less or treated less favorably because of your veteran status. If you are an employee and a disabled veteran you can request, and your employer must provide you, “reasonable accommodation,” to allow you to perform your job, unless doing so would cause the employer significant difficulty or expense.”

This law does two things: VEVRAA requires certain employers to proactively recruit, hire, and promote protected veterans, and it includes anti-discrimination laws.

Sources: Protected Veterans Rights fact sheet, Dept of Labor, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) program.

Employment Rights for Reservists and Guard Members

Military members who serve in the Reserves or National or Air National Guard also have special rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This law prohibits discrimination based on service in the Reserve Corps and requires civilian employers to keep jobs open for Reserve Corps members who are called to duty. Employers are required to leave the job open for them when they return or provide them with a similar job when they come back. There are more details to this law, so if you are in the Guard or Reserves, you should familiarize yourself with it in more detail.

Source: USERRA fact sheet.

What Does this Mean for Veterans?

OK, now that we have the technical stuff out of the way, let’s take some time to distill this into terms we can understand and see if we can answer our reader’s question: “Are certain industries opposed to hiring retired middle aged vets with service-connected disabilities?”

Our reader is asking about three protected classes of workers, all wrapped into one: age, veteran, and disability.

Does discrimination happen? I’m sure it does on many levels. Outright discrimination against someone based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disabilities, genetic makeup, family status, prior military service, or any other condition is wrong. No excuses.

But before we assign blame, we should first realize that employers have a lot of flexibility when making hiring decisions. Employers have the right to hire the best person for the job. The only thing they cannot do is discriminate against any of the protected classes during the hiring process or when making employment decisions. When there are dozens or hundreds of people applying for the job, they can make hiring decisions that may seem unfair in the surface. But the hiring decision may be 100% reasonable when all applicants and additional information is taken into consideration. In other words, being a member of a protected class doesn’t guarantee you a job—you still have to be the best person for the job.

How to Increase Your Odds of Being Hired

My recommendation is to take a step back and look at each job application from the hiring manager’s and company’s perspective. What job are they trying to fill? What concerns may they have about potential employees?

Your role as a job seeker is to do everything in your power to show an employer you are the best person for the job. This means:

* I don’t advocate lying on resumes or during job interviews. But that doesn’t mean you should volunteer information that may be unfavorable, or may sway an employer’s opinion. For example, there is no reason you should mention you have a service-connected disability in your resume or in an interview unless the disability would prevent you from completing assigned job requirements.

Recognize and understand how to answer illegal interview questions. Some questions are illegal for interviewers to ask during interviews. These include questions about the protected items listed above: race, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, etc. However, there are related questions employers can legally ask. For example, an employer cannot ask you if you are disabled, but they can ask you if you are physically able to perform all related job requirements.

As a job seeker, it’s important to recognize these questions, and how to answer them. Here are some tips for recognizing and answering illegal interview questions:

Take some time to review these questions and answers, and make sure your resume doesn’t include anything that could give an employer second thoughts about hiring you.

What to Do if You Have Been Discriminated Against

This is a tough situation to deal with. It is unfair, unjust, and illegal. If you believe a company has broken the law, then you have options. The Department of Labor lists a few steps you can take in their FAQ page. You may also consider seeking legal counsel (try finding a lawyer who specializes in employment or labor law).

Keep in mind it is often up to the employee to prove discrimination occurred. This may be difficult to do unless it is in writing or you can prove your employer took action against you based on your status. (Then you would have to ask yourself if you want to work for a company that would discriminate against you).

The best course of action is to keep detailed notes of your interactions with the employer and try to work things out on your own first. If that doesn’t work, then contact the Department of Labor or a lawyer who specializes in labor law for further guidance.

Image credit: Brett Jordan

How Military Veterans Can Use LinkedIn to Find a Job

One of the biggest struggles facing veterans is finding a job after they transition from the military to the civilian world. This can apply to almost any veteran, including those who have recently separated or retired from military service, or someone who separated decades ago. Even some highly skilled veterans have trouble finding a job.

military veterans use linkedin to find a jobThere are dozens of things you can do to increase your chances of finding a job, including networking, job fairs, improving your resume, and more. One of the more recent innovations in job hunting is the rise of social media, including the popular site LinkedIn, which has over 200 million members. That seems daunting, but it isn’t hard to use LinkedIn effectively once you have some basics. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do today – give you the basics to get started so you can learn to more easily connect with people on LinkedIn and hopefully use it to help yourself or someone else find a job.

