Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Job Hunting Tips for Veterans

It goes without saying that in order to get ahead you need a little bit of elbow grease, sleeve pulling, and just plain old-fashioned luck. But the first thing I have found out is that before job hunters go on their hunt, they need to establish a firm foundation by constant soul-searching – what is your background? What are your skills? Most importantly, what gets you motivated?

My greatest strength, the one thing that gets me motivated to succeed, is my excellent communication skills and I seek a job that will draw upon these strong communication & organizational skills. - In other words, I talk way too much and like to boss other people around.

And it really doesn’t matter too much about education. The best form of education is found on the job. I myself am a college graduate, proud alum of the University at Albany, class of 1992. I am a great promoter of education, but simply having training alone is not going to improve your chances of finding and keeping work.

It reminds me of a story: A young man, hired by a supermarket, reported for his first day of work. The manager greeted him with a warm handshake and a smile, gave him a broom and said, "Your first job will be to sweep out the store." "But I'm a college graduate," the young man replied indignantly. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know that," said the manager. "Here, give me the broom, I'll show you how."

In fact, my first job out of college was as a cashier with a local supermarket. It wasn’t my first choice and was not a great motivator, and as I mentioned, motivation is the key to long-term employment, growth, and satisfaction. And, I am highly motivated to succeed. It doesn’t mean the minute I find a better job, I'm outta here.

That was my employment history, though skipping from job to job trying to find myself. Once, a hiring manager I was interviewing with asked me in a job interview, “"Young man, do you think you can handle a variety of work?" I replied, “"I ought to be able to. I've had ten different jobs in four months."

Out of my longing for a better opportunity, I started looking around to see where I was needed as a volunteer. Volunteering has many benefits, including learning a new skill, being a part of the community, promoting motivation, and a sense of achievement.

I volunteered at many local non-profit organizations -the New York State Association of Museums, Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County, and the Mental Health Association, among others. Through volunteerism, I developed the strong communicating, organizing, and writing experience I didn’t originally have in all my time as a student.

When I landed an internship at a local magazine as an editorial intern, I fell in love with my chosen profession – writing, journalism, and government and media relations. From there, I landed my first professional job as a news and features reporter for a small weekly newspaper in Washington County and subsequently a more challenging job with a daily newspaper in Fulton County.

All this would not have been possible without first having volunteered at all these different agencies. This is another reason I wish to speak with you today. Not only is community volunteering motivating and fun, it also boosts your career options.

For example, a survey carried out by Time Bank through Reed Executive, which is in the business of helping thousands of organizations grow and become successful for over fifty years, showed that among 200 of Britain’s leading businesses:

• 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without

• 94% of employers believe that volunteering can add to skills

• 94% of employees who volunteered to learn new skills had benefited either by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted.

I have a feeling that U.S. businesses believe the same way as their British counterparts. Volunteering is just GOOD BUSINESS.

I encourage you to become involved in your community either for the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, or another organization that can motivate you. And you could find no better time to get involved. After all, April is National Volunteer Month.

In closing, I would like employers to consider a new job interview technique.

Take the prospective employee and put him in a room with only a table and two chairs. Leave him alone for two hours, without any instruction. At the end of that time, go back and see what he is doing.

If he has taken the table apart, put him in Engineering. If he is counting the butts in the ashtray, assign him to Finance. If he is waving his arms and talking out loud, send him to Consulting. If he is talking to the chairs, Personnel is a good spot for him. If he is sleeping, he is Management material. If he is writing up the experience, send him to the Technical Documentation team. If he doesn't even look up when you enter the room, assign him to Security. If he tries to tell you it's not as bad as it looks, put him into Marketing. If he is wearing green sunglasses and need a haircut, Software is his niche. If he mentions what a good price we got for the table and chairs, send him to Purchasing. And lastly (this is my favorite) if he mentions that hardwood furniture does not come from rainforests, Public Relations will suit him well.

But, seriously. Twenty-five million veterans are living among us today. These men and women selflessly set aside their civilian lives to put on the uniform and serve. Our greatest privilege and responsibility is to provide our veterans with a system that ensures that they have an opportunity to succeed.

 Thank you very much.

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