September 2011 - Begin with the end in mind!
A question I usually ask a potential candidate is - What will it take for you to accept a job offer? At the early stage in the transition process, this is often a very difficult question. Steven Covey used the expression “begin with the end in mind” to describe the second habit in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.
“Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen”.
Most military officers are trained to do exactly that, they start every plan with a clear understanding of the mission (task and purpose) and they then build a plan that achieves the desired end state. Covey explains it a little differently, but it is the same idea
Unfortunately the conventional wisdom that dominates the JMO Recruiting industry is almost the exact opposite, it is completely process oriented with little to no attention paid to the final outcome. Job Conferences, job fairs, information seminars and training modules are the primary focus instead of the direction and destination. None of these events in and of themselves are bad, but in military language they are the equivalent of the axis of advance rather than the objective. For a candidate to blindly cross the line of departure and begin to advance without a clear understanding of what the ultimate goal looks like (at least in general terms) makes little sense and is often counterproductive.
The first step in transitioning should not be to commit to job conference or to grant the exclusive rights of your job placement to a recruiting firm in exchange for interview training; instead it should be to determine what your goal is and to identify the characteristics that will allow you to recognize the opportunity that will get you to that goal. Obviously it is premature to settle on an exact job title; however it is possible to determine what the characteristics are of your career objective. The criteria that factor most into this important decision are as follows:
1. Company Quality
4. Skill Match
5. Work Environment
6. Compensation & Benefits
Company Quality. There are two elements of company quality that matter to transitioning military officers; financial health and values. Joining a growing, profitable and cash rich company is a much different experience than becoming a part of a company that is suffering through the agony of downsizing and financial re-trenching. Public companies have analysts and SEC requirements to publish financial data. You don’t have to be an expert or clairvoyant to gain get an assessment of where a potential employer is positioned in the marketplace as well as an idea of the current financial situation and the prospects for future growth. Hitching your wagon to a winner is a much better recipe for success than having to conduct a redo because you joined a company in financial peril and wound up on the wrong side of downsizing decision.
Of equal importance are values. The military is a values driven institution and top military officers do not want to be part of an organization where the values are contrary to their own. Platitudes on web sites are nice, but I would recommend that any officer considering joining a corporation first take some time and talk about values and corporate culture with someone who has a similar background who is currently employed by the company.
Development. I have an uncle who is a tremendously successful businessman. When I was considering leaving the military I asked him the same two questions that candidates often ask me. What am I worth and what can I do. He told me that the answer to both question was development. Essentially, his point was that I was just a bundle of skills and whatever those skills fetched in the marketplace, then that what I was worth. That bundle of skills is also the definition of what I can do and therefore determine what is available to me. The point he made was that if I wanted to be worth more in the future, then it was my responsibility to grow that bundle.
Development is the mechanism that increases skills. Internal training, external education (MBA), mentoring and on the job training are all methods of development. There is a tremendous value in learning best practices from a corporation that has a reputation for excellence. Some executive development programs are designed to rotate employees rapidly across functions and operating businesses to accelerate learning and development. When it comes to development not all opportunities are equal.
Growth. This factor is not just about money, it is about advances in your position, responsibility, contributions and ultimately the rewards that come from a more significant role in a company. The first three criteria (Company Quality, Development & Growth) are nested. Growth is dependent on development and the since development requires such a huge investment by the company, development is dependent upon the financial health and values of the company. It is important to have good idea of where you want to be in the 3-5 year time frame with a company. You will find that unlike the military, guaranteed promotions do not exist in the corporate world. Very few companies will guarantee you anything, but by talking with former military officers and others from within a given company you will be able to gain a reasonable expectation of what is attainable.
Skill Match. What is great about being a military officer is that you typically change jobs every 1-2 years and so by the time you have completed your initial obligation you have been exposed to 3-4 different positions. It is very helpful to review your past roles and identify what you liked most and least. Since most people really love the things they are good at and tend be really good at the things they love. A little introspective analysis into the positions you most excelled at and the reasons why can be very helpful. It can be very beneficial to enter the corporate workforce in a role that truly leverages your greatest strengths, not only from the perspective of quality of life because you will be enjoying what you do, but also because you will be hitting home runs every day and your performance will be rewarded. A tool that is useful in determining your strengths is the Clifton Strengthsfinder www.strengthsfinder.com . Several of our client companies use this tool and from both a candidate and employer viewpoint it can be very helpful.
Work Environment. There are many other components of work environment and what matters between individuals vary greatly. Some candidates have an idea of the business world that consists of wearing formal business attire and working in an office building. Others really love the idea of an industrial or manufacturing environment and still others don’t care. Travel, work schedule, individual vs team based, predictable versus dynamic, physical vs sedentary are all elements of work environment. The list is endless and you don’t really have to have a strong opinion on any of them, but it is important to know if there are specific components that are important to you.
Compensation & Benefits. The military and the corporate world tend to be on different sheets of music when it comes to describing compensation. Military officers get that sheet of paper from their respective services every year titled annual compensation that goes on to list salary, allowances, tax advantages, medical insurance and a variety of other advantages to serving. Corporate language differentiates between financial and non-financial rewards, the financial go under the category of compensation (salary, bonus, stock etc...). The non financial fall under the benefits category (vacation, sick days, company car, health insurance etc…). Another thing that is used to distinguish benefits from compensation is that benefits are membership based versus performance based. Compensation matters a great deal to transitioning JMO’s, after 4-9 years of gradually increasing your lifestyle through a long series of very predictable and consistent pay raises it is extremely difficult to take a step back in lifestyle.
Location & Relocation. Many military officers leave the service to move closer to family. The military is a values based institution and a strong sense of family is often a trait of not only those in uniform, but also those they marry. The idea that you have to compromise on location is not always true. To make a smart decision regarding geographic limitations a candidate should have a good idea of their own marketability along with a basic understanding of what the job market looks like in whatever particular location they desire to live. Location leads to many mistakes made by transitioning officers. Some candidates accept positions in locations where they are clearly unhappy, while others take a job just because it is in an ideal location and eventually become unhappy because of some other criteria like growth or development do not exist.
Humility is characteristic that I really admire in our officer corps. One thing that really surprises me when I talk to some of the most exceptional officers is how concerned they are about ever getting a job offer. If you are a top military officer then I can guarantee that you will receive multiple job offers, what is really important is having the tools to make the right decision and then of course making that decision work not just for you, but for your future employer as well. The value of establishing your decision criteria is that it will not only enable you to make the right choice between opportunities, but it will help you focus the search so you pursue and interview with the right opportunities to begin with.
Success in combat requires battlefield awareness, understanding enemy forces, understanding friendly forces and understanding the neutral elements like local populations, terrain and weather. Success in the job search also requires awareness. It requires an understanding of you the candidate, an understanding of potential employers and an understanding of neutral factors like interview, dress and hiring protocols. This blog was dedicated to helping the candidate understand what they are seeking; the next blog will be focus on providing the candidate a better idea of what the employer is seeking.
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