How to Create a LinkedIn Profile

You can create a LinkedIn profile in about 5-10 minutes, but like everything else, you only get from it what you put into it. Think about the last resume you wrote. It probably took a couple hours of collective work to put it together. Your LinkedIn profile is similar. Think of it as an interactive online resume. It will take some time to create a LinkedIn profile that represents your skills and abilities. But the results will be worth it.

With LinkedIn, you have the ability to showcase your skills (much like a traditional resume), but you also have a chance to show much more about yourself and your skills. For example, you aren’t limited to one page. You can list every job you have held, additional skills you have, groups you are a member of, etc. There is also a section for other people to endorse skills you have – much like having a reference for a job. The difference is these endorsements are public, so everyone can see the endorsements you have, including potential employers. Here are a few tips to create a LinkedIn profile that stands out:

Get a good head shot. You have an option of uploading a photo of yourself. Do it. People more easily connect with “real” people than they do a name on a piece of paper. It’s a good idea to use a closeup of your face, not a logo of your business or a full body shot. The more people are able to connect with you as a person, the more likely they are to connect with you as an individual and consider you for a job.

Write a strong headline and statement. Your headline and personal statement are your 5 second window to capture the attention of someone who views your profile. Be clear and precise; avoid headlines or statements that are generic or difficult to understand.

Start with an up to date copy of your resume. If you are job hunting, you should always have an up to date resume at your disposal. Use this as a starting point, and list all the jobs you have had in reverse chronological order. Be sure to list the specific job title, tasks you performed, and other relevant facts. Be sure to list out all acronyms in this section the first time you write them. Not everyone understands military terminology – translate your skills for them.

Be sure to include non-work items in your profile. You want people to relate to you, and one of the best ways to do that is show you have a life outside of work. List some of your hobbies and affiliations.

Join LinkedIn Groups. There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn. They include alumni groups from colleges or businesses, industry groups, military and veterans groups, and more. Join some that are relevant to your experience and interests, and see where they take you. You can learn a lot in those groups and meet a lot of great people. And remember, you aren’t committing to anything, you can always leave a group at a later time if you feel the group isn’t a good fit.

How to Connect with People on LinkedIn

At its core, LinkedIn is a social network. It works by people connecting and communicating with each other. That means you need to add people to your professional network and communicate with them for LinkedIn to work. When you add connections, you can send them emails or messages, ask for introductions to other people, and more. But there is a good way and a bad way to connect with people.

Use the People You May Already Know tool. The easiest and fastest way to make connections with people is to use the People You May Already Know tool. LinkedIn analyzes your work experience and locations, connections, and settings in your profile to suggest people you may know. It’s fairly accurate and is a great place to start. If you find someone you know, send them a brief note and ask them to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Personalize the invitation to connect. The generic message simply states “Hello, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” You can see a screenshot of an example below:

Generic LinkedIn Connection Invitation

I won’t accept a generic invitation from someone I don’t know.

I recommend personalizing the invitation even if it is someone you know well. This is your opportunity to get their attention which can be helpful if you are seeking a job or might be able to offer them assistance. If you don’t know the person, then don’t send a generic invitation. It’s a quick way to be ignored.

Don’t expect other people to read your mind, or do the work for you. You can and should ask for help, but don’t expect people to go out of their way to read your profile, figure out what industry you are in, and make the conclusion that you are looking for a job. Help them help you. For example, when you reach out to someone, tell them who you are, why you wish to connect with them, and how they can contact you. Here is a short example:

Hello (Insert Name),

My name is Bill. I served 12 years in the Air Force as a logistician, and recently transitioned back into the civilian workforce. I am currently seeking a role as a logistics analyst. My LinkedIn profile lists an in-depth work history and professional background. Do you have anyone in your network who may be looking for someone with my skill set, or someone in the industry who might be able to point me in the right direction?

Thank you for your time.

Bill

A quick introduction email like the one above will get you 10 times more responses than the generic request. Take some time to 1) determine your objectives, and 2) tailor this query to your skills and the recipient.

Let’s see this in action.

