2/3 From Tarey Gettys - Moving Forward
You did it! You have your 'Ask in Hand', have rehearsed your pitch and can execute a precision monologue with the same inspiration as Russel Crow in "Gladiator", portraying Maximus Decimus Meridius:
"Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."
I love this scene and it's easy for me to get carried away by one of my favorite movie lines OF ALL TIME! If you've seen the movie, then you know how confident and inspirational this portrayal is - a gem of a scene that captures and inspires a certain type of viewer. Did you also feel something? Maybe got swept up in the nostalgic reverie, with memories of a not-to-distant past when, like Maximus, you were crystal clear on identity and purpose? I hope so, as this is the first step in moving forward:
#1. Identify and Connect Your Purpose with Your Ask. There are few things more powerful than a deeply rooted 'Call to Action'. For most Veterans, this is not new information, but rather a reminder. More so, if you identify as someone who didn't 'choose' to serve, but rather were 'called' to serve. Think about how powerful that statement is: if true for you, then service was never a choice, it was your destiny - sit with that. Struggle with the enormity and the power behind such purpose. As you make this transition, it's important that you connect with a new calling. To do this, you have to make room inside yourself and be clear of noise and distraction. It's hard work to truly know yourself and find your 'Why' and this is definitely beyond the scope of a simple #101*. Fortunately, there are many blogs, books, and writings on this topic that may help you get there. For example, one popular book written by Simon Sinek is "Find Your Why." For now, the main takeaway is to gain clarity of mission, connect it with your core, and let Your Ask serve as a battle-cry of empowerment. This will lead others to help you on your journey.
#2. When Making Your Ask, be Concise, Reasonable and Measurable. Like any good OPORD, when making Your Ask, use a framework that is concise, reasonable and measurable. Let's take a hypothetical scenario where a transitioning Veteran a.k.a. "You" are attending a Veterans networking event. You've just been introduced to a software engineer at a large tech company and have managed to quickly build rapport and generally make a good connection. Even so, you realize your new friend is a very technical person and has very little understanding of the military and zero knowledge of your specific skill set. To make matters worse, while you have a solid understanding of the company, its products, and the business model, you don't code and have not quite grasped technical terminology.
Truth be told, you went a little numb when he asked you about the 'hamming distance problem'... and then went on to speak about blockchain in relation to The Byzantine General's Problem...
Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot! This is not going the way you had envisioned. Fortunately, you've managed to keep your cool and eventually got asked the million-dollar question, "How can I help you?" BINGO! This is what you've been waiting for, and because you're prepared with an 'Ask in Hand', you are now ready to move forward. The first thing to do is to Pause and Re-assess the situation. Determine if modifications are needed and if so, adjust the ask, while remembering to be concise, measurable and reasonable. Specifically:
Pause and Re-assess the Situation, Modify as Needed. Your new friend wants to help veterans and specifically has asked to help YOU. You want to work for a tech company and specifically would love to work for this tech company. Unfortunately, he has no idea about the military or your skill-sets. At the same time, you have no coding skills and are generally unfamiliar with engineering, design and technical applications. However, you are a great communicator, have not only managed large groups of people but have also led missions in extreme and hostile environments and genuinely love the products offered by this large tech company. Given this quick pause and reassessment - it's now time to modify and make Your Ask using a concise, reasonable and measurable format.
Concise: "Please connect me to a Veteran at your company." Yes, utilize the K.I.I.S. method. To further help illustrate think about Mr. Claymore's last words, "Front Toward Enemy." Clear and concise. Of course, don't be stiff, keep the ask conversational and continue to collect additional helpful information. For example, you can position the ask inside a compliment like so: "I love your company and its products. From my research, I understand that you have a Veterans Network. Can you please connect me to a Veteran at your company?" Or, if you're more interested in developing a critical skillset, one approach might be: "I haven't yet learned to code but have researched several free online courses, can I follow up with you for a recommendation on which course is best to start with?"
Measurable: Take notes of whom you meet and requests you make, pay attention to the specifics, follow-up and keep score. In this example, after exchanging contact information, you would send a follow-up email summarizing the conversation, your interest in the company and requests made for help. Then, keep track of your progress, both hits... and misses. Refine and repeat. Also, be ready to share your resume with your new contact (or others) and provide a quick written summary of your interests as well as a description of your skills and how they align with potential opportunities at the company.
Reasonable: Use common sense and ensure that you are not asking someone to put more time into a request than you are putting into it. In other words, don't ask someone to work harder than you are willing to work. Create a heuristic such as a 1 x 5 rule - for every 1 minute requested, you are willing to put in 5 minutes of work in terms of preparation, research, and new skill development. Also, in the spirit of conciseness (see above), limit your ask to just one request. Use this interaction as a building block to gain information and develop a relationship. If it goes well, then you'll have a new connection and also an advocate. Examples of reasonable requests include:
A resume review: Truth be told, Veterans resumes' are generally poorly written. To be fair, it's not an easy task to translate specific military job functions into private sector speak. Besides, many of the jobs and tasks of the military don't directly translate over to specific roles that a Veteran may be pursuing. Like most things, writing a good resume is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Additionally, getting help from industry leaders and/or hiring managers, can be invaluable in better communicating your story to would-be employers.
An informational interview: I love informational interviews. It's a great way for you to learn about an industry, a company and a specific position all in one conversation. It's also a great way for you to build or grow a connection. However, don't make the mistake of pushing too hard and selling yourself for a specific position. Rather, do your homework, ask good questions and conduct yourself professionally. Take the opportunity to learn how your existing skills may be a fit and to identify in gaps you may have.
Mentor-ship: After a few interactions with a new connection, it may be appropriate to ask for on-going mentor-ship. If you are fortunate to find a good mentor or two, remember it's your responsibility to develop the relationship and put in the work to allow your mentor to help you.
#3. Think Big and Adopt a Growth Mindset! You may have to start small when starting a new role or joining a company. However, you don't have to think small. Similar to finding a 'Why', there are plenty of writings on adopting a 'growth mindset'. Give yourself time to explore new opportunities and understand the full impact and career trajectory offered before accepting any job. Also, allow time to explore and learn new things about yourself, topics of interests and life outside the military. Be cautious of accepting a job offer without fully vetting and understanding the opportunity, culture, and values of the organization as some employers utilize 'bait and switch' tactics and this can be an extremely challenging situation. Rather, find a platform that can challenge you and provide the upward momentum that matches your full potential.
Don't Give Up The Ship. These are the dying words of Commander James Lawrence to his men, while under attack from the Royal Navy of Great Britain, during a battle in the War of 1812. Lawrence was lost in battle, yet, his words lived on, becoming part of history. The point is, regardless of branch of service, you are part of a special community. One where every member took an oath that at some point, put you directly in a position where you needed to count on your teammates and they needed to count on you. As such, you entered a great tradition and are part of an enduring team. At this point, while you may be quick to shed your uniform and enjoy more relaxed grooming standards, don't lose sight of the virtues of your service, the camaraderie gained and be sure to keep fidelity and stay connected to your tribe.
Transition is not easy and having clarity on where you've been, who you are TODAY - in terms of combined experiences, values and belief systems - and a clear vision of next steps, are key ingredients in telling a compelling and authentic story. Keep at it, you'll get there!