How to Connect with Me on LinkedIn

I get a fair number of requests to connect on LinkedIn, probably because I run two fairly popular websites. I am more than happy to connect with people, but I don’t “collect friends.” Social media is a tool, and it can quickly become cumbersome to connect with too many people. This includes social media outlets such as Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn. Connecting with too many people can turn to noise.

In the following screenshot, you can see the number of recent requests I have received to connect with people (top arrow; the bottom arrow shows the number of connections I have).

LinkedIn professional network requests

As you can see, I have 144 unanswered requests from people to be added to their professional networks. I show this to illustrate a point – there are many busy people on LinkedIn. If you want to connect with them, give them a reason. Tell them who you are, what you are looking for, or how you can help them.

I count myself among those who are too busy to blindly add connections. I don’t respond to default requests unless I already know the person and have an established personal or business relationship with them. There is a reason for this. Many people simply want to “know someone” or have a connection with them. But that is all they ever do. They never take it a step further and ask how they can help the other person, or how the other person can help them.

If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, send me a quick message similar to the example above. It should take you about a minute to type something that applies to your situation. Let me know who you are, what you do, and why you want to connect with me. Is there something specific I can help you with? Are you offering to help me?

Don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t accept your invitation to connect. They may not know you or may not have any similar connections that would be helpful to you. If you just want to connect with people in general, then I suggest joining one of the many LinkedIn Groups. You will get much more out of a group setting and the ensuing conversations than you would from blindly connecting with people without having an agenda.

Participate in LinkedIn Groups

Participating in LinkedIn groups, or creating your own group, can position you as an expert in a field or topic. This helps you get noticed, create valuable connections, and most importantly, help other people. Too many people look at LinkedIn as a means to an end. But LinkedIn is a tool where you can receive disproportionate rewards by helping other people.

There is a link titled “Groups” near the top of the page. LinkedIn will recommend groups to you based on your work history, profile, people in your professional network, and other factors. You can also search groups based on many different factors or create your own group.

There aremany groups dedicated to each military branch, the service academies, current military members, veterans and more. Find a group that resonates with your experience, background, or interests, and start participating. Again, joining a group isn’t a lifetime commitment. If you don’t like the vibe, move on. There are thousands of groups out there.

How to Find a Job on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is more than a social network – it also hosts thousands of available jobs at a variety of companies and industries. Anyone can search through the available jobs, but it works best when you have an established account and a decent sized network. To find available jobs, log into your LinkedIn profile and click the “jobs” link at the top. You will see some sponsored results that may or may not be applicable to you, followed by additional opportunities in your local area. Scroll down  a little further and you will see a heading entitled: “Discover jobs in your network.” It will look like this:

Find a job on LinkedIn

Your network is an invaluable tool for your job search.

The companies listed in this section have available jobs, and there is an image and link to people in your network. Click on the head shot of one of the people in your network and you will go to their profile. That doesn’t mean these people can get you a job, but they may be able to give you valuable insight about the company culture, interview process, how to get hired, or even some jobs which may not be advertised yet (this is often referred to as the hidden job market).

The hidden job market is one of the more valuable aspects of networking. The last civilian job I had was a position that wasn’t even advertised yet when I heard about it. A good friend of mine told me about the position more than a week before it was posted. This gave me the opportunity to customize my resume and submit it as soon as the job was posted. This gave me a huge leg up on the competition. I was called in for an interview a few days later and I got the job. Imagine how mice it must be for a hiring manger to receive a tailored resume from a qualified applicant the day the job is listed. Any other resumes he received in the next day or two were probably only partial matches because the applicants didn’t have the time to tailor their resumes to the job description.

If you are reaching out to someone in your network, remember the example email I wrote above. Give them a few basics about who you are, your experience, and what you are looking for. Then simply ask them for information about the company, their hiring practices, interview process, or similar information. The information you learn will be much more valuable than just blindly submitting your resume online.

Search jobs by company. Click the “Company” link at the top of the page and you can sort through job openings based on different criteria, such as company location, company size, industry, your connections, and more. You can use the above tips to help you learn more about certain jobs, companies, industries, hiring practices, and more.

Use the advanced search. This feature is found on the Jobs tab. The advanced search allows you to filter jobs by certain criteria, such as the company, location, job title, keywords, industry, job title or position, salary, and more. You can also filter by relevancy or by relationship (if you have a connection with someone who works at the company).

Start a thread in one of your groups – as long as you are a regular contributor. Joining a dozen groups and dropping a form message in each of them won’t work, and may get you banned from the group. On the other hand, you may have better luck if you are a regular contributor to a group and you ask a specific question about a company or industry, or just let it be know that you are looking for a job. Remember, people are always willing to help people they know and respect.

Use LinkedIn the Right Way

I’m going to repeat a few things I’ve already written because they are worth repeating: Like most things, you only get out of LinkedIn what you put in. The more you participate, connect with people, and help others, the more you will get from it. The more complete your profile, the more likely someone will come across your page and want to connect with you. Participating in groups and conversations helps position you as an expert. Helping other people gets you noticed, and people remember that.

Remember, LinkedIn doesn’t exist for you. It exists for the greater community. If you start using LinkedIn with the thought that it will magically help you get a job, you will be disappointed. But if you use LinkedIn to connect with others, share your knowledge and expertise, and help people, then you are not only using LinkedIn the right way, but you are putting yourself in a better position to find a job.

More LinkedIn Resources:

Homeless Veterans in America [Infographic]

America is proud of her veterans. That much we know. Our country does a lot for those who have worn the uniform and swore to defend our freedom. But sometimes people, even veterans fall through the cracks. There are over 630,000 homeless people in America. 67,495 are veterans. It amazes me that in today’s society, over 1 in 10 homeless people in America are veterans.

There are a variety of reasons for such a large percentage of homeless being veterans.

Studies show that the veteran population is 2x more likely to become chronically homeless than other American groups. There are many reasons veterans make up such a large percentage of the homeless population. Contributing factors include long periods of unemployment, foreclosure, mental illness, and poverty.

Here are some numbers to back up the contributing factors:

  • Over 968,000 veterans lived in poverty in the last year.
  • 20,000 veterans with government sponsored mortgages lost their homes in 2010.
  • 76% of homeless veterans experience alcohol, drug, or mental health issues.
    30.2% of veterans ages 18-24 are unemployed.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions, but we shouldn’t. Here is some surprising information about homeless veterans:

  • 89% received an honorable discharge.
  • 67% served 3 years or more.
  • 47% are Vietnam veterans
  • 15% served before Vietnam
  • 5.5% are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Almost 9 out of 10 received an honorable discharge. 2 out of 3 served at least 3 years. Those stats should be enough to know these veterans did heir job honorably and likely performed at a reasonably high level.

Let’s take a deeper look at the population of homeless veterans in the following infographic, and below, we will show you some of the things that are being done to help the community.

Shedding Light on America’s Homeless Veterans

Shedding Light on America's Homeless Veterans

Infographic brought to you by USC’s Masters in Military Social Work Program and Social Work License Map

What is Being Done to Help America’s Homeless Veterans?

The issue of homeless veterans has been on the government’s radar for some time now.

In 2009, President Obama and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced an initiative by the federal government announced a plan to end veteran homelessness by 2015. You can learn more about this at http://www.endhomelessness.org/

The Department of Veterans Affairs also has some other programs helping homeless veterans. These include the

There are a variety of other benefits programs out there for all veterans, not just those who are homeless. These programs can go a long way toward helping veterans before they lose their homes and end up on the street. Some of these include:

If you know any veterans in need of assistance, please help them find these resources.

Federal Employment Resources for Military Veterans

Our sluggish economy has virtually turned against the current lot of veterans who’ve served this country. With an unemployment rate nearing 30% for young veterans (18-24), it can seem as if the call for troop support is merely bumper sticker deep. But in times like these, everyone faces hardships – and in actuality, veterans hold a special place in the job market. Although the private sector isn’t bound to preferential treatment towards our service-members, federal and state agencies are. Numerous options exist – the trick is, finding them.

federal employment for military veteransDating back to the Revolutionary War, veterans have been rewarded for service with employment by the federal government. As the years progressed, Congress passed the Veterans’ Preferential Act in 1944. Buoyed by several veterans organizations, what we know today as the “point system,” was established over a half-century ago. With up to a 30-point advantage over civilians, service-members regularly find themselves in top contention for employment.

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs has teamed up with state and federal agencies in order to better serve their clientele. From the Federal Aviation Administration, to the Treasury Department, and just about any acronymic agency out there, numerous job options are available. Here are some resources to help you find a job with a federal agency.

Feds Hire Vets

Feds Hire Vets is a “site for federal employment information for veterans, transitioning service members, their families and federal hiring officials.” It would behoove perspective applicants to digitally scan their DD214, resume, and if applicable, college transcripts. These items are regularly required for the application process. Generally, the Feds Hire Vets program is less reliant on service-members/veterans actually scrolling through job opportunities. Moreover, a counselor of sorts will gauge an applicant’s skill-set, degree, and former/current military occupation in relation to federal job postings. They purport to be “strategic partners,” with the departments of Defense, Labor, Veteran Affairs, Homeland Security, and the U.S. Office of Personal Management. Visit their site http://www.fedshirevets.gov/ for more info.

USA Jobs

With literally thousands of searchable job postings, USA Jobs is the U.S. Government’s official program for federal job data. As per their website, they seek to “specifically build and sustain excellence in the 21st century workforce, thereby fixing federal hiring.” A stopping point for numerous federal agencies, USA Jobs works in conjunction with the Veterans Administration’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Also known as Chapter 31, this federal program assists veterans with a service-connected disability “prepare for, find, and keep suitable job.” You can out more about Vocational Rehabilitation here: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/.

More Veterans Employment Options – VA.gov

For those searching for an all-encompassing Mecca of veteran employment options, make sure to bookmark – http://www.va.gov/jobs/. There, you’ll find a smorgasbord of career advice and job opportunities. Although focused on full/part-time employment, one can also find internships. College students, graduates, VA employees, veterans and civilians, are eligible for numerous VA internships. According to the Veterans Administration, “VA internship [are] an excellent way to begin a long-term career with the Department that is rewarding, exciting and challenging. “ It’s definitely worth a try.

New Career Resources

The government recently created three new job search resources for military veterans. These aren’t specifically for federal employment, but they can open doors to a variety of opportunities in the federal or private sectors. They include: My Next Move for Veterans, the Veterans Job Bank, and the Veterans Gold Card. These programs are designed to translate your military skills into civilian terms, give you one one one career counseling, access to a job board, and more. You can learn more about these programs in this article.

Ultimately, we as Americans find ourselves in a precarious situation. Facing a stagnant job market, rising unemployment, an unprecedented rise in mental health issues, veterans – especially those of Iraq and Afghanistan, are in need of some assistance. Although phrases like “support the troops,” might seem like pure lip service under our current circumstances, there are people, organizations, and programs, which actually help. But it’s up the service-member and veteran to actively search out these resources. The Military Wallet and the Department of Veterans Affairs JOBS homepage are an excellent place to start.

Trucking Jobs for Veterans – Local and Long Haul Trucking

One of the largest growing employment opportunities in the US right now is commercial trucking. There are over 200,000 jobs currently available for local and long haul trucking jobs. And the trucking industry is having a hard time filling those positions. There are many reasons for this – it can be expensive to take the required classes and training to earn a CDL (commercial driver’s license). It can take several weeks of classroom training and can cost up to $6,000 for the course. Then drivers need to take a written and driving test before they can qualify for the CDL. The good news, is that there are 34 states that waive the skills test portion of the CDL licensing requirement for veterans with military training that would qualify them for a CDL. This applies to active duty, Guard/Reserves, and Coast Guard members, and veterans within 90 days of their date of separation. Check with your state for more information.

Trucking jobs for veteransIf you don’t qualify for the waiver, you can still get a commercial drivers license. It will take some time and money, but the rewards can be good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, truckers earn a median annual wage of $37,930. The top 10% of drivers earn more than $58,000 per year, and some drivers can earn more than $100,000 per year depending on their skills and qualifications. For example, truckers with HAZMAT training and certifications can earn more money, as can those with double or triple trailer certifications.

According to CNN, some of the largest long haul operators in the US are hiring – including Schneider National, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Swift Transportation and Werner Enterprises.

This is good news for Vets, since many military veterans have the GI Bill they can use to earn their CDL. Remember, the GI Bill isn’t just for college course, you can use the GI Bill for certifications and other training.

A good friend of mine from the service recently got hired with a national trucking chain that was specifically recruiting military veterans for their positions. They often prefer veterans because many of them can use their GI Bill benefits to pay for their CDL, and they have found that on the whole, veterans have a strong track record with the company (on time, loyal, dependable, etc.).

My buddy is very excited about the gig he landed. He had to get his CDL before they would hire him, and he used his Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for his training. While he was at it, he got certified on double and triple trailers. He is starting with the single trailer, as he needs more road time before they will allow him to take out the larger trailers.

Once he completed his CDL training and took his written and driving test to get his commercial drivers license, the company hired him with a salary, benefits, and a $10,000 signing bonus, paid out in monthly installments over the first year. Most truckers are paid by the mile or by the trip, so he was very happy to receive a salary, which is fairly rare in the trucking industry. The benefits and sign on bonus are other reasons he decided to enter the trucking industry.

Trucking isn’t for everyone, but others love the call of the open road. If it sounds interesting to you, then check out the companies mentioned above, or look into using your GI Bill benefits to earn your CDL. You can use our GI Bill search tool to help find a program.

Photo credit: LukeRobinson1

Getting Started with a Home Based Business

A veteran who recently separated from the military sent me an e-mail asking about home based business opportunities. The veteran wrote that, “I just got out of the navy and have no desire to clock a 9 to 5. I want to start my own home based business and I wanted to ask if you have any ideas on want to get involved in.”

As a self-employed veteran, I understand the desire to work from home. Many military members come from varied backgrounds and work in a variety of jobs and locations over the course of their career. Military veterans are often self-motivated and driven by internal forces and have the ability to adapt to stressful situations. Because of this, many vets have a skill set and drive that is a better match for entrepreneurship than working in a standard office environment.

What Are the Best Home Based Business Opportunities?

Home Based Business - Veteran OpportunitiesWorking from home is such a broad topic, that it would be difficult to cover in one article. There are literally thousands of ways to work from home, but most of them take time to set up. In fact, most entrepreneurs I know started their home based business in their off time and grew their businesses slowly while they worked a steady job during the week. This gave them the time and opportunity to learn from their mistakes, and helped them have a steady income to provide for their families while they grew their business.

This is how I grew my home based business (I run several websites, do internet consulting, and freelance writing). I originally started a blog, then grew my business into several sites. After I had made a name for myself in my niche, I began freelance writing for several other Internet publications. I then branched out into consulting as I became more of an expert in the space. But all of this took time – it was three years from the time I started my blog until I went full time. Running websites takes time to learn and it isn’t a guaranteed way to generate income quickly. In fact, you should expect it to take awhile to generate profits.

Consider a Franchise

Franchises offer an easier way for many people to get into business ownership. The benefit of buying into a franchise is that you don’t need to recreate the wheel and build a business from scratch. When you buy into a franchise, you are buying a business model and everything that goes with it. In a way, it’s a shortcut to owning a small business. You get the blueprint, the branding, and the corporate knowledge to get started. But you do need to bring hard work and some money to the table (small business loans and grants can help with this). Here is some more information about franchise opportunities for veterans.

Beware Multi-level Marketing Scams

The best thing I can do is recommend that you fully research any business opportunities before buying into anything. There are many scams out there, including multi-level marketing scams which sell the dream of owning a business, but often end up costing participants hundreds or even thousands of dollars to be  a member. A popular scam is money merge accounts, which sell expensive software to help people more quickly repay their mortgage (in most cases, these programs aren’t good for the  people they are marketed to).

Other Scams Abound

Multi-level Marketing scams aren’t the only bad deals around. There are thousands of creeps out there trying to separate you from your money. In general, it is a good idea to avoid any advertisement which claims you can make “$$$$ dollars in X Days, Guaranteed!”

Most of those advertisements are scams which sell expensive digital products and charge your credit card on a continuing basis. They can also be difficult to cancel, and you may be left with several hundred or thousands of dollars in charges on your credit cards, and nothing of value in return.

Where to Start

All of these caveats aside, there are many great work from home opportunities. If you are looking for a way to get started in something, I recommend speaking with local entrepreneurs and businessmen and asking how they got started and if there are any opportunities they are aware of.

Give Yourself Time

One last note: Most home based businesses take time before you can start generating sustainable income. I recommend having a fall back plan, or starting yoru business in the evenings and weekends until you can generate enough income to go full-time. In the mean time, I recommend looking into unemployment benefits, which are available to those who separate from the military.

Best of luck, and thanks for your service.

Franchise Opportunities for Military Veterans

The job market is stagnant. Unemployment is rampant. Nearly half of America is on some sort of public assistance. As a veteran returning home from some far-off clime, it came seem as if you’re doomed to tough times. But that’s entirely up to you. In times like these, one needs to think “outside the box” – economic guerilla warfare if you will, in regards to your career. One tactic in that battle lies with self-employment. More specifically, franchising. If you are willing to work long hours, can follow a system, afford to buy and operate a business, can manage people and are passionate about achieving success, a so-called “veteran friendly,” franchise is great option.

Military Mind-Set Leads to Success

Snap-On Tool Franchise

Could Snap-On Tools Be a Franchise Opportunity for you?

In the military, service-members are taught to follow orders. With time, good conduct, and expertise, those receiving orders will soon transition into giving orders. It’s the soldierly way – and it works. I can remember the early days of my Marine Corps career – observing, memorizing, reading, and ultimately gleaning knowledge from my senior Non-Commissioned Officers. With time, I gradually understood what it meant to be a leader.

Following a script written many moons ago, I was able to properly instruct junior Jarheads in the Marine Corps way. My experience is not unique – through trial and error, the US Military has honed a very sharp system of troop management. And as such, the progenitors of this system – veterans, have been imbued with these qualities. For many searching for purpose in their post-military career, it would behoove them to capitalize on their unique skill set. For many, helming your own business can be an especially satisfying career move.

Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) operates an extremely helpful website for those interested in self-employment. Just about everything you need to know about owning and operating a small business or franchise can be located via the SBA. From writing a business plan, getting that first loan, registering your business, and even establishing a health care program for your employees, the SBA provides an invaluable service.

Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative

Recently, the Small Business Administration established the Patriot Express Pilot Loan Initiative. As per the SBA’s website, the Express program “offer[s] streamlined and expedited loan procedures for particular groups of borrowers, notably active-duty  military personnel, veterans, and borrowers from distressed communities.” Military members currently in the Transition Assistance Program, Reservists, National Guard members, and widowed spouses of the aforementioned groups also qualify for this new SBA initiative.

Shouldering start-up cost, the Express program also covers inventory, equipment, infusion of working capital, and a myriad of other essential expenditures required for the operation of a small business. Interest rates vary from 2.25 percent to 4.75 percent over prime, featuring some of the SBA’s lowest interest rates.

Veteran Friendly Franchises

Among the many self-employment incentives for current/prior service-members, includes a number of top-rated veteran friendly franchises. According to the International Franchise Association’s “VetFran” program, some of these franchise opportunities include:

  • Snap-on Incorporated: The leading global innovator, manufacturer and marketer of tools, diagnostics, equipment and service solutions for professionals. They offer honorably discharged veterans a $20,000 discount on the initial inventory purchase for their franchise.
  • Liberty Tax Service: A low-cost tax preparation service. They offer a 10 percent discount on the franchise fee to military veterans.
  • 7-Eleven Incorporated: The world’s largest convenience store retailer and the #1 franchise opportunity in the U.S. They provide a 10 percent discount off franchise fees for all honorably discharge veterans.
  • Interim HealthCare, Incorporated: Provider of full continuum home care and healthcare for the past 45 years. They offer a 10 percent discount on franchise fees of $40,000.
  • ACFN Franchised, Incorporated: The premier provider of ATMs in hotels and other travel and entertainment-based businesses since 1996. They offer $1,000 discount off franchise fee for veterans.
  • CruiseOne: One of the nation’s largest cruise retailers and a part of World Travel  Holdings. They offer retired and active duty military member 20% off initial franchise fees.
  • GoWaiter, Incorporated: Industry leader in restaurant marketing, food delivery and catering. Franchise fees are reduced from $19,500 to $17, 500 for veterans.
  • Huddle House Incorporated: For over 47 years, Huddle House has been serving communities “Any Meal, Any Time.” Veteran incentives include a reduction in initial franchise fee from $25,000 to $12,500.

Rise Above

Starting your own business – be it an independent venture or established veteran friendly franchise, requires hard work and tons of determination. For veterans and active-duty military, the Small Business Administration and the International Franchise Association’s “VetFran” programs, are there to assist you. Despite a dreary economic outlook, remember the unofficial maxim of the United States Marine Corps – Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome. The future is yours.

Photo credit: TOMTEC